This the next and penultimate post in my recent series on book blogging. The comments on the previous entries (on reviewing and subjectivity [1, 2, 3], the problem of pleasure, blogging and literary terminology [1,2], thinking about your reviewing audience, the phenomenon of buzz, and the seven things readers want from publishing) have been wonderful. I highly recommend checking them out.
At the moment, I am reading and enjoying Michael Palmer's new novel, The Watery Part of the World. As much I like the book (it is fine novel, indeed), the most interesting thing about it is that I shouldn't be reading it. Or rather, I shouldn't have heard of it; the only reason I am reading it is because the publisher sent a review copy. I didn't ask for it, hell I didn't even know it existed, but it showed up, so I read the blurb and the first dozen pages and kept going. The publicity machine of publishing dangled the smallest worm, and I bit like a spawning salmon.
Though I've received review copies before, this is the first time where I didn't ask for something and ended up spending time with it. And honestly, I'm not sure how I feel about that.
I don't know if you've noticed it, but book blogs are slowly becoming a significant part of book publishing. Book tours, author interviews, sponsored giveaways, advertising, event promotion---the boundless enthusiasm book bloggers have for reading has been noticed by the publishing complex and they are trying to figure out how to use it to sell books. This, of course, is there job and a healthy publishing industry I think is good for readers, but I wonder if it is good for book blogs.
I started reading book blogs about seven or eight years ago, and I've noticed that the blogs that became widely read found their writers being plucked out of blogging into mainstream publishing (Mark Sarvas, Maud Newton, Ron Hogan, to name a few). Many of these blogs are now either gone, incorporated into publishing houses, or shadows of their former selves. Many of the currently popular blogs and bloggers have significant, growing ties to publishers, bookstores, and writers.
See, the thing I love the most about book blogs is the naked, unadulterated readerly passion. Call it being a geek, a dork, a fanboy or fangirl, whatever. The love of reading that spurs someone to write a blog about whatever they happen to be reading just because they need an outlet for their excitement is infectious, inspirational, and affirming.
Maybe it's a paranoid concern, but I can't help but wonder if book blogs will change, will lose some of their valuable amateurism, as they become increasingly linked to the business of books. I see this happen in the academy (and it is one of the reasons I started The Reading Ape); the more someone's livelihood and professional prospects are tied to something, the harder it is to follow your bliss.
What do you make of the strengthening ties between publishing and book blogging?