Globe’s Book of the Decade: Zero Comments, Wrong Cover**

US edition of The Deathly Hallows is the Globe and Mail's Book of the Decade.

This is a follow-up to my previous piece on New Rules of Engagement for the book trade in terms of literary journalism and book promotion.

In that piece I took the Globe Books section to task for showing no evidence of being able to connect to or engage an audience online.

What the image above is showing us is the original post for their Book of the Decade piece that first appeared on December 22.  The image above was screen captured on Monday January 4th.

It shows the US cover art for the Harry Potter book and also indicates that there have been zero comments about this post.  (The Globe has since corrected the mistake as a result of Dan Wagstaff’s tweet discussed below and, as of this rewrite, there are now 2 comments attached to the post.)

So, to quickly recap: US cover displayed in Canada’s National Newspaper for the biggest selling book in the history of Canadian publishing and no one notices for 2 weeks.  And a shocking lack of debate attached to the post.

Book. of. the. Decade. Equals. Zero. Debate. Really? Really Really?

Was the choice of Harry Potter so utterly paralyzing to the readership that no one could even be bothered to object, offer an alternative or agree?

Apparently so.

A Breakdown of Some of the Details in this Case:

Book of the Decade inspires zero comments in nearly 2 weeks online.

This is the killer.  Zero comments in nearly 2 weeks on a post featuring what is arguably the pinnacle piece of the past 52 weeks if not longer.

An example of the engagement vacuum happening at Globe Books online.

What is happening here?  Am I missing some crucial metric?

Should a post that distills the greatness of the past 10 years of literature not elicit some kind of debate?  Isn’t an open and passionate exchange of ideas at least part of what literature inspires in people?

Isn’t Globe Books supposed to engage or inspire us in this way?

Take this quote from the Globe Books Facebook page (which hasn’t been updated since August 2009): [Globe Books will] provide readers in Canada with a compelling destination for “one-stop-shop” Books coverage. Also… a new Focus & Books section will be introduced by The Globe as a weekly Saturday section, reaching even more readers with its combined audience base.

Emphasis mine: compelling destination & reaching even more readers.

Online reach is universal – any web page can be read by people all over the world – while content, reputation and community engagement creates a compelling destination.

Here’s a screen capture from my tweetdeck of @GlobeBooks on Monday, January 4th.

@GlobeBooks has 2,346 followers. List 173 times.

The attempt to engage an audience via twitter is there and this is a good sign.  The link included in the above tweet takes the reader to the Book of the Decade piece.

However, when one says that something ‘didn’t get chewed over enough‘ another might be inclined to believe that there was actually some chewing involved.  But there was no chewing of this piece at all.

As noted, GlobeBooks has 2,346 followers and is listed 173 times.  Yet it yields zero feedback.

The 12 ‘thumbs up’ that the Book of the Decade piece received are the equivalent of nods between strangers passing one another on the subway platform at rush hour.

Not really what I’m considering to be engagement.

Here’s a really interesting piece on shifting media landscapes and/or old trusted voices falling on deaf ears: in this case, the once venerable Bono.

and, finally…

Dan Wagstaff of Raincoast Books responds.


The updated page with the Canadian cover of The Deathly Hallows.

Sean Cranbury is the Executive Editor of Books on the Radio. He's also Founder and Creative Director of the Real Vancouver Writers' Series. Sean is General Manager at the legendary Storm Crow Tavern and consults with literary arts organizations on digital communications strategies.


  • Reply January 6, 2010


    Hey Sean. Thanks for posting about this. I was really happy to see the Globe update the page with the correct image (by the end of the day), and I had a nice email exchange with Peter Scowen about it.

    I think it’s important to remember that although the Globe can be tone-deaf and snobbish at times, they do have an absolutely thankless task. My gut instinct is that they need to get to grips with the fact that (at some fundamental level) they can’t please all the people all the time — They need to get some fire if they want to engage. But that’s so much easier to do as a blogger than as a national newspaper…

    Still, I think they’re learning (albeit not as nearly as quickly as we would like)…

    • Reply January 6, 2010

      Sean Cranbury

      Hi Dan

      Thanks for the comment and I agree with your comment about the thanklessness of their task. There’s no question about that.

      What’s interesting to me is this… that everyone was wringing their hands at the notion of a world without the Globe Books stand-alone weekend print pull-out a little while back.

      Did all of that hand-wringing result in a total abandonment of the Globe Books online section by that audience? Was there an audience to begin with?

      Remember hearing this? “What will become of the quality of book reviews, how can literature survive when the golden chalice of print is reduced to the same level as blogging?” Etc…

      And I understand that bloggers do not have the access that the Globe has to get at the heart of a story and that Globe writers are chosen for the job because of their expertise, experience, proximity of their habitation to place of work, etc…

      So, let’s just look at it thru this lens: what is lacking at Globe Books is a sense of what Mark Bertils’ has called ‘hustle’. Being ‘on top’ of things and using their access to give their readership something that they can’t get anywhere else, maybe even being savvy enough to give their readership something that they can participate in like “Canada Also Reads”.

      Just sayin’.

      I know these things take time and change is hard and all that shit.

      But if I have to read another quote in the Globe from Kim McArthur where they actually quote her as using the phrase “wouldn’t it be divine if…” I will go on a 3 state shooting spree.

      It just shows an utter lack of effort and imagination.

      And I cannot accept that from the Globe and Mail.

      When no one in their readership cares to comment on their selection of the Book of the Decade… I can’t help but see that as a bit of an indictment of their ability to really connect with their readers.

      And to my eyes, that is a very dangerous place for them to be.

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