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Carol Felsenthal Headshot

Bye Bye Book Section?

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One would think that Publishers Weekly, the book industry's trade magazine, would get it right.

Rachel Deahl reports in PW's email edition that the Tribune Company's owner Sam Zell is cutting pages and jobs at his company. The papers in Hartford and Baltimore have already suffered staff cuts and employees at the Chicago Tribune have been warned to expect the same.

Deahl speculates that book sections will be cut, including the Chicago Tribune's which she mistakenly reports was merged into the Saturday paper last year -- its status as a stand-alone tabloid gone.

In fact, the book section is still a stand-alone in the much-less-read Saturday edition. For me, that means more attention to it because i don't have the Sunday papers to contend with -- we have three delivered at our house.

(I have written for the Tribune book section and am a contributing editor to Chicago magazine which is owned by the Tribune Company. Editors at Chicago, many of them my friends, work out of the Tribune Tower.)

The next step may indeed be that Sam Zell, who made his fortune in real estate -- he is called "the grave dancer" because he buys up bankrupt and distressed properties -- will indeed merge the book section into the arts section and eventually kill book coverage. Likely the Tribune will run the stray review here and there -- mostly of big books that would find their audience with or without reviews.

Zell, after all, is nothing if not unsentimental. He is reported to be considering selling the iconic Tribune Tower, the neo-Gothic skyscraper that shouts Chicago as much as the Wrigley Building or the John Hancock. Chicagoans have already lost to a hideous Donald Trump highrise the barge-like but somehow lovable Chicago Sun-Times building that sat, looking like nothing so much as an industrial warehouse, on the Chicago River.

What's left will be the New York Review of Books and the New York Times Book Review and book coverage in such magazines as the New Yorker and the New Republic.

The blogs, as they increasingly are already doing, will continue to take up the book reviewing slack. People such as my 87-year-old mother who read books but doesn't use a computer will be the biggest losers.