I purposely wanted to wait a little longer to process my thoughts about book blogging in general. This post is not so much about the book blogger convention as it is about book blogging in general. For a great discussion about the keynote speaker and some of the panels see MotherReader or Shelf Love. There are tons of other retrospective posts, those are just two the stood out to me.
An Ocean and a Sea
Many bloggers mentioned disappointment in the BEA session “Book Reviews Online.” The speakers were from major media outlets like the New York Times and Publishers Weekly, and they spoke of the book blogs they’ve developed as an extension of the print media. I don’t know if I was disappointed or appalled or annoyed or what by that session. I was taking tons of notes simply because my hands wanted to be busy. I look over those notes now and think, “duh.” There was nothing new in that session. And yet, I walked away feeling enlightened.
No, I was not enlightened by anything they said. Rather, I was enlightened by what they didn’t say. There was no mention of Amazon Reviews, GoodReads reviews, LibraryThing, the Book Blogger Convention, or any of the blogs that you and I recognize as “book blogs.” In fact, they are a completely different circle, and their reach is far beyond what I can comprehend in my blogging experience. It’s like they are a salt water ocean and our blogging circle is an inland freshwater sea. A small one.
So here are the questions I had after that session: Are we little fish trying to get into the ocean? Do we want to fit in with the traditional media approach to blogging? Are they trying to fit in with us? Why are they blogging to begin with? Do we just keep swimming in our own sea and ignore them, or is there a way for our blogs to welcome the big fish into our community?
Or maybe they are the Pacific Ocean and we are the Atlantic Ocean and sometimes we mingle together, but mostly we run by different currents.
From what they said, for their media outlets, blogging is fairly new, as in three years or so. In our blogging terms, three years is still rather young (at least it is to me, as I started three years ago and there were already a gazillion books blogs then). I don’t think most bloggers want or ever expect to read thousands upon thousands of readers a day. But when I think about how very limited our reach is, I begin to question my own reasons. Why am I putting so very much time into something that so few people read? It is a small percentage of a very small sea of readers. It makes so very little difference in the ocean of the world bloggers.
I must admit that by this time of BEA I was not feeling well – I’d had that discouraging first conversation, and then stood all day and my feet were killing me, and I was in a rotten mood. (Apologies to all the people who only met me when I was in a rotten mood; I really wish I had been 100% good mood for the entire BEA-BBC week). So maybe that’s why that panel left me feeling rather negative to my own blog for some reason. But still, I think it’s worth considering: where do our book blogs fit in with the traditional media? Do we care?
I don’t feel quite so negative about my blog anymore, but I still feel the question is out there in my mind.
The State and Future of Book Blogging
And then as I was pondering this concept, I stumbled upon The Reading Ape’s Questions (via Jillian’s blog). Here are my thoughts, most especially from my perspective as a blogger about classic literature.
1. What does book blogging do best?
Book blogging provides a place for like-minded individuals to share and discuss thoughts on literature and recommendations for future reads. I think book blogs recommend books better than they do anything else.
2. If you write a book blog, why do you?
I write my blog because I was looking for people to chat with who read what I read. I also was looking for suggestions and liked the opportunity to provide suggestions to others.
3. What do you think the future of book blogging is?
I think some book blogging voices will become a part of the larger “ocean” of book bloggers as I mention above when they are hired by traditional media outlets. I think new book bloggers will appear and others will stop posting. It will ebb and flow. For example, 2009 was a huge year for book blogging, challenges, and so forth. Right now it’s at a lull because people are busy and can’t keep up. (Maybe the bad economy is to blame.) It changes. Challenges and blog awards are so 2009. Readalongs are the big thing this year (and last).
4. What do your favorite book bloggers do?
My favorite book bloggers share their own personal reactions to a book as well as opening opportunities for discussion about it. I’m not overly concerned about “spoilers” for books I haven’t read, so I like open discussions. I like it when book bloggers respond to specific comments on their blogs because then it is a discussion. I don’t have tons of time to read huge essays, so I also like it when bloggers can do all that in less than 1000 word posts. (he he, mine go over quite a lot of the time too… HYPOCRITE.)
5. If you could tell all book bloggers one thing, what would it be?
If I could tell book bloggers one thing, I’d tell them to please, don’t use the publisher’s summary in your posts. Write your own if you must have a summary. I know this is a lame suggestion but really, it makes a blog post so much more valuable when it’s all yours.
6. If you could change one thing about book blogging, what would it be?
If I could change one thing, I think I’d change the sense of obligation. Less pressure to post because of review copies, for example, as I think many read and write about books because they “have” to. I recently have begun to feel this with my own Classics Circuit, and I just began taking review copies. It could be an issue.
7. How do you think book blogging fits into the reading landscape?
I think our type of book blogging is the personal side of things. If we really are a small sea (and maybe “classics blogging” is even a little lake), then we are a fun one. We are friends and personalities instead of just being a bunch of words. I wonder if maybe the ocean of book blogging is a bit less personal. I don’t read many of them though. I just wasn’t impressed with personality when Publisher’s Weekly says all their reviews are anonymously posted.
8. What about your own book blogging would you like to do better/differently?
I’d like to be better at staying on a schedule. I say this after saying I want less pressure to post. I guess I just want to feel on top of blogging instead of always behind my rambling mind. I have so much to say and so little time and ability to get it out on paper (or, computer screen, as the case may be).
These eight answers are off-the-cuff quick responses. I have so much more to share about my thoughts on book blogging.Even as I try to write up these responses, I feel a little silly. Does it matter? Does blogging about blogging make any sense? I blog because, as I say above, I want to interact. So why does it matter if I’m a small fish in a pond instead of the ocean?
I’m not sure I do care where we belong. I know that somehow I still want my blog to be more, and reach as many people as I can. I want to have influence somewhere far beyond me. But that is probably a pipe dream.
Anyway, even with all this said, I still haven’t begun to discuss the issues I’ve been thinking of because of the panel I was on: blogging for a niche market. In fact, I have another thousand words about it. I’ll be back next week to discuss some of those issues for Classics Bloggers.
In the mean time, what do you think? Do you care if we’re a little sea instead of the ocean? Where do you think our blogging circle belongs in the entire sphere of the internet?