Where’s all the book chat?

Today I listened to last week’s BBC 5 Live’s book review show (via podcast) and before the showmicrophone had even finished I’d ordered one of the books under discussion (Alex Barclay’s Blood Runs Cold in case you’re wondering). I’d never heard of the author before but the reviewers’ enthusiastic discussion made the book sound like just my sort of thing and I decided to treat myself.

As I waited for my order to be processed I wondered, as I have done many times in the past, why books are not discussed more widely in mainstream media? Movies are discussed and reviewed everywhere: dedicated TV shows, pages upon pages in the newspapers, daily spots on major news shows, their own magazines and, last time I looked, several dozen podcasts. Books, in comparison, barely get a mention in mainstream media.

In my observation a lot of people read books. At least half of the people on any bus I catch are reading a book and the Borders store near my office is inundated with customers each and every day. Where are all these readers supposed to hear about new and interesting books? Especially if they’re readers of what the snobbish literati sneeringly call genre fiction? I can count on one hand the number of times a crime fiction book has been highlighted on Australian radio’s only book-related show and the one TV show that discusses books profiles precisely 22 books each year . I can only remember one crime fiction book among them and only a couple of other genre fiction titles.

I’m prepared to gamble heavily that I’m not the only one who’s bought a book during or directly because of a discussion on the BBC book review show (today was not my first time by the way). A good book review or discussion can make you want to dart off to the nearest bookstore in the same way a decent review of a movie sends you to the nearest cinema or DVD store.

There are at least four regular TV shows dedicated to fishing on free -to-air television in my city of roughly 1 million people. Surely a show featuring a weekly round up of crime fiction releases (or any other genre) and reviews by genuine readers could garner at least as much support as a fishing show. Couldn’t it? It wouldn’t exactly break the bank in terms of production costs and publishers and bookstores would be ready advertisers. Wouldn’t they?

Or am I missing something? Is there a reason why books just don’t rate discussion in the wider media? In fact aside from the blogoshpere books don’t rate much chat at all (not even in amateur podcasting circles).

Why is it so?

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3 Responses to Where’s all the book chat?

  1. Beth F says:

    Wish I knew the answers to these questions. I’ll be watching your comments to see if anyone has any insight.

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  2. Karen C. says:

    I agree, it shouldn’t be that you get all surprised when The Book Show on RN actually mentions a genre book of any kind (it’s bad for crime fiction, but imagine how soul destroying it must be to be a Science Fiction author in Australia….).

    Personally I think there’s still some sort of a cultural cringe going on – if we talk about the books we read, we might be in danger of looking a bit intellectual / bookish. Much better to be one of the blokes who likes fishing and footy.

    Lenny Bartulin had a book show on Pay-TV which wasn’t bad (I’m not sure if it’s still on or not), but I suspect it’s all a bit too much for mainstream TV. Let’s face it – they can barely bring themselves to do anything local as it is (despite the success of some good crime shows this year – at least I believe they are good, I can’t bring myself to watch free to air advertising with a bit of TV thrown into the middle), but really – the chances of them making a local book show just doesn’t seem likely, possible, or something that wouldn’t make their brains freeze.

    I would like The First Tuesday Bookclub on the ABC to be a little more frequent, and a little more adventurous in their reading lists.

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  3. Kerrie says:

    Good question Bernadette. I have seen occasional efforts on commercial TV but as part of “morning” shows and the like.

    I agree with Karen on First Tuesday – not often enough, subject to vagaries of programming, not long enough, and far too much of “what I read when I was much younger” from the presenters when they choose a book for discussion. Jennifer Byrne in particular is guilty of this and you can’t help wondering how often she reads a newly published book from choice.
    There’s also far too much emphasis on “literature”

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