After enduring my second round with the dentist with an audiobook about a serial killer who removed his (or her, I haven't managed to finish it yet) victims' teeth, I decided for my third date with Dr. Guen to try some chicklit (chiclets, heh) again and began listening to Sally Koslow's Little Pink Slips, the roman a clef about Rosie O'Donnell's takeover of McCalls. I'm enjoying it enormously: the writing is several cuts above Sophie Kinsella's, and leagues from Plum Sykes or the Prada and Nanny girls. When the book begins, our heroine, the editor in chief, who is soon to be usurped (or something, I'm only an hour in) by the Rosie character, has just come up with a radical re-visioning of her magazine (helped by a hunky but as-yet sexually ambiguous designer) only to be outfoxed by her "frenemy," the publisher character, who has come up with her own plan to brand the magazine with the Rosie character's imprimatur.
The book's discussions' about the future of the fictitious Lady magazine made me think: What could the Horn Book Magazine do better, or more of, or more interestingly? I always have this question running around in my mind (this is not necessarily a sign of dedication; it stems as much from my default anxiety as anything else) and I've come up with plenty of ideas that usually involve money we don't have. Like becoming a monthly, or printing in color, for example. Some ideas don't cost anything, but they do collide with Tradition: changing the logo, say, or making the magazine a standard size (which would actually save money).
And while book reviews remain the number one reason people subscribe to us, more and more of our readers access them electronically, either through our own hornbookguide.com or via our licenses to the various wholesalers who sell books to schools and libraries, who provide their customers with ancillary databases of reviews and bibliographic information. So I think print book reviews, ours and everyone else's, will become less and less important to the school-and-library audience that is our mainstay.
So what should the Horn Book--the print Horn Book--do? My enthusiasm for The Invention of Hugo Cabret in great part stems from how it's so necessarily a book. It needs ink on paper to do what it does; it needs to have page-turns to convey the story. There's plenty that the Horn Book, Inc. can and does do electronically to "blow the horn for fine books for boys and girls," (our sturdy mission statement since the 1920s) but what will keep our print-self necessary? What can we do with the Magazine we can't do online? Who can we reach, and what would they want us to tell them? Yes, they pay me to answer these questions but they pay me to ask them, too. So, I'm asking.