Dear Reading Ape,
Here are my answers to your questionnaire, my offering in response to your final offering in a thoughtful series on book blogging.
1. What does book blogging do best? The market for book reviews in print media (newspapers, magazines) is small. This leads to a kind of narrowness in both the subject and the style of printed book reviews. (My print media budget narrows the field even more.) Customer reviews on bookseller web sites like Amazon are just the opposite: everyone’s a critic, and it’s often necessary to sift through a lot of thoughtless, meaningless jabber to find a helpful review. Book blogs are the sweet spot in between. Anyone can write a book blog; the subjects and style are as wide-open as a prairie sky; there is some first-class thought and writing out in the book-blogosphere; the technology allows for selective reading.
2. If you write a book blog, why do you? My blog isn’t exactly a book blog, in the sense that I’m trying to write about the whole reading experience and not just the books. But I like this question and am going to answer it anyway. I started my blog on a sort of whim – to see what would happen. After just a few posts, I found that writing for you, my mostly imaginary audience (I know who maybe three of you are) makes me a better reader, thinker, and writer. I feel like I owe you my best effort. I don’t always put forth my best effort for myself. I’m going to read, whether I talk to you about it or not; but writing for a blog has broadened my experience of the books I’m reading in many wonderful and unanticipated ways.
3. What do you think the future of book blogging is? As long as there are readers and free blogging web sites, both hobbyists and professionals are going to blog about books. Because there are no boundaries – the web may have limits, but space for blogs doesn’t seem to be one of them – it doesn’t matter if there’s a preponderance of one kind of book blog or another. An upswelling of bloggers who are paid to write about review copies from publishers won’t take anything away from hobbyists; if paid reviews in the blogosphere are a passing thing, a relative increase in other kinds of book blogs will keep blog-surfers reading about reading. There’s room for us all.
4. What do your favorite book bloggers do? My favorite book bloggers (1) read things I haven’t read yet, (2) write about them critically and analytically, (3) have an interesting voice, and (4) share a little bit of themselves so I have an idea of whom I’m listening to. The voice in the dark telling me to read (or not to read) some book makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. My favorite book bloggers (5) show respect for writers and the effort they put into their creations, whether or not the blogger enjoyed the read. My favorite book bloggers don’t sneer at books or other readers – they express discomfort with a text and differences of opinion thoughtfully, and with good manners. I get enough snark from my teenage son, thank you.
5. If you could tell all book bloggers one thing, what would it be? Don’t stop! Books matter. Your generosity of spirit and your thoughts about books matter. When you blog, you are casting a pebble into the pond of human experience. The ripples that your pebble creates touch others in ways that you may never know, or would never understand. You could lead a reader to a new book or story, a new thought, a new experience…a new world.
6. If you could change one thing about book blogging, what would it be? I haven’t been reading book blogs long enough to see any serious problems that seem to require change. I’m still in a state of awe and delight at finding that I have access to the outpourings of so many wonderful minds — to people who care, and read, and think and write about books.
7. How do you think book blogging fits into the reading landscape? I think that book blogging is so flexible that it can fill different needs at different times for both readers and writers. It can be personal, professional, or both simultaneously. It expands the possibilities for reading and thinking and writing exponentially.
8. What about your own book blogging would you like to do better/differently? I’d like to find more ways to encourage comments and conversations in response to the things I’m saying. Yes, I’d like people to visit my blog, because all writers would like to be read — but I can learn about the numbers from my site stats. What I’d really like to do better is write about my reading experience in a way that touches others, that makes them want to talk, that gives them both a catalyst and a starting place for expressing their own ideas about reading, books, and life.
Thanks, Ape, for opening a door to new thoughts. I look forward to reading more of your posts.