Today I listened to last week’s BBC 5 Live’s book review show (via podcast) and before the show 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?