There is a smart long article on shrinking/disappearing book reviews in Salon by David Kipen. Though I wanted to quote the whole thing, I’ll only quote one of the many perceptive things he says,
Like it or not, the indicator species for American daily journalism is the book review. Newspapers were cutting book coverage before the current flurry, among other places in Detroit, San Jose and Boston. Without exception, losing their book pages failed to stanch either reader loss or red ink. Were these papers already in trouble before they started cutting book coverage? Of course, but what did their publishers expect by further alienating people who like to read — the one constituency no newspaper can survive without? Put another way, how can institutions that cover electoral politics be so deaf to every campaign’s first commandment, namely, “Shore up your base”?
Sometimes it seems as if embattled newspapers took the “Reading at Risk” report put out by the National Endowment for the Arts (where I work these days) as a rationalization for further cuts instead of a call to action.
He points out the obvious that “readers read newspapers.”
Critical Mass, the NBCC’s blog, has a nice list of things you can do to help support (and hopefully revive) book reviews in newspapers.