September 30, 2013 § 4 Comments
For this assignment, I chose to look at book review blogs.
While I am a voracious reader, I tend to find books through word of mouth and social media recommendations, rather than following blogs, so as a niche book blogs was new to me, as were both the sites discussed below.
I chose these two blogs by quite different methods: Firstly by searching for a list of the top book blogs on google, and arbitrarily selecting a list of recommendations from the top of the search results, then choosing the first non-commercial site from that list. By non-commercial, I mean not affiliated with a commercial entity such as a publisher or magazine. The other I chose from the booklovers social network Booklikes.com, using a method best described as “the first post I came across that mentioned a personal book blog”. My two sites were then the slightly unfortunately named http://www.insatiablebooksluts.com (who I will be referring to as “The Insatiables”) and author and reviewer Nenia Campbells blog at http://neniacampbell.blogspot.se, aka “The Armchair Librarian”.
Before I began any kind of analysis, I read a few posts, and immediately noticed that the posts were on average rather longer than what is common on personal blogs. I thought this was interesting, so I looked up recommended word counts for blog posts and averaged out the first few recommendations I found, coming up with a target of between 400 and 750 words as considered “ideal”. The most recent ten posts from the Insatiables in fact averaged 950 words, or well past the recommendation, and while Armchair Librarian posts averaged out to only 650 words, they are still on the longer side. This makes sense to me, as the target audience for book reviews would naturally be people who like to read, and are in the habit of reading, thus likely to stick around for longer posts. On both sites there is heavy use of images in the posts, at a minimum an image of the cover of the book under discussion, but also “reaction gifs”, or animated images showing reactions, often humourous, and more typical of social networks such as tumblr than blogs.
The Insatiables blog is multi-author blog, and recipient of the 2012 Independent Book Blogger awards, a fairly large competition run by the social media site Goodreads and the Association of American Publishers. That would seem to indicate that despite being a “civilian” site, it has some industry attention and influence. While not affiliated with a commercial entity, they do earn some revenue through books sold by clicks on their site, and have some advertising. They review primarily adult fiction, including romances, and seem to review primarily women authors and books targetted at women, although there are some male contributors to the blog. All the posts are heavily linked to outside posts, other review sites and to stores – this site probably drives a lot of traffic to other places.
While book reviews are the main content, there is also some discussion about well known characters, authors, and even meta-discussion about being a book-lover, the publishing industry and book-blogging itself. The writing style is highly unmoderated, which given the subject matter of adult fiction, is fitting. The writing is equally adult oriented, there is occasional profanity and not-safe-for-work topics, although images on the site itself tend to be more toned down. The tone is irreverent and quite sarcastic, and the reviews are quite in depth and not always positive. The reviewers often point out socially and politically incorrect depictions in fiction and sometimes use their site as something of a social justice platform, but it doesn’t appear to be an explicit goal.
In comparison, the Armchair Librarian takes a similar tone, one of irreverence and sarcasm, and thoughtful considered reviews, however the language is a little more formal (but only a little). The audience is similar, adult fiction readers, although with a slightly different mix of genres, leaning more towards the fantasy and horror than straight fiction or romances of the Insatiables. The Armchair Librarian also makes reccomendations as to what kind of reader would enjoy the book in question, even if she didn’t.
Appearance wise, both sites use a quite normal blog layout, and both have opted for light, bright colours with plenty of whitespace. I suspect this choice is somewhat related to the tendency for the posts themselves on both blogs to be both longer than average, and well illustrated – an overly “busy” blog theme as well, and the entirety would probably feel uncomfortably cluttered.
I think both blogs are successful in creating an engaging reader experience, and also in pitching their writing at the target audience of adult fiction readers, primarily female.