The New Orleans Times-Picayune has done some smart, heroic things in recent years, notably continuing to report and publish in the teeth of Hurricane Katrina. Yesterday’s announcement that the newspaper will actually expand and amplify its books coverage doesn’t match that particularly gutsy decision, but, considering how many newspapers outside of New York — notably the Dallas Morning News — have seriously cut back on staff or space in books and arts coverage in deference to Wall Street pressures, it’s inspiring to read the editors’ reasoning on this, the first day of the New Year:
In addition to our stable of reviews and features on the local literary scene, look for new features devoted to book clubs and reading groups, literary movers and shakers, and expanded bestseller lists.
Our expanded books coverage is built on a belief that a great many of our readers have a rich and varied reading life, beyond the newspaper. and while some national statistics seem to suggest that reading is on the decline, others make a different case.
According to U.S. Census figures, total book sales in 2006, not counting school textbooks, exceeded $16 billion. That’s more than the $12.5 billion in sales of hardware and software for video games.