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Toronto Star adopts New York Times books coverage

This Sunday, the Toronto Star will begin carrying content from The New York Times’ Sunday book review section.

The section will be a 12-page tabloid that Star spokesperson Bob Hepburn describes as an “abridged version” of the weekly New York Times Book Review, which typically runs between 28 and 32 pages. It will contain a selection of book reviews, essays, and bestseller lists as chosen by Times staff, as well as advertising sold from out of Toronto. The supplementary section will not impact the Star‘s existing books coverage, Hepburn says.

As part of the content-sharing agreement, the Sunday Star will also begin carrying a new 16-page broadsheet news and commentary section culled from the Times. For the next six weeks, home-delivery subscribers will receive the supplemental sections for free, after which they can request delivery of the sections for an additional $1 per week. As of Nov. 28, the price of newsstand editions of the Sunday Star will increase from $1 to $2.

The Star has launched a major multimedia marketing campaign to promote the new sections. “This is one of the largest marketing campaigns the Star has launched in many years,” consumer marketing executive Sandy MacLeod said in a press release. “We believe that through the combination of newspaper, television, radio, point-of-sale, telemarketing, and e-mail marketing efforts we will reach almost every adult reader in the Greater Toronto Area.”

Star books editor Dan Smith could not be reached for comment.

  • Katey

    Very excited for this.

  • Barry

    Thank heavens American books will finally get press coverage. This should draw plenty of attention away from the Star’s coverage of Canadian books.

    I can’t decide whether this is a kick to the gut, or a knife in the back. Either way, who cares? An invitation to ignore Canadian books can never be a bad thing, can it?

  • Susan

    wow. what a drag.

  • Paul

    Congratulations to the Toronto / New York Star for helping to build a branch-plant nation.

  • angel guerra

    What’s so surprising, the Globe and Mail has been doing this for years. Anything but Canadian books unless their hand is forced and a Canadian author does something abroad or one of their own writers pens something. As far as Books Editor Levin is concerned talent is elsewhere. He has not nor has ever been a champion of Canadian writers and publishing and yet we keep inviting this schmuck to book events in the hopes he will notice something wonderful is happening here, which it is.

  • michel

    angel guerra, you are not only completely and foolishly wrong, you’re needlessly insulting. Levin has supported many Canadian writers over many years through coverage of their books and by using them as reviewers.

    (Myself included).

  • vera may

    Here’s an idea: how bout Canadian authors write more books that merit attention in the New York Times book review? That would solve the problem nicely.

  • angel guerra

    Michel would you say the review coverage of Canadian authors on the book pages of the Globe & Mail is 50/50 or 60/40 or 70/30. What was it last weekend or the weekend before? As to you’re argument about his “using” Canadian writers (apt choice of words there) as reviewers. Where do you think he is going to find his reviewers? Do you think if he had a choice of printing a review written by you or Philip Roth he’d pick you? Yes you get your bowl of milk and cookies at the side door but the main meal at the table is mostly reserved for non-Canadians. Tell me, does Canada need another New York Times? What I read in the Globe review pages I can easily find on the pages of the Times. How are the Globe Review Pages advancing the cause of Canadian authors who are reshaping our culture? Do you think Levin is fighting for that at the Globe? Is it Philip Roth who gets the lead off page or Sarah Selecky or Johanna Skibsrud? Who has he publicly championed among the new and young writers with prime space? Perhaps it shouldn’t all be laid at Levin’s feet. He is, after all, a hired hand who takes his orders and for that gets to keep his job. But he’s not going to risk that job for the sake of featuring more Canadian writers. We’re so used to expecting so little that we’re so deeply grateful for what little we get.

  • Barry

    Vera May … no. That is not a good idea. Canadian authors should not write books in order to appeal to American publications. And they should not have to go through the New York Times to reach Canadian audiences.

    They should write the best books they’re capable of writing … and they do just that. But it’s absurd to ask that they cater to an American readership, or to the New York Times. That makes about as much sense as asking that our political leaders receive approval from the U.S. Congress before taking office.

    If you don’t think Canadian authors write books of high merit, you haven’t read very many Canadian books.

  • Terry

    Hopefully, the NYT Book Review section will be dumbed down for us Canadians by translating it to a language we can understand– the Queen’s English. I am fed up with reading books by British and Canadian authors that have been converted to American English for our neighbours to the south and then distributed to Canada. Canadians, especially New Canadians have been massively brainwashed into adopting the American interpretation of English.

    yours truly
    Mr. Centre Colour Savour Flavour

  • vera may

    I’m not suggesting anyone “cater” to an American audience, just as they shouldn’t cater to a Canadian one. And in fact, I have read a great deal of Canadian books, many of which are fantastic and merit far more attention than they receive. But precious few Canadian novels of recent years have offered anything to warrant international critical attention, which is more what I meant. The NYT book review doesn’t exclude Canadian novels on principle, or because they’re not “American” enough. In fact, they’ve featured several (though usually far after their Canadian publication date, which is a pity).

    But forget that for a moment. A better point: the idea that attention to “other,” non-Canadian books detracts from attention paid to Canadian books is ludicrous. Anything drawing more attention to books and literary culture should be welcome. And if you love books, don’t pretend you don’t seek out the NYT book review from time to time anyway. The Toronto Star’s adoption of it is a brilliant move.

  • Barry

    No, Vera May, you just don’t get it. While the New York Times doesn’t exclude Canadian books, its primary audience is American, and it is going to give greater attention to American books. It will even give greater attention to British books, regardless of the merit of Canadian works.

    Any country’s book media should be, in part, in the business of promoting its nation’s literature. (And in the case of a city paper, its city’s literature.) The Star has elected to marginalize its own efforts to do so.

    You can’t deny that a NYT supplement is going to draw attention away from the Star’s book section. Pullouts are easily accessible; one has to go looking for the Star’s book section. People will grab the easy pullout and not bother to look anywhere else. The Star’s adoption is only a “brilliant” move if you don’t give a damn about Canadian writing. For those of us who recognize and appreciate the great literary work being produced in Canada, it’s a betrayal, and it undermines anything the Star’s homegrown book section does to promote Canadian writers.

    If the Star wants to draw more attention to more books, as you suggest is the happy outcome of this move, they should expand their books section. That would be the best way to serve readers and writers. They should NOT take the lazy route and borrow the work of an American publication. We’re not an American colony.

    You are simply wrong when you say “precious few” Canadian books in recent years warrant international attention. The depth of quality in Canadian writing is phenomenal — perhaps better than it’s ever been. There’s a reason why our books are frequent Booker contenders (and occasional winners). And note that those Booker contenders are not always the “obvious” big-names. Yann Martel came out of nowhere. So did Emma Donoghue this year.

    The Giller, GG, and Writers’ Trust shortlists are often more notable for the books that have missed the cut than those that have made it. One could compile several outstanding shortlists from the books that got overlooked by all three awards. Even the Giller longlist (a robust 13 titles this year) leaves out some truly outstanding work.

    Take a look at the Giller longlist and the GG and Writers’ Trust shortlists. How many of those books were reviewed by the New York Times? If you’re looking for a good use of your phrase “precious few,” there’s a good place to start. And those lists don’t even scratch the surface of Canada’s great literary output over the past year.

    In fact, do you think readers of the New York Times Book Review would have heard of “Room” if not for the Booker shortlist? Maybe, maybe not. But they didn’t review the book until Sept. 12, after “Room” had graduated from the longlist to the shortlist. They certainly wouldn’t have jumped on it so soon after publication without the Booker nod. (I believe you’ve conceded that they’re slower to review Canadian books. That’s another reason to be unhappy with the Star’s move.)

    You have even acknowledged that many Canadian books don’t get the attention they deserve, and in doing so you’ve contradicted your entire argument. Adding a NYT book supplement does absolutely nothing to help those underappreciated books get their due.

    Canadian publishers are finding it more and more difficult to get attention for the books we publish. Newspaper book sections are shrinking, and in some cases disappearing altogether. Now, even when we get reviews in the Star, those reviews will be overlooked as readers feast on the handy American pullout.

    You are clearly of the opinion that Canadian writers should receive an American stamp of approval before Canadians accept them. As a Canadian writer, a Canadian publisher … and as a Canadian … I find that insulting.

    The one saving grace of the Star’s adoption of the NYT section is that readers have to pay a little more for the supplement (though the cost is negligible). One would hope that this is an opt-in situation — that subscribers have to say “please give it to me,” rather than having it come automatically. I hope that the section flops.

  • Good on them!

    I like the Times; I do not, generally, like the Star. I think I might be the Star’s target market then, since it’s much easier to get a hold of a Star – even in this podunk Southern Onterrible town I had the misfortune to recently move to – than it is to acquire the Times… For news reporting generally the Times is much better, much more in depth. But I may pick up the Star now. And though my tax dollars may go to support domestic writers, I feel good literature is good literature, Estonian, Bermudian, whatever…. Good is good wherever an author may hale from and however liberal their use of the letter “u” may be.

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