January 31, 2010

My Thoughts on the "Inconsistent and Unreliable" Label of Book Bloggers

After reading Staci's post about whether book reviews still matter and the discussion she and other bloggers commenting have been having on whether this quote
Print coverage is shrinking and the shift to online is marked by inconsistent, sometimes unreliable information by bloggers.
by a Publisher's Weekly panel (that includes no book bloggers, mind you) is offensive and/or relevant, I had to put in my own two cents.

(NOTE: This whole post will make more sense if you go over to Staci's post and read it first, if you haven't. Besides, it is a good post.)


While I think they may have a point as far as "inconsistency" goes, I do think the wording is a little insulting. But, then again, look who is writing the words.

As a reader, I trust book bloggers much more so than the professional critics- the critics who are paid to write these reviews. Sometimes paid to have a certain opinion. I never feel obligated by a boss to write a review at a certain slant because he and the author are golfing buddies. I never feel the need to show the world I have a large vocabulary that I hardly know how to use or that I had a degree in English Lit once upon a time because the gal over at the rival magazine is vying for my position.

I don't even trust the NYT Bestseller label. As it has been said before, the requirements for this "prestigious" label are simply to have your family buy an obscene amount of the author's novel for one week and Bam! you are forever a "bestselling novelist." Give me a break!

I think, truly, that the critics are simply scared that the readers/bloggers are going to put them out of a job. And in this recession, who can blame them? I think that book bloggers are not going away anytime soon, and any attempt to discredit us makes them look worse than it does us. For if you haven't heard of us, we can only go up from there, right?

22 comments:

  1. I rely far more on bloggers than I ever did on professional reviewers. For what that's worth. Especially as I get a sense of which bloggers like the same sort of books that I do.

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  2. I agree with Jenny, you get to know a blogger's taste and if they have made great recommends in the past, you trust their judgment. Or you know who 5 stars everything!
    Critics either gush or jump all over a book but it seems less to do with content of book.
    I also never trust author blurbs on the back, that is so phony. Mostly they never read the book or it is for a friend

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  3. When I read professional reviews, I often feel the writer is trying to outdo himself being high-brow and oh-so-clever. Like you, I rely a lot more on bloggers' reviews.

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  4. I am just a bit confused as to what they mean by inconsistent and unreliable. Is it because we are honest or is it because we don't get paid to write our reviews and thus don't have 'inside' knowledge?

    I'm interested to hear what they actually mean because I am not sure of their opinion. Either way, I rely on my bloggy friends for true, on point reviews.

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  5. I agree completely. I trust book bloggers much much more than professional critics. I don't blame them for getting defensive though. If a ton of people started doing my job for free and many of them became more reputable among book buyers than I was, I wouldn't take it well either.

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  6. I honestly rely exclusively on fellow bloggers, as well as friends and my librarians. I know what they read, as they know my tastes (especially the ones on Goodreads... SCARY! to have someone walk up to you and say, "I totally get what you were saying on that book, but you got it all wrong." And Goodreads crosses over to facebook, so it's doubley weird! Yeah, I don't like my food touching, either). I don't know the people writing the reviews for major publications. Half the time I don't even read the reviews by the local writers in my local newspaper, to be honest.

    I do my best to be accurate, checking names and facts and page numbers two and three times before posting, so I wonder what "unreliable" sources they are referring to? Those spammy things that steal snippets of real posts then paste them together? Those are so annoying.

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  7. If we are so "inconsistent & unreliable", then why do authors and pubishers/publicists keep asking us to read and reveiw books. These people are just afraid for their jobs. Fear brings out ugly emotions!

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  8. I know I've started trusting book bloggers a ton more than I did a couple of years ago (before I started my blog I hadn't ever even thought of them, now, well you lot have sent me off to buy so many new authors).

    Now I've discovered what a resource the internet is. Besides, the professional reviewer they're talking about never does fantasy novels.

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  9. Thanks for keeping this going Rebecca and I second what you said!!!

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  10. I completely agree about the NY Times bestselling thing. It seems like *everyone* shows up on either the main list or a sublist of some sort, which is insulting to readers, I feel. Also, Dan Brown was on that list forever, so it will never have my full respect, even if it's the American people who are causing it to be that way ;-)

    I also get most book recommendations by bloggers, but that's because I think as bloggers, we are more selective about what we read. If we only want to read romance, we can. If we only want to read sci fi, we can. The print ones don't have that sort of freedom and so quite often, the books they review don't interest me.

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  11. Hmm, I'd really like to know what they mean by "authoritative" reviews. A paid reviewer isn't necessarily any more of an authority on books than the average blogger, many of whom have some pretty serious credentials.

    Having said that, I'm in total agreement with you. I think professional reviewers are terrified. Jobs in print media are disappearing rapidly and their response, for the past few years, has been to lash out at unpaid reviewers.

    I personally feel a lot more comfortable getting recommendations from people I know and trust. You get to know a fellow blogger's taste and how it aligns with yours pretty quickly. I've found that my "reading twins" are by far the most reliable sources for recommendations.

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  12. How can bloggers be inconsistent or unreliable? Other than if you flat out lie or misrepresent something, I think you are entitled to an opinion. We are doing this out of love!!!! For free!!! Argh.

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  13. I got most of my recommendations from book bloggers these days and don't find them to be unreliable or inconsistent.

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  14. The NYT bestseller list is a fairly accurate indicator that I won't like a book. It's been wrong a few times, though. (Which I guess makes it inconsistent and unreliable, right?).

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  15. I don't read professional reviews. I don't see a need, when I get plenty of reviews from bloggers I trust. We won't always agree on books, but we're all entitled to our own opinion. And given that we're not paid for reviews, I like to assume that we're all giving our honest opinions.

    --Anna
    Diary of an Eccentric

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  16. Inconsistent meaning one blogger will like a book and another one won't .... like most people????

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  17. I agree with what historyofshe said -- what does inconsistent and unreliable mean? If it means that bloggers don't have a weekly book section requirement (like, a newspaper always publishes reviews on a certain day, whereas bloggers aren't forced to do that), then sure, perhaps. And bloggers don't have a set of books that they "have" to read, in that there aren't books that can expect to be reviewed because a bloggers choices depend on taste. So I guess I can sort of see what they might have meant, but the choice of adjectives is pretty sad.

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  18. Building on what Kim said, book blogging tends to be very personal (hence the word "opinion" instead of "viewpoint"). There are still entire genres of new books that don't often get reviewed on blogs, like poetry and non-fiction.

    Like everyone else here, though, I have to agree that the critics, like Lady MacBeth, do protest too much!

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  19. I'm not upset by this too much. They just sound pathetic, quite frankly.

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  20. Great post!! I loved that you bring up the point at more blogger publicity. If people didn't know we were here before, they do now!! And, thanks to human curiousity, they are probably searching for us right now!!

    On another note, I trust bloggers more. I think its because they have proven their reliability and because they don't get paid, I think they tend to be more honest. That's what I love!

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  21. It's interesting because I think that while there are unreliable book bloggers there are also an equal amount of unreliable professional bloggers. I don't know that the comment was made out of fear or a feeling of being threatened so much as it was just thoughtless.

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