Long time readers know that one area I find endlessly fascinating is what role book bloggers play in the overall book world. Are we critics or reviewers? Or something different? Who is the audience and what is the impact of book blogs? Are book blogs a competition for traditional media reviews?
My personal opinion is, and has always been, that I can have my cake and eat it, too. I think book blogs and bloggers are very important for a variety of reasons, and those reasons can really differ depending upon what a particular blog or blogger does. Overall, though, if nothing else, book bloggers are undeniable proof that people are reading, there is a strong reading culture, and that social media can strengthen ties between bloggers and also strengthen that reading community.
Traditional media critics are of value — I’m not one of those who say “bloggers will take over the world!” — for a variety of reasons that differ based on the media outlet. Reviews here at School Library Journal serve a different purpose than, say, The New York Times, and I find those roles just as important as the role book bloggers play.
Here are the quotes I find most interesting: “Less dramatic but more far-reaching has been the rise of new outlets that have shifted the focus of attention away from the traditional channels. Book blogs, often dealing with genre fiction, have built up hitherto untapped audiences and are eagerly courted by publishers.” For the most part, I agree with this. One reason I turned to blogging, and reading blogs, is because the traditional media just was not covering children’s lit and young adult books to the degree and depth I wanted. Who filled that gap? Blogs and bloggers. I wonder, if traditional media had reviewed genre fiction, including children’s/YA, what would today’s blogging landscape look like? It would exist, no doubt, but would it be different? How much of what has happened online is because it’s about the books that serious critics didn’t take seriously?
There is also this: “Such caveats aside, the critic has a role to play. “The old-school media is still important for what we see as the most valuable areas of publishing,” says Purcell. “In niche fiction a good blog review may be enough, but literary fiction or serious nonfiction needs more of an imprimatur from a newspaper critic.” If I were cranky, I’d read this as saying blogs are good enough for niche fiction, but not the “real” books. Less cranky, it could be more about the audience for these books, and that those readers aren’t going to blogs for their book information. Objectively, since I’m not a big literary fiction reader and don’t follow those blogs or readers, I really cannot make a conclusion.
Overall, I really enjoyed the article (especially all the references to Irish blogs that I now have to add to my overloaded Google reader!) because it had good things to say about traditional critics and blogs, as well as information about critics and reviews outside the book arena. Let me know what you think about it!