That really make publishing sound pathetic. The Greatest Mystery: Making a Bestseller in the New York Times, and How Not to Write a Bestseller in the New York Sun.
That Times article does make the publishing industry sound pathetic. It's what you get when you combine bean counters with liberal arts majors who can't speak a business lingo. I mean I think publishing has two heads, pulling in opposite directions, and it's the small presses who, thank God, are picking up the slack. The worst aspect of it is that editors are forced to consider "great literature that will sell," and they have no idea what will sell, just as those in charge of finance have no idea of literature. The result is at best literature from proven authors, and commercial books with proven track records, mysteries, e.g., instead of groundbreaking work from brilliant new authors who perhaps do not sound mainstream enough. At worst, we are given the gossipy celebrity memoir with an advance of millions. (Read Anna Nicole Smith's "Personall" (sic) diary!)
I think Blum's point, in the Sun article, that book buyers are "less interested in discourse" is astute. Only critics and writers really care what critics have to say. A good book review is also an introduction to a book, however, and I think book buyers are interested in that, speaking for myself and friends. I belong to book clubs, I check out the "recommended" or Staff Picks sections in book stores. I read blogs and Amazon reviews to get an idea of new books, to discover new books. As much as the industry has supposedly been "dying" for a generation or more, there are still a lot of new words to wade through on one's own.
"Immersion in the life of the world, a willingness to be inhabited by and to speak for others, including those beyond the realm of the human, these are the practices not just of the bodhisattva but of the writer." --Jane Hirshfield