Got a subscription to Kirkus? Maybe not, but if you still read books, in whatever form, Nielsen’s announcement today that it’s shutting down the prepublication-review journal matters to you. (Nielsen’s newspaper-trade mag, Editor & Publisher, is also reportedly folding, as Nielsen looks to unload all of its publications, including the Hollywood Reporter and Billboard.) The Pepsi to Publishers Weekly’s Coke when it comes to prepub press, Kirkus was always known, to the booksellers and industry reporters who relied on its write ups of forthcoming titles, as the cranky one. Where PW went soft for a big name or a fresh face, Kirkus could usually be counted on to demolish the overblown writers, and to be unsparing when it came to first novels by photogenic young things. A rave in Kirkus was truly a prize; a hatchet job was an easy enough excuse for a bookstore owner, besieged by the sheer volume of books being flogged, to move on.
Full details haven’t been released yet, so we can assume there wasn’t a willing buyer for either Kirkus or E&P. (NBM president Greg Farrar’s letter, published on Romenesko’s site, offered “heartfelt thanks” and nothing more to the workers thus displaced.) At the end of a year that saw Publishers Weekly’s mediagenic and hard-driving editor, Sara Nelson, fired, what remains of the infrastructure of book-selling, book reviewing, and book-industry journalism is left with precious few guideposts. This is by no means the death knell for the industry, any more than Amazon’s price war or Borders’s continuing troubles or the disappearance of book-review pages or three dozen other things. But it is an irreversible turn, a moment to remember: When it became not just difficult, but impossible, to deny that cataclysmic transformation isn’t coming — it’s here.