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The last dip

Posted by David Mehegan  March 4, 2008 02:27 PM

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The Quill book awards have been dumped by their corporate sponsor, Reed Business Information, after only three years.

The awards were intended to give some glitz and cache to book awards by allowing readers to vote for their choices for the best book in numerous categories. The winning titles were announced and prizes handed out at a black-tie New York gala, televised by NBC.

Critics dismissed the Quills as a transparent attempt to channel awards to authors in whom publishers were already invested, as opposed to the National Book Award, which is chosen by a small panel of judges and often goes to an obscure book.

Publishers have long grumbled at the NBA selections, and the Quill system was plainly designed to confer a prestigious prize on books that the public was already enthusiastic about. Only books on certain bestseller lists were eligible for nomination. The Quill 2007 Book of the Year was "Angels Fall," a thriller by Nora Roberts -- the sort of book that would be a nonstarter for the NBA, National Book Critics Circle, or Pulitzer Prize.

Reed, which owns Publishers Weekly magazine, is up for sale by its owner, Reed Elsevier. The company gave no real explanation for what it called a suspension of the Quills, but it was clear that the system never caught on. The Associated Press story noted that, "few readers voted, and sales did not noticeably increase for winning books." The latter fact was undoubtedly the knell of doom.

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