The Huffington Post has launched their books section. This is a good thing, right?
On the front page there are currently three posts, including two news features and one blog, about Sarah Palin. The very top of the page is dedicated to In Praise of Slowness, Arianna’s first book club selection. There are three polls including one about silly book titles like What’s Your Poo Telling You. There’s some stuff on libraries and book review sections and a book review roundup. There’s also a news post about a book written by an “abortion addict.” There’s a lot of stuff on censorship, a news piece on Dan Brown, and a couple of posts on e-books.
I guess what I’m looking for but is currently missing is the literature section. The book review roundup highlights some literary reviews and there’s a partnership or something happening with the New York Review of Books that has its own square on the upper right. But there are simply no HuffPo articles about literary novels. Bill Maher, check. Heartwarming story about saving a local library, check. Drew Peterson’s stepdaughter writing book on years of alleged abuse, check.
In the featured blog section on the left side of the page there is at least one awesome standout post. Praveen Maden and Christine Evans talk about leaving their corporate jobs to purchase Booksmith, an independent bookstore in San Francisco’s Haight District.
It’s just the beginning for Huffpo Books, but right now it mirrors corporate publishing’s own failures. The “gatekeepers” are obsessed with celebrity memoirs so the readers who prefer to read something more challenging no longer trust them. When you push celebrity memoirs that’s your brand and it’s not enough to publish some good novels if so much of what you are printing is trash. Big publishers have been telling us for years that they have to publish garbage to stay viable and publish the good stuff. That was a lie when it was first told and the road it’s led us down has been fairly disastrous. Smaller presses, like McSweeney’s, Softskull, and Two Dollar Radio, have easily proved the absurdity of these assertions.
It would seem to be good to have another place dedicated to books. But if most of that space is focusing on Dan Brown and celebrity memoir, with a dash of conflict, it’s hard not to see it as just one more step in a direction we shouldn’t have taken in the first place.