Blogging, uh huh, what is it good for?
Absolutely nothing!! Talked a little about this on Twitter and realised that it probably should have been a blog entry! So here it is a little longer and tidied up.
I saw an interesting discussion that bloggers (and by this I’m including print, video and podcasts) and professionally paid critics are different and shouldn’t be treated as the same. I think the proponent of the bloggers not being that useful view said that we are really in it for the free books however they quickly realised their mistake and happily apologised but it posed an interesting question as to what bloggers are for. The professional critics were far more nuanced and experienced than the amateur bloggers. I think this misunderstands blogging but also slightly overestimates the reach of media critics; it also plays into the debate over fan writers and how the edges are being blurred a lot more as the media landscape changes.
Let’s be upfront I love the professional genre book sections of the Guardian, New York Times, Publishers Weekly and not forgetting Tor. If I see a review by Liz Bourke or Amal El-Mohtar I know I’m going to read a very good clear review – they are definitely great reviewers. But equally if I see new reviews from Blue Book Balloon For Winter Nights One More or The Middleshelf more communal blogs such as geek syndicate Ladybusiness Fantasy Hive or Fantasy Literature ; listen to recommendations from FanGirl Happy Hour or Breaking the Glass Slipper or watch them on youtube such as Booksandpieces or Claire Rousseau or I should read that I find reviews of great insight, enthusiasm and humour - many of which then influences my own Mount TBR. Each has a different style and approach but all for integral elements in working out my own reading. There are even some blogs where we have such differing tastes whereas they can explain the pros and cons a book so well I can work out that its more my own cup of tea but still a joy to read/listen.
Yes, bloggers are ultimately super enthusiastic readers who love talking about books, but we also tend to read a lot more than most (scary fact I think in the UK the average number of books per year was around 4-6!!). If you read a lot and also are interested in what’s coming out then over time you will naturally build up your own knowledge of our respective interests. We are therefore probably are much more aware of the wider trends in reading and most of us easily can review a book in the wider context of other similar books and those it may be paying respects or sometimes just plain arguing with. I struggle to see how this compares with other types of critics as I think we all share a similar love of reading. That’s a love we really want to get others to feel and that is the reason I got into blogging myself I enjoy discussions about books (hence why I ask on Sunday twitter what are you reading) I’m intrigued as to what people are reading and love to suggest what they may like on top (there is a reason when you see me in a bookshop some people sigh and just prepare to have books thrust upon them after a good booktempting).
An advantage of blogging is we get a bit more space than the 1-3 pages a newspaper or magazine can provide you with. The Guardian and NYT I think are more monthly sections in rotation with other genres. A genre magazine that I LOVED seems to have cut back its book section so that some reviews are just a few sentences (I’ve since cancelled subscription). A blogger can post weekly shows, posts or videos that gets to start talking about one book in depth; their TBR pile or just a theme and a lot of books connected to it. This generates discussions or themed occasions in book twitter or instagram are huge communities that talk and share recommendations with each other. We are fans and we love to talk about what we are fans of – we are a form of word of mouth and we are trusted to give you an honest opinion.
I did have to admit my hackles rose when there was a suggestion that bloggers really were going to be biased by the need for ultra positive reviews just to keep getting ARCs. I think my blog readers are intelligent enough to know that if I was tempting you with bad books just to get more ARCs then you’d soon move away from my blog to someone you can trust. When I review it’s always an honest but fair opinion of what does and does not work for me and I try in reviews to explain who is the reader that I think this book fits. My tastes are fairly broad as I like variety but for me good blogging/booktempting is matching up books to readers. Hmm perhaps less book tempting and more book whispering?