Criticism & Features

NBCC Reads

Guest Post by Kassie Rose: The NBCC at 35,  The Discerning Voice

By Jane Ciabattari

NBCC member Kassie Rose, book critic for the Ohio NPR affiliate WOSU Public Media, who blogs here, sends us these thoughts on the future of the NBCC at this critical crossroads:

Congratulations to the National Book Critics Circle for its 35 years!

For 20 of those years, I’ve been a member as a book critic for an NPR member station. During moments I mentioned the NBCC in conversation, I received responses that recognized this literary entity as an esteemed, vital organization.

It’s a given that the NBCC and book critics need to increase their digital presence to remain vital. Upcoming generations are neither opening newspapers nor turning on radios. The same can be said for busy middle-agers.

The issue at hand, though, is not just about going more digital to remain relevant. It’s also about why the NBCC and its members are necessary, now more than ever.

I recently entered a local Barnes & Noble to buy Pynchon’s new novel, Inherent Vice. I ended up on a “Where’s Waldo?” search for this best-seller and eventually found it on a stacked-up table next to Nora Roberts.

I was angry that Pynchon – whose new book is an event for its readability – wasn’t set apart.

Shortly after, in a post titled “Shame on You Barnes & Noble,” I wrote on my blog about book shoppers slammed with overwhelming choices in a disarray of displays. How can they make informed purchases?

The NBCC and its members have an opportunity to expand as Influencers by taking advantage of social media to reach the unguided and overwhelmed – audiences who less and less open newspapers – who turn to websites, blogs, podcasts and Facebook for their information.

But we have to change to meet the needs of this digital audience that wants quick information and convenience. They want short reviews accessible on Blackberries and iPhones, not the 1,000+ word print reviews. They want a podcast, not a radio broadcast.

Can we find the time and means to aggressively add time-consuming social media to our already overloaded plates? Should we? As Influencers, we have to, so readers can find our discerning voices.

Photo credit: Tim Johnson