Book Reviews 2010: Will larger review venues retain their authority?

by David Varno | Jun-02-2009

Here is more video coverage of Saturday’s panel at the BEA, “Book Reviews 2010: What Will They Look Like?.”

Moderator John Reed’s second question sought, in the words of LA Times blogger Scott Martelle, “to get a sense of what the media move to the Internet might mean for reviewing.” Full story at LA Times from NBCC board member David Ulin. And don’t miss Karen Long’s thorough report from Sunday.

Goodreads founder Otis Chandler suggested that book reviewers establish themselves as a brand, via blogging and other online activity, rather than merely writing for the New York Times, for example.  Chandler also described how Goodreads has become informed by Twitter, with a new feature launched last week that allows users to follow one another, in hopes to “get book reviewers the respect they deserve.”

Peter Krause confirmed the need for established book reviewers (both individuals and publications) to develop an online audience in order to maintain their following, but pointed out that it will be up to readers to determine who continues to have authority, that “the gates have opened wide.” 

Then Bethanne Patrick made a few distinctions, pointing out that Twitter is great as a tool, but it’s not the medium: “you’re not going to see book reviews on Twitter,” she said. 

Ben Greenman further explored the question of authority, suggesting that you should first listen to yourself, and then consider the views of friends and critics whose tastes you really get to know, even if they can be adversarial.  He cited John Leonard as a writer he always loved reading, even if he disagreed with him 70% of the time.

David Nudo acknowledged that even though the old venues are not enough anymore, the “democratization of voices [by the new platforms] has led to a lot of noise,” and claimed that we do still have a need for authority. His vision for the future: that the online reviewing field and intense cross-dissemination will become more distiled and more useful, as people look to those they trust.


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