Thursday, July 24, 2008

An Untenable Situation?

As more and more of the traditional book review venues dissolve (most recently, the LA Times Book Review), the book review burden shifts to non-traditional venues like literary blogs. As I’ve commented before, there are benefits to this shift: a greater variety of critical voices and opinions, a wider range of reviewed books. But is this blogging effort sustainable?

Galleycat has an interesting post on this topic. Although the end product may appear casual and easy, maintaining an up-to-date literary blog is time consuming, particularly considering that most bloggers maintain their blogs as an unpaid hobby. Can volunteer hobbyists bear the brunt of the book review burden? It’s an open question.

4 comments:

rjnagle said...

Obviously, I have opinions about this issue.

Book reviewing has always been a thankless (and probably unrewarding) task, and many skilled reviewers do other things--not just book reviews.

I think we need to accept that book reviews will be more casual, less polished and shorter.

Another way to reduce the burden is by having 10 or less like-minded bloggers contribute. But frankly, most bloggers are individualists and want to maintain their own websites as well.

Frankly, professional book reviewers miss a lot of great works--not only through inattention or time-constraints, but because they are looking in the wrong places. The kinds of books which are circulated as review copies tend to be unrepresentative and not necessarily the best.

Gwen Dawson said...

I like your idea about like-minded bloggers contributing to one site. That's one reason I loved the (now defunct) LitBlog Co-Op (http://lbc.typepad.com/). At the same time, I like having control over my own site.

Amy said...

I know it will be impossible for me to continue accepting books for review at the rate I'm going. It's crazy and I just can't read that much. I think it may eventually evolve into a few well maintained and designed sites with contributions from multiple bloggers. I am always surprised when offered a review copy and not asked about my traffic. Sometimes it feels like publicists and publishers are just throwing books out there, hoping for any old review.

mike mitchell said...

Interesting to read lamentations on the demise of traditional media book reviews on the media responsible for that demise. What's disturbing is that the decisions to cut back or eliminate book review editorials in newspapers is entirely driven by declining newspaper revenues that have nothing to do with the quality of the published reviews and everything to do with the fact that sales of other unrelated goods and commodities that newspapers traditionally relied upon for advertising income are now driven by the internet. Sellers of goods no longer look to newspapers as the most cost-effective medium to market those goods. The resulting loss of income to the newspapers has them looking to get rid of those sections of their newspapers which generate the least revenue. It appears that book review sections stand first, or near first, in that line. It's a damn shame but I'll take the trade-off (if I have to) that we consumers get as a result of the availability of the medium that precipitated the demise. But....what the hell do I know?