I began a post about "shoulds" and book blogging, but it was a bit long and unwieldy and really two posts.
One about what I mean about how blogging shifts how one reads, how one talks about books. And one about shoulding, which I'll hopefully have ready tomorrow.
Well. It's like this. By myself? Dinner may be peanut butter on an English muffin. When I have company, is that what I'll serve? Nope. In a way, it's the same type of shift that occurs when one moves from talking with friends about books to the public arena of blogging. Things get cleaned up a little; spelling and grammar are doublechecked. Things get rewritten and revised.
There is the criticism and feedback that comes along with blogging, in a way that doesn't happen in conversations. Oh, I'm not saying conversations about books are all calm and pretty; people can agree and disagree and get emotional! But it does mean that if I post something and someone disagrees with me (either here or elsewhere), I need to be as thick-skinned as I expect authors to be when I talk about their books. I don't think one can go into blogging thinking it's going to be all "I agree, great post!"
And then there is the community. And not just the blogging community. There are also interactions with authors and publishers. Really -- how many people who sit and talk about books casually, outside of blogging (and I'm not looking at you, librarians) ever have the chance to meet authors and folks from publishing? And by "meet", I include doing interviews, Twitter, posts and comments on blogs. How many get review copies, or write articles, or speak at conferences or other programs? Not all bloggers do all these things, of course. But, still, there are connections and things happening that don't happen for the stay at home reader.
So right there, like it or not, there is a shift -- the blogger who is doing all that is no longer the same as the person sitting at home, casually reading. Is the way these two people read, or talk about books the exact same? If the blogger is reading an ARC, for example, there almost has to be a shift in reading, because the blogger knows its not the "final" copy of the book so has to take that into account when reading it.
And what does it mean to go from being "just" a consumer of an end product, the book, to being part of the professional chain that includes authors, editors, publishers, publicists, reviewers, and now bloggers? Does that alter what one does, should it, and to what extent?
Let's use me as an example.
As a librarian (which I still am), I read with two hats on. I read for me; but I also reader to see whether other readers would like that book. When I read for me, there would be a small handful of people to who I would say "OMG you must read this book!". When I read as librarian, I read as book matchmaker: who will be the perfect reader for this book? And then used those books to booktalk (or handsell) those books to library patrons, sometimes individually, sometimes in large class visits.
As a blogger, my audience per day is much more than those handful of people I used to say "read this" to. What does having that audience mean? And what does it mean for me to think, "people will read because of what I blog?" Because I am out here with this blog and these posts, what is my responsibility to the reader?
For me, because my blog is a potluck dinner, it means I try to vary what I read and review here. A bit of this, a bit of that, with a side helping of what I like because all reading for others and no reading for me is tiring and it's a sure fire way to turn the joy of reading into the job of reading.
So yes, I think that the act of blogging shifts what one does. Though what that shift means can vary differently, from blogger to blogger.
But does any of this mean a blogger opens themselves up to being told how to blog? Or allows one blogger to tell another how to blog? Or, well, allows anyone to tell them what to do and how to do it? More of my self-obsessed musings on "shoulding" on people tomorrow.
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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy