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February 23, 2005

All I Want Is What's Coming To Me
All I Want Is...My Fair Share

by Ron Hogan

Because I do not get the Times Literary Supplement home-delivered, it took The Literary Saloon to inform me of the latest Brit take on bookblogs, namely that we are "occasionally cheering and informative complements to the world of print and paper." Nevertheless, the columnist insists, "only a cyber-fanatic would now argue that they could replace it." Defensive much?

Well, okay, I do agree: It's highly unlikely that the genre of bookblogging could ever totally replace printed book criticism, although it certainly seems as if individual bookbloggers are supplanting individual book critics on an ongoing basis. Not so much because we "pine for the permanence of print," as the TLS columnist claims; if we want anything, I'd guess money ranks higher than fame. But I'd argue that the increasing appearance of bloggers like Maud Newton, Sarah Weinman, and Lizzie Skurnick in your newspaper's book review section (to name just a few bloggers who've made that leap) isn't because of what we want but because of what editors want: people who write about books with passion and intelligence. And that is why certain book reviewers may need to start looking over their shoulders and worrying about this blogging phenomenon, because their editors may be about to go online and find somebody else who can do the job better.

Right now, there's not that much money to be made in blogging, for those of us who might be looking for it, unless your audience is huge enough to support ads or bring in some meaningful commissions from various online bookstores. I was pleasantly surprised yesterday to receive a PayPal donation from somebody who read my modern rendition of the Tao Te Ching, but that's only the second contribution in six months for a document that gets downloaded about 600 times a month in its various formats. I'm okay with that (although I really should tell my agent those figures one of these days to see if we can get a print deal, even with the Creative Commons license and even though I'm not an Eastern religions "expert"), but I admit it would be rather fun to get paid to read and write about books fulltime again, and if I thought there were a way to do it here rather than in print, I'd be seriously considering it.

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