Fini: WaPo goes Book World-less

Charles Darwin makes the cover of the last issue of Book World before extinction.

The Washington Post published its last issue of Book World February 15, leaving book-loving readers distraught and the New York Times as the last daily newspaper with a stand-alone section devoted to book reviews.

Book World editor Rachel Hartigan Shea promised in a note to readers that the demise of the section is not the end of book reviews in the Post. Reviews will appear in Outlook on weekends and in Style during the week, and names associated with the section, such as Michael Dirda, Ron Charles and Jonathan Yardley, will still be found.

Still, for some it's not the same. "When I got my Washington Post, it was the first section I'd go to," says Gatsby's Girl author Caroline Preston, who also has reviewed books for Book World. "It's going to be a real loss."

The section's absence affects not only readers, but publishers, writers and booksellers, says Preston. "It's scary. Publishers are in terrible shape and book sales are going down."

And now that the New York Times is the only daily with a hefty book section, she fears that only prominent authors will get reviewed. "How are people going to find out about you?" she asks. "A good book review does a good job of educating the public."

The discussion of books will be driven more and more on the Internet, says writer and UVA prof Christopher Tilghman (and Preston's husband), which he calls analagous to "the big book group in the sky."

But that's not quite enough. "The other half of the discussion is elitist," he says unapologetically, "and needs to be for us to get perspective."

And from his perspective, loss of Book World is "nothing but bad," says Tilghman. "I can't bear the thought of not having the newsprint."