San Diego Indies Provide Newspaper Book Reviews

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When the San Diego Union Tribune laid off its arts and books critic, it “caused an uproar,” said Adrian Newell of Warwick’s in La Jolla, California. “We were worried there wasn’t going to be any books coverage.” Now several San Diego-area booksellers – Warwick's, Mysterious Galaxy, The Book Works, and The Yellow Book Road – are partnering with the Union Tribune (UT) to provide the content themselves.

After UT arts and books critic Bob Pincus was let go, Warwick’s organized a community forum to discuss the future of books and culture coverage in the UT. “We invited a panel of arts, books, and culture leaders in San Diego to address this concern,” said Susan E. McBeth, director of marketing and events at Warwick’s. Included on the panel was Jeff Light, editor of the UT, who had overseen the restructuring of the newspaper.

Newell explained that the forum provided “an opportunity for the community to address their concerns to Jeff Light.”

Although many San Diegans wanted Pincus rehired, that wasn’t an option, so the panel and community members brainstormed about how to maintain the arts and books section. From the forum and subsequent meetings with Light, several ideas emerged, said Newell. Various local organizations and individuals with expertise in a particular subject offered to provide free content.

That’s where the coalition of area indies stepped in. Warwick’s proposed that local booksellers participate in the revamped book section. A rotating schedule of four bookstores that are part of the coalition – Warwick’s, Mysterious Galaxy, The Book Works, and The Yellow Brick Road – are slated to provide weekly contributions. “We thought it would be great PR,” said Newell. “And it would give us a chance to focus on titles that were off the radar, and to periodically let the public know which authors would be doing events.” The Grove at Juniper & 30th is also part of the coalition, but is not providing content to the UT.

One title is recommended by one store each week. The first review (Memory Wall by Anthony Doerr), which ran August 22, was provided by Warwick’s. Different booksellers from the participating stores will be providing reviews. “We want it to really represent the personality of the stores,” said Newell, who noted that the diversity of bookstores would provide a range of recommendations.

The year-old coalition will also be joining together to distribute 50,000 copies of the Southern Independent Booksellers Association (SCIBA) Holiday Catalog in the UT. The coalition formed when they sponsored One Book San Diego.

Newell said that she never wants to see books coverage reduced, but “you can’t go back. There have been so many changes in this industry that none of us has liked. Our question is, ‘How do we best move forward that benefits everybody?’ We don’t like that there won’t be a dedicated book critic, but we thought it was important to provide content from San Diego booksellers and focus on the local connection. We wanted to show the community that there are these great independent bookstores that are very committed to the community.”