Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Esposito on the need for litblogs

Scott Esposito of "Conversational Reading" has an excellent entry up right now, responding to recent charges from the mainstream media that book-review blogs are basically a passing fad, and can't possibly do as good a job of reviewing books that professional publications do. His post covers a number of different issues which I won't try to cover here, but here I think is one of his most important points - that there are lots and lots and lots of people out there desperately seeking intelligent, entertaining critical analysis of literature, even if it might not be enough to cover the ever-rising costs of a traditional paper publication. He's basically arguing the "long tail" theory of marketing, and is quite correct to do so; that as professional publications continue chasing the "short tail" more and more (that is, that small group of customers who all buy the same bestsellers), and as newspaper book-review sections become more and more obsessed with mystery novels and children's books, the slack obviously needs to be picked up by someone, for all those hundreds of thousands of people who enjoy all those other thousands of books that aren't on the bestseller list.

Don't believe him? Just look at McSweeney's. There are hundreds of thousands of people who tune into that website on a daily basis, almost in a religious way; don't you think all these people are equally excited about reading informed, entertaining critical analysis of literature as well? Sure, Esposito argues, the skyrocketing cost of paper and distribution may prevent a traditional lit-review publication from being a money-maker anymore, but that doesn't mean its readers no longer exist; it simply means that the traditional means of reaching them is no longer economically valid, and that other alternatives should be sought. It is, he argues, the reason litblogs really should be considered a new, valid addition to the literary world, and not simply a passing fad, an argument with which I have a hard time disagreeing. I encourage all literary lovers to spend some time contemplating the subject as well.