Posted by: kararc | September 30, 2012

Democratization of media: amateur voices in book reviewing

“It is now possible for anyone to become a media practitioner and publicize their point of view, which takes the democratic right of freedom of speech to new levels.” pg. 118, Media and Society

In the world of book reviewing, this is a hot issue. The number of book blogs and their popularity as a source for discovering new titles is increasing. (See slide 13 – blogs are at 12.1% and they weren’t even on the 2010 survey.) Social networking sites focused on books (Goodreads, LibraryThing) are also exerting influence on book sales. Authors and publishers are admitting that amateur voices have a powerful influence.

Publishers, which aren’t dependent on any single book, are thrilled with the new source of advertising. They routinely send ARCs (advanced reader copies) to bloggers and reviewers on sites like Goodreads. Those with more personal skin in the game, namely authors and professional book reviewers, are up in arms. The complaint? Amateur bloggers and reviewers don’t review fairly; they say things like “this book sucks!” without qualification.

Media and Society references Andrew Keen’s  The Cult of the Amateur. The quotation summarizes the authors’ view of the book review situation perfectly: “When anonymous bloggers… unconstrained by professional standards or editorial filters, can alter the public debate and manipulate public opinion, ‘truth’ becomes a commodity to be bought, sold packaged, and reinvented.” pg. 121

In a new twist, exactly that has happened. But it is a professional reviewer who is selling truth, not an amateur. Which begs the questions:

Who is more honest in the media – amateurs or professionals? How does the business side of media affect honesty?

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