The book industry is trying to sex itself up with a new award show called The Quills. As the LA Times described it a few days ago…
the book industry is taking a page, so to speak, from Hollywood, and backing the
Quills, a new national award event that would be a conflation of the Oscars and
the People’s Choice Awards. But instead of movies, TV or pop music, it would be
a "consumer-driven celebration of the written word."
While the Oscars are chosen by members of the Motion Picture Academy, and the Emmy’s by members of the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Quills will be selected by 6,000 booksellers and librarians drawn
from the subscription list of Publishers Weekly, a trade magazine, which is also sponsoring the awards with major NY Publishers.
In a nod to the People’s Choice Awards, after the booksellers and librarians come up with five finalists in 15
categories from best romance to best religion/spirituality book, winners will be
chosen by regular folks who will vote online or at Borders and
other selected bookstores. The awards ceremony will be aired on the NBC owned-and-operated stations.
The San Francisco Chronicle’s David Kipen sees huge ethical problems with the Quill Awards, for obvious reasons.
What NBC Universal gets out of all this isn’t hard to guess. By wrapping itself
in the ermine mantle of literature for a couple of hours a year, it temporarily
inoculates itself against any future Nipplegate-like FCC imbroglios. But NBC U’s
upside is small beer compared with what’s in it for Reed Business International… in co-administering an
annual awards ceremony honoring the very industry PW covers, the magazine’s
conflicts of interest are, not to put too fine a point on it, ripe for the
plucking. For a suitable analogy, just imagine if, instead of the motion picture
academy, Daily Variety gave out the Oscars…. Variety must make easily half its
ad revenue just during Oscar season. If anybody thinks PW doesn’t see the Quill
Awards as a potentially comparable generator of humongous ad revenue from
publishers, I’ve got a short-story collection by a homely writer over 50 I’d
like to sell you."
Even with his reservations, Kipen is glad to see books getting more attention… even if that attention is the equivalent of an infomercial and an excuse for PW to shill for advertising and subscription sales.