San Franciscans are serious about their books. So serious that when the San Francisco Chronicle redesigned its Sunday paper in April and reconfigured its book review section, the Bay Area literati took to their pens, keyboards and phones.
"How could you?" readers demanded. For years, they had found their book reviews inserted in tabloid form inside Datebook, the paper's popular arts and entertainment section.
In the spring, the book pages were fully incorporated into Datebook, infuriating people all over the Bay Area who write and read books.
"It was buried in the entertainment section," said poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, co-founder of the 48-year-old City Lights bookstore. "So we're just another form of entertainment but not high up in the list. It was a pretty pathetic book section. ... This is a huge literary community, and we all considered it a real affront, and sort of a slight, to our whole existence."
On Sunday, the Chronicle's readers will get what they want-and more--when the newspaper debuts its new Book Review, a broadsheet-size, stand-alone section that will wrap around Datebook, said senior editor Narda Zacchino.
"They said we goofed, and we said, 'We must have,' because we're getting so many complaints," Zacchino said. "Hundreds of readers complained, and they continue to dribble in.
"To my mind, this is a much better scenario than what we used to do before because you previously had to hunt through the Datebook to find the book review. It wasn't really a stand-alone. It was a pullout tabloid section in the center of the entertainment section."
Zacchino, a former top editor at The Times, wrote to 135 of those who voiced their objections in e-mails, asking for their opinions on possible solutions. "It's not often that a newspaper will acknowledge that we made a mistake and do something about it. It took all this time to work out the production issues."
The new Book Review will sport two extra pages and contributions from a newly designated publishing reporter, who will write about the industry for various sections of the paper, Zacchino said.
The writing community and independent publishers and bookstores will be especially pleased about that, Ferlinghetti said.
"We want to have a reporter covering the beat because there's a lot of news out of the publishing industry," Zacchino said. "San Francisco has a large and articulate literary community. The paper's readership deserves for this to be a regular beat of coverage."