Book Reviews in a Digital Age

17 August 2009

A few weeks ago, Lissa Warren posted a hot-topic article in the Huffington Post ("Will Blogs Save Books?") on the contest between book reviews in print and on blogs. Her argument, to sum up in a few lines, is that blog reviewers have abandoned the valuable structure of the printed book review in favor of a much less worthy, opinionated, personal-pronoun review. That in doing so, we (oh, it's fun to lump myself into the "book blogger category") have stopped providing useful book reviews, and instead are just offering anecdotal stories about books and the publishing world. Useful in their own small way, both, but nothing to compare to the printed book reviews of yore. (She probably sums up her argument better than I did, so read the article).

There are several insightful comments posted on the article, but I found the best rebuttal to be from Ed, in "The Future of Newspapers and Lit Blogs." It's a lengthy response, but worth the time if you're interested in this kind of stuff.

The only thing I would add is that reading blogs with personal pronouns (which I'm clearly fond of doing myself) allows us as blog readers to relate to the blogger, and gain some form of trust in a book recommendation. Sure, there is consistency in the writers of NYT and Boston Globe book reviews, but without personalities, how can you decide whose recommendations to take? A lot of trial and error? With all the books to read, who has time for that?

Now I (look at that dangerously placed personal pronoun), am off to start what I hope is an insightful and helpful review of Mary Roach's Bonk. Not to replace print reviews of the title, but to throw my own voice into the mix and maybe get a few of my friends to read the book.

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