Everyone’s A Critic!

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.

So, all that brings me to Everyone’s A Critic at The Irish Times. I’d recommend reading the whole thing; and it applies to critics in many areas, not just books.

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!

Thanks to teresareads (Teresa Preston) and largeheartedboy (David Gutowski) for Tweeting the article & bringing it to my attention.

2 thoughts on “Everyone’s A Critic!

  1. While I would debate my crankiness, I still don’t think that comment has a complete sense of fairness to it. Audience does matter, yes, but I could easily see people veering towards literary fiction blogs in the near future. I read it on occasion and would gladly review it. The little that I have read has been varied, too. I’ve seen writers of more ‘literary’ adult fiction be very pleasant, and some get a very ‘high and mighty’ attitude. Because who am I, as a teenager and someone who hasn’t written ____ years as they have, to give them a review when I ‘obviously don’t understand it.’

    This, to me, may present one of the reasons why bloggers haven’t made the jump to cover it so much. From what I’ve seen…there is more of a wall with literary fiction. More of the authors tend to be secluded and self-fanciful about what they write and how they take it. They aren’t appreciative of publicity period like genre fiction writers, because they’ve always had these outlets available to them. It’s a stretch, and I’m sure that I don’t speak for all of either groups of writers, but it’s something to consider. Blogs are making it a lot harder to go into writing with a bad attitude, and I’m thankful for that. It’s a good learning method, and it means that a writer can’t just be a jackass to their readers and get away with it.

    I found the overall article very interesting and accurate. It’s always nice to get a different perspective for what book blogs are doing, and it makes sense that the lack of reviews for genre fiction are what helped spur on the success of the book blog as a collective. Genre fiction is more universal in its readership, and I think having an idea of the every day people that read and review it helps it along. Thanks for sharing the article. It really made me think.


  2. I agree with John, it makes sense to me that genre fiction found blogs as a viable outlet since they weren’t enjoy the same level of coverage in “traditional media”. Though it seems to me that the latter seems to be embracing coverage of more than literary fiction at this point as well. Wonder if that is in reaction to book blogging becoming more realized or if it is just the natural progression of things.


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