Waiting For Alienation To Take Over

March 24th, 2005 · No Comments
by Booksquare

Sure, we’re lucky, living in a major metropolitan area. Finding decent book coverage is as easy as opening up the Los Angeles Times every Sun–oops, scratch that (for more details on our faux pas, check out The Elegant Variation, link right over there). By necessity, book review sections are limited in scope. Newsprint costs cold, hard cash, you know. Also, they are limited by the editor’s taste.

We (barely) got past our amusement at the fact that industry professionals had to sit down at a discussion about reviews to agree that, yes, reviews are subjective. We do not understand why this was even a question. Can’t some things be established as givens. Okay, so the obvious established, the panelists got down to deep thought.

(We’re back — we were looking for evidence of deep thought)

As noted, book review sections are limited, and thoughtful people are looking to blogs to pick up the slack. Which is happening left and right, with or without the publishing industry. So much so that this quote had us reading twice to make sure we weren’t seeing things:

If only that were more generally the case. [Dennis] Johnson, citing recent cutbacks in space and budget for book reviews at the Orlando Sentinel (and, as is common knowledge, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Chicago Sun-Times and numerous other newspapers), suggested the blogosphere is the next growth area. But, he added, the writing in the blogosphere leaves much to be desired. Nevertheless, its growth and refinement will be spurred by writers alienated from the mainstream.

If by “desired”, he means it’s immediate and approachable, okay. Sure there are bad online reviewers out there. There are also many good online reviewers out there. That “alienated” writers will spur better reviewing strikes us as, well, the reason many readers recycle current review sections without a second glance.

It is time, however, that we ask what purpose a traditional book review serves? We know so many who don’t rely upon them when making reading decisions. Word-of-mouth, imprecise and unpredicatable as it may be, seems to be the preferred tool for most readers. Bloggers, many of them anyway, fall into that latter category, entering into conversations about books they enjoy and authors they appreciate. It is this conversation that the industry needs, not more grist for the recycling mill (yes, we know, very bad, sometimes it cannot be helped.)

File Under: Books/Mags/Blogs