Book Blogs: Surprisingly Different from Mainstream Media

By Neal Comment

Thanks to those of you who let me know about the brief mention of GalleyCat in Lissa Warren‘s HuffPo essay about how book blogs fail to replicate newspaper book review sections. I’m always somewhat tickled to be accorded the same level of esteem as The Elegant Variation or, as in this case, the NYT‘s Paper Cuts, particularly since, as Warren herself indirectly acknowledges, GalleyCat isn’t a literary blog, but a site about what’s happening in the industry and where it’s headed. (I’ve shared my opinion about books I’ve read from time to time, but I’m willing to bet that’s not why you read the column.)

In response to Warren’s assertion that “for the most part, these blogs don’t actually review books,” though, Literary Saloon blogger Michael Orthofer suggests she’s just not looking hard enough. “Warren has good fun suggesting how litbloggers should present their material,” he says, “but her recommendations read like those of someone criticising what they think can be found on literary weblogs, rather than someone who has actually taken a look at a fair number.”

He also points out that the literary blogosphere offers different ways to talk about books than the format of Warren’s “traditional book review outlets,” which, she concedes,”are drying up and no one has yet determined how to save them.” What Orthofer doesn’t say, but has been suggested repeatedly on this blog over the last year, is that one reason those outlets have become easy for management at some papers to cast aside is that many reviewers really aren’t good at what they do, their attempts at innovation are often lackluster, and sometimes it’s even painfully obvious they don’t read the books closely enough. Frankly, the literary blogosphere should probably be applauded for “failing” to imitate the mainstream media’s reviewers, and for experimenting with new models of coverage that are establishing their own levels of relevance to the book-loving public.