There’s no shortage of post-Kirkus commentary on Twitter and in blogs. I’ll limit myself to a couple of observations.
First, forgetting that it’s Kirkus, a 25 percent reduction in population of universally acknowledged professional review sources is bad. Period. I’ve seen comments from both the forgivably uninformed (aspiring author on Twitter) to the extremely experienced (agent with decades in the biz in excellent Observer article) that Kirkus was irrelevant anyway. I cannot understand this perspective. Certainly, there is some small fraction of books for which journal reviews are meaningless. But to generalize based on those books is like a first-class passenger saying a 25 percent reduction in legroom in coach is irrelevant. Libraries and bookstores will stock these first-class books regardless of journal reviews. For a significant percentage of the rest, though, journal reviews are life and death, simple as that. Libraries in particular are simply not going to buy in any meaningful quantity a book that isn’t reviewed by at least one of the formerly four, now three.
Second, remembering that it’s Kirkus, the demise of the “Simon Cowell” of review journals is bound to be met with mixed feelings. I’ve certainly had occasion to shake my fist at a bad Kirkus review I felt was unjust and to carp about an otherwise decent review undercut by a sneering final line. But there is no circumstance under which no review would have been preferable. (Snarky reviews are not the enemies of authors or of book sales, and anyone who says otherwise has never seen how books get sold first hand. Obscurity is the enemy of authors and book sales, and obscurity just got more likely.) What’s more, Kirkus had a quality we appreciate in all writing: voice. Yes, it was often irritating (and I hated the anonymity), but at least it was recognizable and strong. I think we’ll come to miss its particular timbre in the now-diminished review choir.