Come January 31 there will be a different Book World, with the debut of the first extensive redesign of the Washington Post's Sunday book review publication in more than a decade. The December 27 issue was skipped so editors could work on the transition.

Like many other review media, the publication will punch up its pages with color, both on its cover and for ads. Book World editor Nina King said covers will alternate between illustrations only, with a jump to the review inside (as is done at the New York Times Book Review and the Los Angeles Times Book Review), and reviews that will start on the cover.

A revamped letters to the editor page, rechristened "The Forum," "will serve as an interactive chat about books, not just comments about specific reviews," said King. Paperbacks will receive expanded focus, from previous sporadic coverage to a full page of reviews in every issue. Jennifer Howard, a frequent Book World contributor, will serve as the new sections editor.

Possible boons for publishers' backlist will be a trio of regular roundup features: once-a-month "Expert's Picks," in which a specialist (such as an archeologist) will write about the "basic library" for his or her field; four to six annual "State of the Art" surveys of specific categories, running the gamut from mysteries to Latin American fiction; and four annual theme issues, with the first, a Valentine's Day focus on love stories, to run in the February 7 issue.

All regular Book World columns and columnists will continue, making for what King calls "an interesting balancing act" in the quest to provide extensive review coverage within the limited and ad-ratio-determined editorial space.

King told PW that the changes were prompted both by the Post's upcoming multimillion-dollar printing overhaul (which will allow for color throughout the newspaper) and, more importantly, some eye-opening feedback from focus groups conducted by the Post's marketing staff last fall.

"We have many devoted readers, but not as many as we would like," said King.

The Book World focus groups drew from nondevotees, and "basically, we found that they like shorter reviews, and they like roundups of categories," King said. She hopes Book World's new elements will be "a way to reach out to this broader audience, instead of just the intelligentsia." Not that King plans to cater completely to popular taste: "They don't want as much politics as we give them," she said, "but we can't not do political books in Washington."