I found New York Times (November 25) article titled “Helpful definition of modern author” intriguing. It provides humorous definitions of book-related terminologies such as authors, publishers, publicists, readers, books, bookstores, Amazon.com, etc. For example:

You, Author: Act as Book’s Publicist, responsible for promotion. Your Publicist: Acts as your Mom. Tells you that you’re special and talented but makes you do everything for yourself. Your Mom: Acts as Book’s Audience, buying most of the copies. http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/11/25/helpful-definitions-for-modern-authors/

However, I was drawn to the usage of the word, “curate “in the following sentence:

"Your Publisher creates book’s mold ahead of time, in so far as it curates the existing market into which book must fit. (Additional duty: being dumbfounded by that market.)”

I’ve seldom seen the case of ‘curate’ being used as a verb in such a context to mean assess or evaluate. As I checked dictionaries online;

Cambridge English Dictionary defines ‘curate’ only as a noun to mean ‘a priest of the lowest rank, especially in the Church of England, whose job is to help the vicar, with no mention on verb usage.

Oxford Dictionary defines it as ‘a member of the clergy engaged as assistant to a vicar, rector, or parish priest.’ No mention on verb usage.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as noun: a clergyman (or assistant clergyman) in charge of a parish, and ‘to act as CURATOR of a museum’ as a transitive verb.

Is it common to use ‘curate’ as a verb like “curate the market the book fits in,”?

Can I say just casually “You must carefully curate the offer whether you can fit the job before applying for it,” or “I seriously curated her whether she fits to my life-long partner,” without raising your eyebrows?

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    I've never seen curate in that context, although I have heard it used as a verb before in two contexts. One is the action of selecting and caring for a collection in a museum, and the other is the action of reviewing, summarizing, and sorting articles of interest for a group of research scientists. It strikes me as completely wrong, since curate implies a high level of control of the thing curated, and how would anyone have control over the market like that? – Kit Z. Fox Nov 27 '13 at 2:26
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    One and two interesting links concerning the use of the verb curate for you to consider. – long Nov 27 '13 at 11:13
  • @KitFox I don't find a big issue with the term. In a niche publishing market, I would not be at all surprised to learn of the existence of near-monopolies which end up controlling wide-scale distribution to specialized bookshops, so authors hoping to publish in the genre have to go through them. In such a situation the publisher has a large control of what books are available, and a lot of leverage on the tastes of the interested public, simply by defining the offer. – E.P. Nov 28 '13 at 17:31
  • @long. Many thanks. I found the link to Q&A in gramaphobia – “Shall we curate a garage sale?” you suggested is really interesting and comprehensive. The intro of the asker’s question – “I’m sick of hearing the verb “curate” used loosely” is in tune with the motive I was urged to post this question. – Yoichi Oishi Nov 28 '13 at 23:06

My reading of this is that the publisher, through the books it has previously chosen to publish, has shaped the market. If a publisher is acting as 'curator' (by choosing which manuscripts it deems worth publishing), it is indirectly curating the book market.

To answer the headline question directly: no, it's not common usage.

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