Sunday, July 12, 2009

Books and Blogs, Made for Each Other?

The verdict on whether the Internet is killing reading is still out, as evidence presented often says more about its source than the readers being studied. What is clear is that an attempt is being made to utilize the web to increase reading, especially of books, as a community of book lover bloggers has grown. Included is this community are readers, librarians, authors, and publishers, each contributing to the promotion of books, but often for different reasons. At Booklist/Booklist Online: Books and Blogs, Made for Each Other?, Keir Graf of Booklist and a panel of bloggers discussed the relationship of blogs with books and its prospects for the near future.

The panel included the following:

  • Mary Burkey of AudioBooker, who started her blog to keep track of audio titles that she had read. Her independent blog was later acquired by Booklist.
  • John Green, a former Booklist employee, who with his brother posts videos to You-Tube as Vlogbrothers. He has also written a novel Looking for Alaska.
  • Kaite Mediatore Stover of Kansas City Public Library, who posts to Book Group Buzz for Booklist.
  • Nora Rawlinson, who has never been a Booklist employee. She was, however, the librarian at Baltimore County Public Library who uttered "give them what they want" and has worked as an editor for both Library Journal and Publishers Weekly. She is now writing the blog, EarlyWord, which is a for-profit effort.

Keir listed some qualities that make blogs useful to book professionals:

  • Blogs offer immediacy. Bloggers can address issues quickly and can discuss books at the time they are published or are otherwise in the news.
  • Blog writing is more personal and casual, allowing for a friendlier feel, attracting some loyal followers.
  • Because blog postings are often short, writers have to hone more concise writing skills.
  • Comments from blog readers start conversations that may bring forth issues that the blog writer did not address. They may also correct errors or otherwise keep the blog writer honest.
  • Through comments, bloggers know their readers better.

Here are some highlights from this discussion:

Authority is something in which print excelled in its prime. Readers trusted the reviewers in newspapers and magazines, such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, or Atlantic Monthly. Now that these publications have their own blogs, that authority has transferred to its blog writers. Nora thought this advantage would in time diminish as other brand names are established. Some bloggers have name recognition for being on the scene early. Kaite said that with so many people blogging it is now difficult for a new blogger to get recognized.

Few book bloggers make a profit - or anything. They do not often get readers the way that niche technology bloggers do. Book bloggers blog for love of books.

Well-produced book trailers may be a passing fad. There is not enough money in the book market to support most expensive publicity, and the panel opinion was that the novelty will soon wear off. John said that most blog readers seek authenticity and are suspicious of slick marketing.

None of the panelists thought that writing blogs hurt their print writing style. Mary thought that bloggers free of institutional ties are franker in their blogs.

None of the speakers thought that Twitter would replace blogging. It is a good vehicle for posting links to reviews on blogs or telling others what you are reading. John said that Twitter is more important to people in Third World countries because they can tweet and read from cellphones, which seem to be harder to restrict than Internet access.

Kaite liked that bloggers sometimes review old books. It is not all about buzz.


Barbara Spring said...

I blog about the Great Lakes. I like to put photos with my blogs and up to date information. Also, I like to talk about my book, The Dynamic Great Lakes, a critically acclaimed non-fiction book about changes in the five Great Lakes and their connecting waters.

Richard Trout said...

Blogging is a great way to reach parents who want their kids to read everyday. As an author, I know I compete with electronic games of all sorts as well as outdoor sports. I am in favor of the latter competition. The MacGregor Family Adventures for grades 5-8 is my series published by Pelican is a way to do it. Dozens of schoosl use it as required reading from coast to coast as well as reaching to Scotland and New Zealand.
Take a look at to help your kids who don't want to read gain a compassion to read.
Richard Trout