For a few weeks it read like another piece of sad tidings from the publishing world – after almost 70 years in print, Kirkus Reviews was going under. But suddenly, thanks to Herb Simon, shopping mall developer and owner of the Indiana Pacers NBA franchise, the sometimes tart-tongued publication is getting another chance at life. Simon has purchased the magazine – for an undisclosed amount – from the Nielsen Company.
Since 1933, Kirkus has been providing short capsule reviews of upcoming books. Librarians, booksellers, and journalists have long looked to Kirkus for clear-eyed critical assessments of books yet to appear in public. While other publications (such as Publishers Weekly and Library Journal) provide similar services, Kirkus was famous for being the toughest of the group and was particularly noted for concluding its bracing reviews with swift, single-sentence assessments of the books in question.
There were many laments last December when the Nielsen Company announced that the magazine would close.
But now it appears that Kirkus will live on – both in print and with a stronger online presence – under the direction of Marc Winkelman, chief executive of Calendar Holdings, owner of several chains of seasonal retailers, who will become chief executive of the soon-to-be renamed Kirkus Media.
Winkelman told the New York Times that Simon is “an inveterate and unquenchable and voracious reader” and also a longtime subscriber to Kirkus.
Simon himself issued a statement saying that, "At a time when even the definition of a book is changing, my love of books makes me want to be part of the solution for the book publishing industry.”
If this story were a Kirkus review, the concluding sentence might read: "A sometimes depressing narrative with a somewhat hopeful ending."
Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's book editor.
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