The thing with #bloggerblackout is that it’s not exactly a statement if you don’t really post frequently in the first place. Especially if you don’t post that many reviews in the first place. Of course, as soon as I typed that, I looked at my last five posts – four review posts and one links post. Ha. In my defense, it wasn’t exactly planned – the recent flood of new release reviews (yes, three counts as a flood on this blog) is pure coincidence. It may not be very obvious, but I do try to have a bit of variety in terms of what I post.
I don’t really have a specific point to make here, so bear with me as I try to make sense of what book-blogging means to me.
I started blogging because I wanted to talk books. I’d been an infrequent poster on the AAR boards, and lurked on a couple of other message boards and newsgroups, but really wanted my own space to post about books I’d read, upcoming new releases, and well, anything book-related (and oh, I may have been a bit bored). So I started a WordPress acccount, wrote my first post, and hit Publish.
And with that, I became part of the book-blogging community.
It’s funny how this community is both big and small at the same time. There are so many blogs out there and there is no way anyone can keep up with all of them. You have the genre-focused blogs, those that look at literary fiction, blogs that talk about British authors etc etc – you name it, there’s probably a dedicated blog. I still stumble over long-established blogs which are new to me all the time.
But the book-blogging community also feels small at the same time. It’s an open and inclusive community – partly due to the nature of the internet, but I think also because of our shared love of books. I’ve never felt as though I would be unwelcome commenting on a review or opinion piece if I wanted to add my two pence’ worth (though there is always this nervousness when you hit Post Comment on a site for the very first time – or is that just me?). It’s also a vibrant and living community, primarily because everyone has different opinions and interests. I may not always agree with all posts on my favourite blogs, but I can’t deny that the more controversial posts have made me think more about my preconceptions and help broaden my mind.
I kind of think of every blogger/reader as little Venn diagrams, all overlapping and making up the entire book-blogging community. Six degrees of separation and all that – I mean, that’s how I find new-to-me blogs in the first place, it’s like following a trail of breadcrumbs as I click through on links, mentions, comments, and so on.
My blogging patterns have changed over time. I post a lot less frequently than I did in the first couple of years (I think back to those years and wonder at the amount of free time I appeared to have then). There are times when I just fall out of the habit of blogging, and then just as suddenly get the blogging itch back. I started off talking almost exclusively about historical romance, IIRC, because that was what I read then. Over time, my reading habits and interests have evolved, and my blog posts reflect that.
But regardless of what I’m reading or how often I blog, I appreciate that I have this space where I can post whatever I want about what I read. What I think #bloggerblackout and #HaleNo have highlighted is that book-blogging has become a lot more commercial over the past few years, as bloggers (and their readers, be they commenters or lurkers or casual passers-by) have established themselves as part of the publishing ecosystem. There’s nothing wrong with that, and it’s linked to the book-blogging community being a living and evolving place – blogs would never have stayed the way they were, say, five years ago. But the greater prominence and (perceived?) importance of blogs have given rise to the recent instances of Appalling Behaviour. I don’t think it’s necessarily book-blogging specific, as evidenced by a quick look at news reports, but I’d hate to see a few bad apples ruin this wonderful community.
So I do think #bloggerblackout is good, because it’s triggered the conversations around why individuals are blogging (and everyone has their own motivations and drivers), and equally importantly, what is acceptable behaviour and what isn’t. Not because it “punishes” authors or publishers (and here I admit that I honestly can’t see how a number of blogs not posting new releases reviews for a few days is hurting anyone – but feel free to comment). I love that Dear Author has chosen to kick off a series of reader conversations this week as part of #bloggerblackout, as this reflects the why behind my original attraction to book blogging.
Really, I just wanted to talk books with fellow readers back then, and I still want to talk books with fellow readers. So (800 words later – thank you to those who actually read this far!) – I’ll continue to talk about new releases I’m excited about, to be enthusiastic about books I love, and to grump about books that disappointed me. I’ll remember that I’m not a cog in the book publicity machine and that I should never feel obligated to like or shout about a book. At the end of the day, book blogging’s about sharing our love for reading – whether it’s the thrill of discovering a new-to-you author (or watching someone discover one of your long-time favourite authors), a passionate debate that opens up new ways of thinking about your well-loved books (or makes you go off to read someone else’s well-loved book), or just even reading someone’s thoughts on a book that mirrors yours, and thinking “ahhh, yes”.