Two online book sites offer readers a lot for free


If you’re the type of reader whose idea of a good time is to lock the doors and dig into a good book or two, you need to know about a pair of really cool sources.

Bookforum started 21 years ago as a literary insert tucked inside Artforum magazine. It’s much more independent now, but still shares facilities and publishers with its big sister. It’s both a hard-copy magazine and an online site (

Included among the many lengthy reviews in both current editions are “City On Fire,” the season’s big-buzz novel by Garth Risk Hallberg, and “My Kitchen Year,” the new blockbuster by former Gourmet magazine editor Ruth Reichl. Generally, the insightful reviews are fascinating reads in themselves, with pleasing literary overtones. Bonus: Erudite essays explore politics, pop culture, fiction and the arts.

While the print edition is anchored by book reviews, the online edition is richer with additional features, including a calendar of author appearances and author interviews, such as recent entries with the likes of musician/actress/writer (“Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl: A Memoir”) Carrie Brownstein, poet and essayist Maggie Nelson and outspoken critic/novelist Dale Peck.

More provocative is the “exclusive content that’s generated several times every day,” said Kate Koza, who looks after overseas advertising and events.

That would be found in the two daily blog columns that move Bookforum from seriously interesting to provocative. Omnivore is a “topical digest focused on public policy and current affairs, and has a good amount of readership on Capitol Hill,” Koza said. Paper Trail is “basically everything that’s going on in the publishing industry, including the news media.”

The hard-copy magazine has 40,000 subscribers and 140,000 readers. The online edition has 70,000 visitors a month. The circulation for both is growing, Koza said, making inroads in Europe and Scandinavia. “We incorporate a lot of regional coverage as well,” she said. “This year we were at book fairs in San Francisco and Los Angeles.”

The print edition is found throughout the Barnes & Noble chain, locally at Avid Reader at Tower and at other independent bookstores. A year’s subscription of five issues is $18, via a mail-in form inside the magazine or at the website. The online edition is free.

Narrower in scope but just as interesting in a different way is The Big Thrill, the monthly online magazine of the International Thriller Writers.

Its main content is interviews with thriller and mystery writers from around the world, including Sue Grafton, Lee Child and Karin Slaughter in the current issue.

“We also have a lot of feature stories,” said publisher Janice Bashman. The column Trend Watch reports on “changes in suspense publishing,” while Guided Tour takes readers to cities around the world – the settings of novels by ITW members.

Of particular interest is the weekly interactive column Thriller Roundtable, which poses questions and asks authors to respond. One recent question was, “What is the best change you ever received from an editor? The worst?”

The free magazine has 27,000 subscribers with 100,000 page views a month, Bashman said.

Allen Pierleoni: 916-321-1128, @apierleonisacbe