BBAW Week Questionnaire

From browsing my Google Reader in the last couple of days, I see that this week is Book Blogger Appreciation Week. This is a week to, as the site puts it, “recognize the hard work and contribution of book bloggers to the promotion and preservation of a literate culture actively engaged in discussing books, authors, and a lifestyle of reading.” This comes on the heels of the cover article by Library Journal, Every Reader a Reviewer, which discusses the explosion of online reviews and its impact on the book market. It’s a great article and I suggest taking a couple of minutes to read it.

Now, I have a confession to make: as much as I subscribe to book review blogs, I really don’t read them very faithfully. It’s not that these blogs are bad, but I’m just not a big book reader. (The majority of my reading is online sources.) So, I really don’t know what makes a book blog tick. For those who are willing, I’ve have a series of questions that I’d like to ask so that I could get a better understanding of this blog genre. Please answer as many or as few as you’d like; you can answer in the comments or on your own blog. But I’d love to hear your answers.

  • To you, what defines authority? How does one establish it? And what do you use as a measurement for examining other book blogs?
  • How do you get your review materials? What do you consider to be the best source of review materials and why? Are there sources of materials that you won’t accept and why?
  • When it comes to a review, what’s the main point you try to get to people who read your blog? Do you only publish ‘good’ reviews? (I mean this in different senses: “I read a lot and this one stands out” or “I only publish those things that I would recommend”) Do you publish ‘bad’ reviews? How do you feel about those blogs that publish one or both?
  • In reviewing and making a recommendation, I have noticed that some blogs are written by people who are Amazon associates. If you see what they have reviewed, click on a link through their blog, and purchase something on Amazon, they get a small cut of the sale. In your opinion, is this a good thing or a bad thing? (On one hand, I can see an argument in favor of that arrangement because the small cut is a ‘thank you’ for taking time to review material and write a recommendation the material. It’s a small compensation for a service rendered. On the other hand, I can see an argument that, by placing a financial stake in the matter, it can make a review suspect since there is monetary motive.)
  • Finally, what got you into book blogging? What is the joy you get out of it? And what do you predict is the future of book blogging?

In the effort of fairness, I figure I’ll offer my own book review. So, bear with me.

100916-221309 That’s me holding my copy of Anthony Bourdain’s 2001 memoir, Kitchen Confidential. It’s a delightfully vulgar, obnoxiously intelligent, and extraordinarily witty recount of the life and times of a rising chef and the behind-the-scenes look of the nitty gritty of what goes on in a restaurant kitchen. Bourdain cuts nothing out (pardon the phrase) in revealing what sort of time and dedication to art is required to be a premiere chef in the New York scene. It’s sex, drugs, and rock & roll with a culinary edge. To me, I could feel the heat and smell the mixture of spices and sweat that goes into making a high end meal. His storytelling style hooks you in like a night out with the guys swapping bar stories. It’s fascinating, it’s fun, and it has given me one of the best cooking tips I could ever hope for:

“Good food is very often, even most often, simple food. Some of the best cuisine in the world – whole roasted fish, Tuscan-style, for instance – is a matter of three or four ingredients. Just make sure they are good ingredients, fresh ingredients, and then garnish them. How hard is that?”

Perhaps they go behind cooking. It’s a life lesson right there.

The reason I chose this book is that I’m pretty biased in favor of it (I love his show on the Travel Channel, No Reservations) and that I’m planning on mailing this sucker to one of my favorite MLS students, Jessica. Jessica maintains her own blog at Miss Short Skirt which is one of my “must read” blogs on Google Reader. Her stories about the life and times of a MLS student reminds me of what my wife and I went through as we made our way through our own graduate programs. There are entries about the life and times of a poor graduate student that made me say out loud, “Holy shit, I’ve lived that!” It was great to meet her in person at ALA and I try to send up care packages when I can to make the semesters go less crazy. She’s going to make an awesome librarian and (hopefully) an even better children’s author.

Ok, that was two reviews. Now I’d like to hear some answers!

8 thoughts on “BBAW Week Questionnaire

  1. * To you, what defines authority? How does one establish it? And what do you use as a measurement for examining other book blogs?

    – Authority is established when you read through a blogger’s archives and you look at their general blog design. Are they reviewing thoroughly? Do they know what they’re talking about with genres, with plot points, with readership? Do they write coherently and logically? It’s like you’d define authority in any journal review. I mean, do you REALLY know the authority of some reviews, particularly in the journals that let in any reviews? What about the journals that *only* publish positive reviews (ala booklist)? I measure authority in bloggers by their willingness to post the good and the bad and be honest.

    * How do you get your review materials? What do you consider to be the best source of review materials and why? Are there sources of materials that you won’t accept and why?

    I get books from the publishers, sometimes ARCs and sometimes finished copies, gratis. They do not expect reviews. I have a very detailed review policy, developed after receiving pitches that were way off base, unprofessional, or out of my line of interest and “Expertise”: http://stackedbooks.blogspot.com/p/review-policy.html

    Back to the authority question — I also look for policies like this in the book blogs I read. I want someone who takes it seriously.

    To be fair, I also review a LOT of material I check out from the library. Not everything comes from the publishers.

    * When it comes to a review, what’s the main point you try to get to people who read your blog? Do you only publish ‘good’ reviews? (I mean this in different senses: “I read a lot and this one stands out” or “I only publish those things that I would recommend”) Do you publish ‘bad’ reviews? How do you feel about those blogs that publish one or both?

    My main points are the pacing, the plotting, and the character development. Then I like to highlight who this book appeals to — what other authors, what genre, what styles. I like to make it like a reader’s advisory tool.

    That said, I am NOT afraid to post a bad review. I will. But the caveat is that I always offer an audience for a book review. I may have hated the book, but I put out what may be appealing to other readers about it. I am not afraid, either, to SEND my bad reviews to the publishers. They appreciate the honesty, too.

    As for blogs that post one or the other: I read some blogs that ONLY post positive reviews because it gives me perspective on who I may be serving in my work capacity. Some readers only like to read books they like. Some bloggers are the same way. I like reading them when their opinion is WAY different than mine. It puts ME in perspective, too, as a reviewer and a librarian.

    * In reviewing and making a recommendation, I have noticed that some blogs are written by people who are Amazon associates. If you see what they have reviewed, click on a link through their blog, and purchase something on Amazon, they get a small cut of the sale. In your opinion, is this a good thing or a bad thing? (On one hand, I can see an argument in favor of that arrangement because the small cut is a ‘thank you’ for taking time to review material and write a recommendation the material. It’s a small compensation for a service rendered. On the other hand, I can see an argument that, by placing a financial stake in the matter, it can make a review suspect since there is monetary motive.)

    Some people use the amazon affiliate money to fund giveaways or other prizes. The money received is SO LITTLE that it literally will cover just the cost of mailing a book to a reader media mail. It doesn’t bother me if people are affiliates, and thanks to FTC regulations, it’s easier to know who is and who isn’t.

    What I *dont* like is people who ONLY post things to get people to buy through Amazon. There are some people who use Twitter to post link after link to their affiliate page. That’s just plain annoying to me.

    I am an affiliate but I’ve only posted once, maybe, with links to Amazon. I felt tacky doing it. I just pay out of pocket for my giveaways and deal with the hit.

    * Finally, what got you into book blogging? What is the joy you get out of it? And what do you predict is the future of book blogging?

    http://stackedbooks.blogspot.com/2010/09/bbaw-mechanics-of-stacked.html kind of covers it.

    As for the future: I think it’s going to become more and more relevant. Guess what I use for a lot of my purchasing at work? It’s not the journals. The starred reviews of books, especially for younger audiences, are often clueless as to what younger readers WANT. Likewise, if the goal of the public library is the have a popular reading collection, then I better be getting what bloggers are talking about because…my kids are going to be asking for it, since they’re also reading blogs!

    • Thanks for the reply, Kelly! I didn’t know what the Amazon cut was so I can see how it is relatively a non-issue. And offering the bad review to the publisher is a nice touch since you can give them a heads up on it.

      And book blogs for collection development selection? Interesting!

      • I do purchasing for youth and teens — as a blogger myself, I actually find bloggers more useful in being helpful for reviews than many traditional sources. Not only that, but it gives me a way bigger heads up than review sources, which by the time they reach me, can be months behind. For series purchasing, this isn’t helpful.

  2. - To you, what defines authority? How does one establish it? And what do you use as a measurement for examining other book blogs?

    A blog that provide thoughtful, intelligent reviews (and not just good!) goes a long way toward getting me to value their input. That’s a standard I strive for and one that I look for in every blog I follow closely.

    – How do you get your review materials? What do you consider to be the best source of review materials and why? Are there sources of materials that you won’t accept and why?

    I buy them, get them from the library, download audible books, accept book tours and hear pitches from authors. The best source of a review material is… a book. It doesn’t matter who it comes from or if it’s print or electronic. The only review material I won’t accept is if the book is out of my reading genres.

    – When it comes to a review, what’s the main point you try to get to people who read your blog? Do you only publish ‘good’ reviews? (I mean this in different senses: “I read a lot and this one stands out” or “I only publish those things that I would recommend”) Do you publish ‘bad’ reviews? How do you feel about those blogs that publish one or both?

    The main reason I began publishing my reviews is so I could cement the story in my own mind. I read so many books it’s good for me to write down my thoughts before moving on. When I review I write what would make me want to notice the book – but there are times I’ve written not-so-nice reviews. I don’t like my time being wasted and a badly written book or self-important story will get me every time. I publish both good and “bad” because I don’t want to be one of those blogs who screams and flails with excitement over every single book.

    – In reviewing and making a recommendation, I have noticed that some blogs are written by people who are Amazon associates. If you see what they have reviewed, click on a link through their blog, and purchase something on Amazon, they get a small cut of the sale. In your opinion, is this a good thing or a bad thing? (On one hand, I can see an argument in favor of that arrangement because the small cut is a ‘thank you’ for taking time to review material and write a recommendation the material. It’s a small compensation for a service rendered. On the other hand, I can see an argument that, by placing a financial stake in the matter, it can make a review suspect since there is monetary motive.)

    Theres’s no monetary motive. Honestly, since I became an Amazon Associate I’ve made $3. I’ve given away about $150 worth of books. Book bloggers, with RARE exception, lose money. We buy books constantly, for ourselves and for others. I include affiliate links (and advertise them as such) because I don’t mind purchasing through another bloggers links. It doesn’t put me out any, and it’s a nice gesture.

    – Finally, what got you into book blogging? What is the joy you get out of it? And what do you predict is the future of book blogging?

    I got into book blogging because I love recommending and talking about books. I had published my reviews on GoodReads and challenged myself to go more in-depth with them and still am working on it. It’s a little bit of writing every day and it’s fun to see the growth since I started book blogging in December of last year.

    Beth Hoffman, a NYT Best Selling Author, said in an article that Book Bloggers are the foxes of the literary world. I think book blogging is just getting started and, especially as people purchase e-readers and start looking around for books to buy, they’ll be reading book blogs when they “Google search” the name of that book. I think that’s fantastic – when I read a book or watch a movie, I look at the reviews of everyday people, not paid critics who, 10 to 1, I end up disagreeing with.

    • “Beth Hoffman, a NYT Best Selling Author, said in an article that Book Bloggers are the foxes of the literary world.”

      I like that quote. It’s not like there hasn’t been someone in a town or neighborhood that wasn’t considered the “go to” person when it came to reading. The internet has just put these people on a bigger platform and allowed for larger contact. It’s another consumer product for which a community has taken to adding to the conversation.

  3. First, keep in mind that BBAW is not the whole book blogosphere. It’s one part of it.

    Second, there is no one “book blogger” like there is no one “library.” The answers a medical library would give are different from an elementary school library, etc.

    Authority for what? Not to answer a question with a question, but if the point of your book blog is to discuss the books you read, what authority do you need other than having read that book? Authority, etc., will vary based on what the purpose of the blog is.

    Review materials: just like traditional media/ journals get their review materials. Publishers send them. For those publishers who don’t send me items, I pick up books at conference or buy them.

    I write about the books that either I like or that I think others will like. I may point out weaknesses. I dislike reviews that don’t understand what snark really is and instead think it’s clever to be biting & take something apart just to show their own cleverness. I love a good critique. I don’t care for blogs that say little more than loved it/hated it without support. Since many of us do this on our own time, many of us only read what we want so it leads to higher than most favorable reviews. Why should I read what I don’t like?

    Amazon Associates as a bias for reviews has been argued back & forth. For most people, it’s not that much, especially when you take into account how much time/money a blogger spends on their own. It’s not just Amazon; I believe Powells & Indie also has affiliate programs right now.

    I’m into book blogging because it’s a place I can talk about books with like minded people.

    • Thanks Liz! I know that this isn’t the full realm of book bloggers, nor that there is only one type of book blogger. I’m sorry for being so general, but I wanted to cast the largest net for responses. (Or what I thought was the largest net.)

      Thanks again for your reply.

  4. 1. Are you asking what authority I have to spout my opinion on the internet? I read blogs that either entertain me or tell me something useful about a book. I don’t care about authority.
    2. I buy books. I take review copies on occasion, but it’s pretty rare. When they are pushed on me I usually don’t like the book. I never ask for them. When I do get them, I donate the purchase price to charity. I mostly prefer to get books from the library or buy them.
    3. One post on a book turned into a list of all the words I didn’t understand in the book and had to look up. In other words, I don’t think of my posts as reviews. I try to get across whatever impression I had of the book. It might be personal. It might be about the plot. It might be about the politics of the book. In other words, I don’t publish reviews exactly. Some are very negative. Some are very positive.
    4. I’ve yet to see Associate fees sway me or any bloggers I read. I have seen the free review copies make some bloggers less honest. I’ve seen the relationships bloggers have with authors influence them. I have seen people’s position in the book blogger “community” influence them.
    5. I needed a convenient place to keep track of what I read and what I thought at the time, cause my memory is crap. And I like talking books, even if it’s just to the ether.

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