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Are book bloggers responsible for the downfall of books, or merely a symptom of the problem?

23 Jun

Serena from Savvy Verse and Wit tweeted a link to an article on SantaCruz.com bemoaning the fate of Book Expo America and the state publishing in general.  The author stated:

This year’s BEA confirmed what most writers and book reviewers already knew: that the publication of serious literature, and particularly of literary fiction, has been abandoned by the big publishers to the small or medium-size independent presses.

The article then turned to a discussion of Book Bloggers. According to the author, Book Bloggers

are mostly women between 20 and 50 years old, often known as “mommy bloggers” because they are housewives who blog about romance novels, horror/vampire stories and paranormal novels.

She goes on to state

The main difference between the new book bloggers and the old book reviewers is that the former don’t have any literary “prejudices.” They are children of pop culture and the mass media, and have transferred their interests onto the realm of books. Their electronic chatter will soon cover whatever is left of book reviewing.

Wow.

First of all, even it the situation at BEA was as dire as she stated (1/3 children’s books with garish colors, and 1/3 e-readers intending to replace print), that doesn’t mean the publishers have abandoned all other projects.  It just means they didn’t choose to feature them at BEA.  The death of print/literary fiction/etc. has been predicted before, and will be again.  I don’t think it is true, but that’s not what I want to talk about here.

I want to talk about who blogs, why, and what our impact is (and can be).

At a first glance, I fit the description given above.  I am between 20 and 50 (closer to 50 than the 20 year old “girls” the author says she met). I am a “housewife” (although I don’t usually use that word to describe myself).  I blog about romance novels, horror/vampire stories, and paranormal novels.  I also blog about cozy mysteries, hard-boiled mysteries, woman’s fiction, science fiction, historical fiction, general fiction, non-fiction, and even (gasp) literary fiction and translated works.  I’m even a “mommy” that mentions my daughter at times in my blog.

However, I will object to the label mommy-blogger.  Mommy doesn’t describe what I blog about.  It doesn’t describe my audience.  It doesn’t describe me, as it pertains to the work I do on my blog.  I dismiss it as irrelevant.

That dismissal is not just on my behalf, but on the behalf of all my fellow book bloggers.  (If any of the children’s book bloggers want to keep that title, they are welcome to.  It might make sense in some cases).  If the label doesn’t fit me, how much less does it fit the older/younger/employed-parents/non-parents/men/etc. that make up the book blogging community?

More relevant is the second quote above.  I’ll argue with the assertion that my interests (and those of most bloggers) were formed more by pop culture and mass media.  I’ve always been a reader.  I do enjoy pop culture as well, but it isn’t a primary influence.

On the other hand, I’m still struggling to figure out what it means to not have  any literary prejudices.

I think that’s probably true of me, or of my reviews.  My goal in reviewing a book is to discuss what I did and didn’t like about it, and hope that will help my readers make a decision about what books they are interested in reading  Honestly, literary merit isn’t what I’m looking for.  In many books I read, I am looking for mental stimulation of some sort.  In others, I’m looking for an emotional connection.  Sometimes I just want to relax and have a good laugh.

In other words, I’m just your average reader.

Sure, I read more books, and in a wider variety of genres.  But I’m not trying to be an expert, telling you what’s good for you.  I’d like to encourage you to read, maybe more than you would have otherwise, and maybe a wider variety.  I’d like to encourage you to talk books with me, and with your other friends, whether in book clubs, on-line, or in casual conversation.

Because that is how books will survive.  Not by experts that talk about the books that their “literary prejudices” say we should appreciate, but by every reader that picks up any kind of book.

I’m happy to be part of that future.

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13 Comments

Posted by on June 23, 2011 in blogging

 

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13 responses to “Are book bloggers responsible for the downfall of books, or merely a symptom of the problem?

  1. Serena

    June 23, 2011 at 7:05 am

    Literary merit is not all its cracked up to be when those determining it are primarily men who continue to think that female writers are beneath them in terms of skill. But beyond that, shouldn’t we be applauding the fact that book bloggers exist and love to read?! Shouldn’t we celebrate that we as book bloggers want to encourage more people to read? I think those are endeavors that must be praised and continued online and off.

     
  2. Pam

    June 23, 2011 at 8:29 am

    I have literary prejudices just not the kind she is talking about. For example I don’t like books that have I am on a boat/ship/road trip/space voyage. I never mention my kids on my blog just SO no one can call me a mommy blogger. I resent the entire article and hate that it came from somewhere so geographically close to me. It means I have obviously not done a great job educating local media on what book bloggers actually are and what they do because she obviously has no idea.

     
    • Pussreboots

      June 23, 2011 at 9:30 am

      @Pam I’m the exact opposite. I seek out road trip / boat / ship / space voyage stories.

      But like you Laura, I’m all of the things you described too and I would never call myself a Mommy blogger. Yes, I’m a mother but that’s not what I blog about. My reading tastes are all over the literary map. Right now for instance: I’m reading Lake by Banana Yoshimoto, The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx and City of Bones by Cassandra Clare. So two literary and one YA. That’s pretty typical for me.

      But to the point about the print media losing out to book blogs, the literary journals never had me as a reader. They rarely reviewed books I had any remote interest in — even with my eclectic tastes. Book blogs though reach the entire gamut of what I love.

       
  3. Marce

    June 23, 2011 at 9:29 am

    What a great discussion. I’m a mommy, a hard working career mommy and I am slightly offended by that title but won’t allow them to still my joy 🙂

    I am in no way an expert reviewer nor is it a goal of mine. I would love to be paid to blog not specifically to review.

    I think bloggers are amazing to the book industry. The books I have read in the 2 years of blogging I wouldn’t have found 70% of them if I didn’t blog so 2 thumbs up, hugs, praises etc to bloggers.

     
  4. Laura's Reviews

    June 23, 2011 at 10:31 am

    It always seems like people are trying to bring book bloggers down. I also fit into the description. I don’t think being a mother precludes you from being able to enjoy books and write about them.

    I have a wide interest in different types of books I read and love that I have found a world to express my views and too see what like minded readers also love.

    Truthfully a lot of books that get the critical aclaim I have read and not enjoyed. I’ve found a lot of books that I’ve enjoyed that I wouldn’t have found otherwise by reading great blogs over the past few years.

     
  5. Susanna Daniel

    June 23, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    I find this quote from the BEA piece interesting because there’s no reason, that I see, to pit book bloggers against “old school” print reviewers. There’s room for both, and I don’t see that one is out to strangle the other. (There’s also the Amazon or Goodreads reviewers, a third category entirely.) Three different ways to communicate about books with three different, sometimes overlapping (but not always) audiences. I think it’s human nature to assume that the new will push out the old entirely (e-readers versus print books), but it’s not always the case — though the new often breathes new life into the old just by dint of the threat. Instead of grouping all book bloggers into one unflattering label, why not ask the question: what can “old school” reviewers continue to offer that is different and valuable? Book bloggers are obviously answering that question for themselves (and despite similar demographics, my experience is that book bloggers, like all bloggers, are all over the board in terms of taste, standards of reviewing, and so on).

    I wrote a little about this on my own blog lately, but the bottom line is that people are reading like crazy, and their tastes are all over the board (thank you, Oprah, for book club culture). Mommies or not, book bloggers often reflect the experiences and taste of the population of readers that is keeping the book business in business — women between the ages of 20 and 50, etc. Instead of condescending to them, we should be thanking them for buying books and talking about books and encouraging other people to buy and talk about books.

    Incidentally, my book is lit fic and from a big press, and it’s far from alone.

     
  6. florinda3rs

    June 23, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    The article not only poorly defined book bloggers, it didn’t get “mommy bloggers” right either. “Mom with blog” does NOT necessarily equal “mommy blogger,” as you and several commenters have already pointed out; “mommy bloggers” are a specific niche of their own, focused on kids, family life, and related content (although some do talk about books every now and then).

    Then again, it was pretty off-base on almost everything else, too. Great response!

     
    • Laura

      June 23, 2011 at 10:21 pm

      Thanks, Florinda! I’m actually glad for a chance to sit down and formulate a few of my thoughts on the value of book bloggers.

       
  7. Diane@BibliophileBytheSea

    June 24, 2011 at 3:45 am

    I am glad you and many others took the time to set this person straight on the book blogging community. I put in my 2 bits as well.

     
  8. Robyn Bradley

    June 24, 2011 at 5:46 am

    I love this: Because that is how books will survive. Not by experts that talk about the books that their “literary prejudices” say we should appreciate, but by every reader that picks up any kind of book.

    I agree 100 percent. And we writers out here appreciate all that you do!

     
  9. Mandy

    June 24, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    I love your response. I’m a book blogger that just happens to be a SAHM, so the Santa Cruz article really upset me.

     
  10. stacybuckeye

    June 24, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    This article is just crazy. I blog about books and my kid and am closer to 40 then 20 (okay, okay, 40 appears in a few short months) but this article is so limited in view that I’m almost embarrassed for her. Almost 🙂

     

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