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The future of bookchat

In The New York Times, arts reporter Motoko Rich uses the recent contraction of mainstream book review coverage as a springboard to discuss ye olde Blogs vs Newspapers debate.

To some authors and critics, [review cutbacks] amount to yet one more nail in the coffin of literary culture. But some publishers and literary bloggers — not surprisingly — see it as an inevitable transition toward a new, more democratic literary landscape where anyone can comment on books. In recent years, dozens of sites, including Bookslut.com, The Elegant Variation, maudnewton.com, Beatrice.com and the Syntax of Things, have been offering a mix of book news, debates, interviews and reviews, often on subjects not generally covered by newspaper book sections. [URLs removed from quote and hyperlinks added]

There follows the expected back and forth, with litblogger Ed Champion arguing that blogs counter “the ‘often stodgy and pretentious tone’ of traditional reviews,” while National Book Critics Circle president John Freeman says, “We have a lot of opinions in our world. What we need is more mediation and reflection, which is why newspapers and literary journals are so important.”

One prominent litblogger, Maud Newton, gives the Times a welcome sense of perspective:

“I find it kind of naïve and misguided to be a triumphalist blogger,” Ms. Newton said. “But I also find it kind of silly when people in the print media bash blogs as a general category, because I think the people are doing very, very different things.”

And while it’s not mentioned in the article, this very funny cartoon also offers some perspective on the bookchat wars.