Monday, March 23, 2009

Blogging: Connection or Community?

Ever since I read the following on Anne Jackson's blog, I haven't been able to stop thinking about it:

"I believe what happens online is connection—not community."

I almost immediately took issue with that as I'm sure you can imagine. After all, I spend most of my time in the book blogosphere and we almost pride ourselves on the community we have. "Is it not really a community," I mused. "Are we really just connecting over and over again over our shared love of books?" (and many other shared traits)

I guess this really begs the question....what is community? I looked it up on and while we don't match the "living in the same locality" definition, I do think we match this one: "a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists"

Um, books would be our common interest and our larger society would be the blogosphere.

But really, those definitions are a bit dry, so what is community?

Is community when you talk everyday to one another? Check (don't think our blogs are the extent our relationships...they aren't)
Is community when you celebrate each other's personal victories in life? Check
Is community when you grieve each other's losses and heartbreaks together? Check
Is community when you plan a trip to see each other traveling over states to make it possible? Check
Is community when you work together to accomplish a common goal? Check

I suppose I'm missing some aspects of community, but I'm pretty confident in saying that the book blogosphere does indeed have a community.

And of course we have connection as well.

There is a lot of fear of the internet out there....even by big successful bloggers. I'm not saying that you should have only online friends...I think we all have relationships outside of our blogs. But what I'm saying is why keep analyzing if it's good or bad? It is what it is. There's some good and some bad. Just like when the telephone was invented. Just like when the radio and TV came along. The truth of the matter is humans, we need to stop blaming technology for our problems and focus on the core conditions of our hearts that abuse and use technology. It's not the internet keeping people from having meaningful relationships, it's man's natural loneliness and feelings of isolation. And sometimes, just sometimes, it's through the screen, that we find that person who sees life as we do, it's through the interwebs we finally find someone who consumes the written word and values it like we do. And I'm sorry, I just won't say that it's less than it is. It is good.

I welcome your or connection? The internet is evil or the internet just is?



Lenore said...

I definitely feel like it is a community. If any blogger wrote me and told me they were going to be in Frankfurt, I wouldn't hesitate to meet them. I've already met several people with whom I had first contact with due to my blog. And I am looking forward to meeting up with bloggers when I go to NYC and LA in the summer.

Not only that, but I spend way too much time chatting, e-mailing and twittering other book lovers.

Just because it is online, doesn't mean it is not community.

sarah pekkanen said...

Well said, Amy! I agree it is community. It certainly doesn't replace face-to-face conversations, but the connections I've formed through blogs and other online vehicles like Facebook are very real.

Stephanie Newton said...

Community and connection. In any community, the connection comes first and then the community. And the connection comes from something shared--a love of books, or writing, or being in a Bible study, or school group online--same with "real" life. The internet isn't good or bad, necessarily, though it can be both.

bermudaonion said...

I think it's both as well. Yes, most of us have real-life friends, but just think what this community means to those who are home bound because of illness or disability. There are some evil people using the internet, of course, but I truly believe that most people using it are just ordinary people who are trying to live their lives the best way they know how.

Natasha @ Maw Books said...

I think it's both community and connection. There are a lot of lurkers who may feel that they may not be a part of the community but they definitely feel that there is a connection. I feel a connection with a lot whom I don't know through the community and others are part of the community whom I don't have much connection with. Make sense? Ha, ha. I don't know how else to say it.

Anonymous said...

Although I have a standing policy to sign everything I post on others' blogs, I'll post anonymously here because I don't care to deal with the drama that will emerge from what I'm about to post.

I think a community comprised of exceptional individuals is healthy. I think that top-tier bloggers (and you're in this group, Amy) should by all means socialize and interact; it's through rubbing shoulders with other talented people that we develop our own gifts.

In the past year, however, there've been a lot of lurkers crossing over and beginning their own blogs and the entire blogosphere is, to be blunt, overfilled. It's a dump. You have three or four good adult blogs that get a lot of attention for the genre's blogosphere and about fifty other really crappy blogs that are parasites -feeding off others' successes and using a 'we're a community, I'm just spreading book love!' excuse that the tenderhearted members of the good blogging community buy left and right.

Same goes for YA.

Same goes for fantasy.

Same goes for romance.

I think this so-called community needs to self-cleanse and go back to being about reading books and not getting books. The quality is diminishing, the credibility isn't getting any better, and I'm getting nauseated just thinking about these people who ruin our good names, all under the pretense of 'community.' It takes hard work to be a good blogger and we should stop being tolerant of those who suck just because we're a 'community.'

Kacie said...

I think it is community. However, I think what the internet does allow is a false facade that even we ourselves can start to believe in. When that happens, it really isn't community because you aren't accurately presenting who you really are... you know?

Nymeth said...

I'm with you, Amy. The internet just is, definitely. I think there's as much potential for deceit outside the internet as there is in it, but for some reason a lot of people still insist on seeing friendships formed online as "unhealthy" or suspicious.

I grew up with an internet connection, and I've been making friends online since I was 14. I met some of my very best friends online. I met my boyfriend of five years online. I've belonged to a series of communities, and now I belong to the book blogging one. I love it here. There are a lot of bloggers out there, and some I see as friendly acquaintances, others as actual close friends. We share a passion, we care about one another and we spend a lot of time interacting. For me, the community is real, and it's a big part of my life.

Jenn said...

I definitely think the book blogging world is a community. I've "met" an amazing amount of people since creating my blog. And I've been introduced to a wealth of authors and books that I wouldn't have known about otherwise.

sassymonkey said...

It's both connection and community. If you look at book bloggers exclusively, there's not even one book blogger community - there are many. Some people belong to several, or maybe belong to one and have connections to others. Or maybe a blogger doesn't identify as a member of anything of them but has a connection to them.

It's a fluid concept with people overlapping and always in movement. To paint it as one OR the other is, I think, too simplistic and reductive.

trish said...

I think the Internet can create a community, but I would hope it wouldn't be someone's *only* community. I think the Internet is great (as evidenced by the ungodly amount of time I spend on it), but I have to remind myself that it can't replace face-to-face friendships. There's a balance. I mentioned once that I'm very introverted, and the appeal of the Internet is I do it on my own time, and I turn it off when I'm done. But real life friends are important, as well. Everything in it's place, everything in moderation. I know this is a duh for most people, but I thought it should be said.

As far as the book blogging community itself, I *tend* to agree with the Anonymous commenter. I like to think that the cream (does and will) rise to the top. I like to think that blogging will somewhat naturally "clean out the gene pool", that those who aren't "top notch" (Annonymous commenter's phrase) will eventually get left behind.

If the Annonymous commenter wouldn't mind, I'd sure love to know who you are. I want to make sure I'm reading your blog, because I certainly respect someone who can say what you said. Send me an email? trish@heylady(dot)net.

A small little blog said...

Amy this is a really good question you posed today. I have to say I am a little annoyed by the comments posted by Anonymous though.

I feel as though we are a community and we all have a connection. I have met a few book bloggers because of my blog. My whole life doesn't revolve around my blog I do get out and have a life outside of the internet.

What Anonymous said about there only being three or four good adult blogs is only their opinion and that the rest are parasites feeding off others success. I am sorry but I am not feeding off some's success. I am sorry if you seem to think that everyone else's blog is bad but there are some people who work really hard on their blogs and you can see this.

I have gotten alot of good comments about my blog (from authors and reps) and I appreciate it all. Yes I admit my UVs are not like the well known bloggers but I am blogging for me. I appreciate the readers I have.

Jen - devourer of books said...

I think that, just like real life, connection leads to community, but not with everyone to whom you connect. There are many book bloggers out there to whom I feel some connection and there is a smaller group with whom I feel I am in community.

I can tell we're a community because of the obscene amount of time we spend 'hanging out' together on Twitter. Yes, there are other interesting people/tweets on Twitter, but I wouldn't bother staying if I couldn't spend time with my community there.

trish said...

@ A small little blog

I'm not the anonymous (hey! I spelled it right! finally!) commenter, but I *think* they were exaggerating when they said there were only three or four good adult book blogs. My feeling on that is that I read quite a few blogs that I think are fantastic, that don't get near the traffic I think they should. Being a small blog doesn't mean you're not top notch.

BUT, not all bloggers are created equal, and I'm loathe to say that just because someone starts one, doesn't mean it will be good. I certainly see varying degrees of effort being put into blogs (we don't have to categorize this into just book blogs, as I'm sure this is true across the board), and that means that some are better than others. I don't think the amount of traffic you receive is indicative of how good you are. But I'm not of the opinion that whatever someone does will equal good quality. Can't we agree some blogs are better than others?

Lenore said...

Anon - While I agree that there is a big difference between top-tier book blogs and the "parasites", I do think there are more than just 3 or 4 great blogs per category, and that there is room for middle-tier blogs too - bloggers who maybe don't have the time or desire to make book blogging a full time hobby but still want to join the conversation.

You can pretty easily tell those bloggers who have a blog just to get free books, and those who are serious about maintaining excellent blogs to share their love of reading books (and if they get some free books in the process than that's great of course). Some parasites will eventually get bored and leave and new parasites will take their place - such is the way of the world. But hopefully, serious book bloggers will establish themselves and hang around.

caite said...

I would agree that it is not one or the other...but I lean toward the connectivity side. I think for true community, you have to take it beyond the blogsphere. Which is possible and which some do.
The internet, and blogs, are a way to connect with other that share a common interest, be it books or photography or doorknobs or whatever. And when you read and comment, day after day, about what people think and post you feel a certain knowledge of them, a certain connection. But a real relationship, which a true community entails, goes beyond that.
You can use that connection to go there...or not.

But what Anonymous says (and I wish he/she had given their name, but I understand why they did not) rings true too. Being someone that started a blog in the last year or so, I hope not to be included in the 'dump' but I know that it is easy to get sucked into being more about 'getting' stuff and being 'part' of something that ones blog just being about sharing great books that I loved..and some I did not...and some other things I just want to share. It goes back to that old "no really free book" discussion.

thebibliobrat said...

I can see Anon's POV. I also wholeheartedly agree with what Lenore said. I doubt I will ever be a "top-tier" as I started my blog simply to share my love of books and reading and am so happy to have found others who feel the same.

I am the only reader in the household and sometimes felt alone and isolated because I had no one to share my enthusiasm with. Now I do.

For me, I see this as a 'community' that helps people 'connect' at a personal and/or intellectual level that cannot be readily found elsewhere.

I blog to share, but also to give back. I have gained and learned so much from others that in maintaining and offering the best I can do in my blog is a way of saying thank you for the companionship. And in that, I feel I will always be "middle-tier" (I hope) and will be quite happy with that.

So, to what you had asked, "community or connection? The internet is evil or the internet just is?"

I believe it is a connection which can lead to community.

As for the internet. It is the sum of its parts. And right now, it is made up of all kinds. Good, bad, parasites, trolls - you name it. So, it is what it is. We just have to rise above the dank, seek the good, and hold onto it when we find it.

wordlily said...

Lenore, I appreciate your comment.

Callista said...

Okay so I don't know that there's much difference between connection and community. You need the connection to get to community status don't you?

I slightly agree with what anon said although I can't figure out how to explain what I mean. I don't look down on new book bloggers, I was one once and for that matter, compared to some of you I still am but I don't agree with book bloggers who have been blogging for 1-3 months getting books from PR and publisher people and trying to be on the same level as the rest of the book blogging community.

Also not every book blogger is in the community, whether it's because they don't want to be or they don't know about it or whatever. There are MANY book bloggers out there, most of which are not in OUR community. Perhaps they have our own but by OUR community I mean those that twitter and talk on book blogs and go to each other's blogs all the time etc... At least I hope I'm part of that community.

Brimful Curiosities said...

Very interesting "community" conversation. When a group of people get together to share thoughts on various topics, I would definitely call it a community action. If someone joins a group and does not participate in any conversations, I would label it more of a connection. I also disagree that there are only a few good book blogs out there. Yes, sometimes I get annoyed when I read a review of a book where the blogger obviously did not put much effort or thought into the posting. But, everyone has a right to give it a try. Maybe they'll grow and learn as they blog and become "exceptional" someday, too.

Wendy said...

Well, as usual Amy, you have started a great discussion here!

I have a few thoughts about all that has been said. First off, I think most bloggers start out by just making the connection...but for many of us that connection has grown into a community. I look at how bloggers rallied together when Dewey died...a wonderful outpouring of support and effort, the kind of thing we see in our local communities when there is a tragedy or loss. Right now there are book bloggers planning to get together in Massachusetts, Washington, and Portland Oregon (and these are only the ones *I* know about...I'm sure there are others). I was blown away by the number of comments, emails and e-cards I received when I lost my dog - the outpouring of support touched me deeply. If that isn't community, I don't know what is.

Re: what Anonymous said...I have a gut reaction and that is to say "Who cares?" What I mean by that is, why does book blogging have to be about exclusivity...what, only the very best are allowed to blog?!?!? Give me a break. For many bloggers, this is not only fun, but it is feeling part of something. Do we think people must past a test of good blogging before they can be part of our community? It rubs me the wrong way. And as far as free books go, if publishers are sending them and don't care about the quality of the blog, why should we? I would hope publishers and authors are researching who would provide the best platform for their book(s). If you are someone who has pride in your blog, don't worry, I am sure it is being noticed and your traffic most likely reflects that and won't be "hurt" by someone who is not putting the time into THEIR blog.

Personally, I have often reached out to new bloggers because I was new to this once myself and appreciated the goodwill and friendliness of other bloggers who had been doing it for some time. Again - there is where community comes in, I think.

Lastly, I really wish that when someone voices their opinion - no matter what it is - that they would have the courage to put their name to it. Throwing stones from a hiding place is not something I respect...and that is one of the downsides of the Internet...anyone can be anonymous, drop a bombshell and disappear. And *that* is NOT community.

Stephanie said...

Interesting topic. But as a smaller blogger, I actually was a little put off by anonymous' comments as well. When I started my blog, it was always just for me. I didn't start it for the freebees. Hell, I didn't even know there was such a thing. I wanted a place to put my ideas and reviews down so *I* could read them later. I didn't even expect others would read it.

Then lo and behold, I started getting comments from other people that loved books. To me, that's what it's all about. I don't have time to make this a full-time hobby. I work two jobs and have 3 kids. I'm lucky to post 15 times a month. I try to blog hop a couple of times a week.

If that makes me "less of a blogger" than other people, so be it. But it really does kind of hurt my feelings to think that I wouldn't be accepted into a community because of it.

I'm sure I'm not saying this very well. Just dropping random thoughts out there!

Ruth @ Bookish Ruth said...

Really great discussion here and on Twitter. You've hit upon a very thought provoking topic, Amy.

I honestly think it's a little bit of both, and it depends on what the individual blogger is looking for. There is definitely a community out there (look at the response to Dewey's passing, as Wendy pointed out). There are definitely people who are out there just for free books and don't really care about participating with other book bloggers. I think, however, that there are more of the community minded bloggers out there.

The other point that I feel very strongly about is that connection can lead to community. There's a C.S. Lewis quote that I love: "Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, 'What? You too? I thought I was the only one.'" I think that is very applicable to the book blogging community. I love running across new bloggers with whom I share a favorite book or author. Reading can be such a solitary activity, but book blogs provide an opportunity for anyone to jump in and say, "Hey, I loved this book too." or, "Wow, I'd never thought of this book that way." or, "Since you liked this book, have tried [insert similar book here]?"

Are there blogs that are better than others? Certainly. Does that devalue other blogs? Absolutely not. Every blog is a work in progress. Your blog should not define you, but there should be a sense of who you are evident on your blog, either via your writing style, the types of books you read, and the types of books you like (which are sometimes two very different things). I can see elements of this in blogs of every shape and size, from the folks who have been doing this for years to many of the bloggers who are just starting out. Everyone has something to offer.

I've made a lot of friendships thanks to book blogging. It's enriched my reading, exposed me to new authors, and given me an outlet to talk about my passion for reading. I don't know many bookworms in real life, so it's great to hop on the computer and have someone (multiple someones, actually) understand how important books are to me.

trish said...

@ Wendy - I don't have a problem with Anonymous posting anonymously, as I don't think what they said was hateful or vitriolic.

Also, I don't *think* Anonymous was saying that only the best get to blog, but I think there's varying qualities of bloggers, and to say differently is either to lie or have no taste. I don't go around saying who I think is bad OR good (except when I talk about Raych, because I just love her and don't care who knows), but there are ones that, if we were to talk about it, are better than others.

I often reach out to new bloggers as well, because I hated having questions and not knowing who to ask when I first started blogging!

You said, "I would hope publishers and authors are researching who would provide the best platform for their book(s)." I don't know if that's always the case. Do authors and publishers know how to guage a blog's traffic? I do, but do they? It's a fact that a blog with 25 visitors a day doesn't provide the same exposure as someone with 250 visitors a day. When did bloggers start feeling entitled to the same respect (i.e. receiving free books) that a more established blog garners?

@ Stephanie I don't consider you a "smaller" blog. You're one of the ones I admired when I first started bloggin (and still do!). Quantity doesn't make up for quality, so if you blog 15 times a month, your posts can be more interesting/thought provoking than someone who posts everday and does lots of memes and just slaps up posts.

@ Ruth Never heard that quote from CS Lewis, but I love it. Excellent comment.

chartroose said...

It's both connection and community. It's connection with those bloggers that I hear from and check up on only occasionally, and it's community with those bloggers that I feel a kinship with, like you, Amy--those bloggers that I subscribe to and have listed on my sidebar.

I don't know if I totally agree with anonymous. Should we be so elitist and condemn those who don't have top-notch blogs like mine? (har) Isn't there room for all of us? If a blog really stinks, I don't read it. Most blogs don't last all that long, anyway.

Meghan said...

I think of this as a community. I've been an online "presence" for years now. At one point in my life when I had no support in my "real" world, the internet was where I went for that community. I met my fiance there. Obviously, that's not ideal and I think having a real life community is vastly important, internet is nothing like the real thing, but it's frustrating when people suggest community is not a possibility online because I know that it is.

Regarding book blogging, I know I'm not a very large presence. I still like to feel that I'm part of this community and I know I feel like I am. I do work hard on my blog and while I don't always have the time to comment everywhere or make it as spectacular as it could be, I'm trying very hard. It's way more important to me than receiving free books - which will be mostly ending for me when I officially move to the UK - and the sense of community is a big reason that I work so hard and spend much of my free time reading blogs, tweeting, and writing my own posts. I have already opened my future home to several bloggers who are interested in traveling to the UK. I really enjoy hanging out with you all, big successful blog or not. I don't think it's a competition. I started my blog in 2007, had no readers, and did not know book blogging existed. I gave up without the community because writing for myself wasn't really that interesting and I didn't know what I was trying to do. When I came back to it in summer 2008, knowing other bloggers made a HUGE difference. I had an example and a community. That is a big part of why I keep on going. It's not the same as real life, but it certainly is a community.

Wendy said...

@Trish: Sure there are great blogs, good blogs, so-so blogs, etc...I don't deny differences in quality, but I also wouldn't suggest that some bloggers are "parasites" because they are not as skilled as others. To me calling people parasites is a bit vitriolic! As far as the publishers/authors go - if they can't figure out by reading a few posts what the quality of a blog is, then I probably wouldn't have much faith in their ability to figure out what a good book is *laughs* Most blogs that are serious have a statcounter so people can see the number of visits. Again - if a publisher or author doesn't care enough to research their platforms, why should we? There are so many books up for grabs I don't worry too much about less serious bloggers getting them - all the power to them! At some point the pubs/authors will get more savvy. As far as reaching out...I think your blog was one of the first ones I glommed onto when I started blogging books :)

trish said...

@ Wendy - good point about the parasites. I didn't write the comment, so I can't even begin to defend it.

I would just hope (and this isn't *necessarily* speaking to you, Wendy, but to everyone in general) that "smaller" blogs wouldn't feel that they're not a part of the community or not even a significant part of the community. People put into their blogs what they can, and I really think that the not-so-great blogs will fall by the wayside. Blogging communities can't be made up of all huge blogs like Amy or Natasha (Maw Books). Communities need bloggers who take the lead in things (Amy with BBAW, Dewey with all she did, most (if not all) of which is being run by various bloggers now), as well as the bloggers who participate in those things, which will generally mean "smaller" blogs.

I'm loving the discussion!

Wendy said...

@Trish: *nods* I agree completely! I feel like the vast majority of book blogs (that I read anyway!) are a wonderful mix of big and small and everything in between. If they were all the same, I'd be bummed!

Rebecca @ The Book Lady's Blog said...

Pretty much everything that can be said has already been said here, but I want to jump in and agree that our connections can (and do) lead to a sense of community, and that can be a wonderful, healthy thing, as long as we balance it by being at least as engaged (I would argue that we should be more engaged) in our real-life relationships as we are with what we do online.

I work in a bookstore and spend my days around people who love books. We're a very diverse group, and it turns out that no one else in my store shares my taste in books. My bibliophilic friends live mostly in other cities. The book blogging world is a place to share my reactions to books, to learn about about books I may not have heard of before, and to get plugged into the pulse of the book world, which makes me better at my job.

As for the quality of book blogs, I think it's a self-regulating market. Readers aren't stupid, and they're perfectly capable of seeing through blogs that just exist to help the blogger get free books and of identifying low-quality blogs. Those blogs end up getting less traffic, and whether the bloggers discontinue them or keep writing for their small audience really makes no difference to me. I couldn't care less how many book blogs there are. I read the ones that I find well-written and informative, and I work hard to make mine that way, and that's all that matters.

And as for posting anonymously, I wish that person realized that this is a (generally) mature group of people who want to have a constructive conversation. None of Anon's comments were inflammatory, and I seriously doubt there would have been much "drama" emerging had he or she left signed their real name.

Chris said...

Okay, I finally gave this some thought.

I do think this is a community because we have something in common in which we are committed to: books. I started my blog just to have somewhere to discuss what I read and I found people who felt the same.

Now for the discussion started by Anon, I can see what s/he is saying. There will be blogs that 'pop up' just for the free books but I can't see them lasting or having much traffic. Whether my blog is 'top tier' or not, I have no idea. I think it can be a matter of opinion. What I do know is that I work hard at it and hopefully that shows. Maybe I don't have 1000's of visitors a day and probably never will but I am true to myself and that's makes me satisfied with my blog. If a blogger loves to read and it shows in their blog, I will be back.

Beth Kephart said...

Community, when the motivations are true. When the heart is steady.

lilly said...

First of all, great discussion you started here. Second of all, internet just is and the sooner people accept it the better for them because I don't think it's going to go away ever.
And last but not least, blogosphere is definitely a community. There's no doubt in my mind about it. Not only do I get to express my thoughts about books I read but I get to meet and converse with people, who in that respect are just like me. That's how communities are started: through people with common interests or issues or problems that no one else shares so deeply. Because let's face it, how often do we get the feeling of being a little weird or misunderstood in our every-day habitat? From my experience quite often. I know a lot of people, some of them consider themselves to be my friends and I consider myself to be their friend, yet I know I cannot talk to them 24/7 about books. I tried, it didn't work. They will sit patiently and listen but after a while they change subjects because it's just not that engaging. Yet, I enter the blogosphere and I interact with a community of people who would love nothing better than talking about books forever.

Dawn - She is Too Fond of Books said...

Amy - Happy Blogiversary! And thanks for getting the ball rolling on such an interesting discussion :)

My two cents echo what many have already said (huh, no original content? Does that make me a commenting parasite? *grin*, *really and truly grinning* . I didn't take offense at Anon's comment because I'm content in the middle tier. Yup, that's where I'm slotting myself, no more, no less!) ... anyway, my two cents ... the connection can lead to community; the internet is what it is, good, bad and ugly.

@ Wendy ... where have you heard rumors of a Mass. book bloggers meet-up?! How have I missed this?!?

Wendy said...

Sorry Dawn, I probably should have been more specific. Actually this is a group of readers from Library Thing...we've more or less had an ongoing group for a couple of years and about half the group is planning to get together in is not purely book bloggers (although many of us are)...but, my point is that many bloggers/readers/LTers/Twitters etc...form bonds and community and take it "off line" to meet in person.

amye said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Molly said...

Well, darn it all. I was teaching all day and by the time I found this fabulous discussion - all my points had been voiced more eloquently than I could ever hope to do.

I would like to say, however, that I have found so much more than I EVER expected through this fabulous book blogging community. I do not remember the first blog I came across (or what was the google search term that led me to my first blog) but I felt connected with the first post I ever read. I come from a family of non-readers and for decades I have felt like an island unto myself. While I have always loved to read, I have put that passion on the back-burner in an effort to "fit it" Reading the first blog entry helped me to realize that there are indeed others who are as passionate about reading as I am --- and some are even more passionate :)

That first blog entry led me to following links to other blog entries. Imagine my euphoric feeling when I realized that there was an entire community (yes, community) that felt the same love of books that I do. I truly felt as though I had found a home.

I was incredibly hesitant to start a blog. Like anonymous eluded to -- I am probably on the lower end of the ring. My blog is nothing great; my writing style is mediocre; I have never written a book review in my life. BUT... I initially felt drawn to the need to belong to this community. I have received nothing but positive, uplifting encouragement from anyone who has chosen to comment on my site (and that is another thing -- I never expected a single follower and now I have 38 new-found friends who care to hear what I have to say!!)

I have sooooo much more to learn: about writing - about book reviews - about the book industry - about the possibility of some day learning how to get on an ARC list --- but trust me, none of these wonderful fringe benefits was ever a consideration when I first started the blog. I needed to connect; I needed to be understood; I needed to write down my thoughts; and you have warmly accepted me. That, to me, defines community.

Amy said...

First of all a clarification. I just reread my post and I don't actually spend most of my time in the book blogosphere I spend most of my blogging time in the book blogospshere. I feel like I spend most of my time at work!!! Anyway....

Lenore...I agree! and I hope you'll meet up with me if you're going to be in LA.

Sarah...thanks, I agree!

Stephanie... well said, I agree!

Kathy...I agree and I think that's so true...I think the internet communities really catch a lot of people who sometimes fall through the cracks.

Natasha...makes perfect sense.

Anon...I see where you're coming from. I think some of the best written blogs get little attention. And part of that is because blogging is about more than writing. I also see blogs with little original content. Everyone has a right to a blog, but as others have said, if there isn't much to stick around for, they will fade out. However, I don't want books to suffer and I agree that it can frustrating to see all bloggers lumped together.

Kacie...I'm actually pretty good at doing that in real life, too! But I understand what you're saying.

Nymeth..I wonder if that's part of the difference. The online world has been a part of my world for just about as long. Maybe because we're so used to it, we accept it as more natural. too and it's been so much fun!

Trish...your comment made me laugh because it made me think maybe the whole "the internet is scary bad" is more extrovert propaganda. I think there is a community here, but you're shouldn't be our only community.

A small little blog... I think there are many excellent blogs out there. I enjoy many that I read.

Amy said...

Jen...I agree. Ha, and we do spend a lot of time on Twitter, don't we?

Trish...I agree that some blogs are better than fact, though, I expected more opposition to the idea of awards for BBAW, but was pleased that there wasn't a lot..I think we can maturely accept that.

Caite...I always think of you when I think of blogs that should get more attention. You are so funny and definitely bring something unique to the conversation.

thebibliobrat...well said.

Callista...good point...there are many communities out there, but I still think we're sort of part of one overarching community.

Brimful curiosities...I think it ultimately does come down to how one defines community. I also think there are a ton of great book blogs out there...I personally can't keep up with them all.

Wendy...well said. :)

Stephanie...I think we're all busy. Just these past two months, my online time has been cut in half, and I'm definitely coming to the realization that some of it is going to have to go. Keep blogging!!!!

Ruth...thanks for such a lovely comment and such a lovely quote that is going in my favorite quotes of all time. Like "we read to know we're not alone."

chartroose...bless you, you never fail to make me laugh. and you're right about how most blogs don't last that long. I think it's an average of 6 months.

Meghan...great thoughts. While the internet may not be ideal for everything, I think that it's better than nothing.

Rebecca...good thoughts. how frustrating to not have anyone at work that has the same taste!

Chris...thanks for commenting! I think your blog is wonderful. are so wise. :)

Lilly...already emailed you but I love what you said. make me laugh. :) You're top tier to me.

Molly...thanks for your story! I think the book blogosphere is mostly an encouraging place.

Anonymous said...


S. Krishna said...

Ok, I am SO late to the discussion, but I've been reading all the comments throughout the day and have participated on Twitter. Basically, I think everything has already been said, but I would like to say that I consider this a community.

Great discussion Amy!

Lenore said...

Amy - Daniel and I would love to meet you when we come to LA. We'll be there around the second week of August.

Beth F said...

Ok. I'm commenting after reading only about 5 previous comments because I want to express my own feelings instead of reacting to others. Then I *may* comment again in reaction.

I think we are a community for many of the reasons Amy "checked" in her post. I didn't grow up with the Internet; in fact email was a new thing when I was in grad school. But I was an early user, and I have friends I've met through the Internet that have remained friends for a couple of decades.

There are certainly many people with whom I have only a connection. Those relationships are as valid as the true community relationships. After all, in face-to-face life, we have all kinds of people we interact with, from the clerk at the grocery store to our neighbors, close friends, and family. The same levels of relationships are found online.

I'm excited about meeting as many of you as possible in May at the BEA and I've even talked to some of you on the phone. Those are examples of community.

I have plenty of friends and family besides all of you. But I look forward to communicating with you each day and visiting your blogs, and I think that's a good thing.

Yes there are good blogs and bad blogs, but the people behind the blogs are important too. Some information-laden or review-heavy blogs just don't interest me because there is no personality behind the posts. Other blogs contain reviews of books I'll never read and may be meme heavy, but the individual generating those posts is interesting, smart, funny, or otherwise engaging, so I'm there often.

I've babbled enough and haven't even answered the question, so I'll stop.

belleofthebooks said...

What a great post Amy! I'm hooked on that idea now...

caite said...

@Amy "Caite...I always think of you when I think of blogs that should get more attention. You are so funny and definitely bring something unique to the conversation."

Amy, I totally agree!! What is with that, huh??

Actually, maybe I just don't care enough. Like I said, I am not really a joiner and as I have said before elsewhere, I don't feel comfortable with some of the whole contest/giveaway/publicist stuff that can draw a lot of traffic. But that is another whole kettle of fish..or box of worms or some other gross analogy.

But I just try to write stuff I am proud of and happy with (what a shock to realize that people who KNOW me actually read it...that will keep you in line!) and stopped checking my visitors. If people like what I post and come back and especially comment, I love it. If not...their loss! ;-)

Bottom line, I think our blogs have to be true to what WE want them to be, what we want them to say.

Carl V. said...

"but I don't agree with book bloggers who have been blogging for 1-3 months getting books from PR and publisher people and trying to be on the same level as the rest of the book blogging community."

When did getting free books from publishers become a measure of respect or the measure of what "level" one is on in regards to blogging. Publishers are savvy people and are all too willing to get free books out to anyone who wants them. If you think getting free books is a measure of your blog's status then I think you should take another look at the bigger picture.

Publishers are smart enough to look at a blog's traffic and determine whether they think it is worthwhile to send out books or not. They aren't a bunch of new kids on the block about to be duped by what some people seem to think are "wannabe" book bloggers. When a person starts getting all bent out of shape about who is or who isn't getting free books, I would have to say that you need to step back and get some perspective.

I also scoff at the notion that there are "lesser" blogs that somehow call attention away from "top tier" blogs. If a blog is that "top tier" then it will gain and maintain its audience on its own merits and not because of the presence of one or one million "lesser" blogs.

The only validity thing that Anonymous' statements show is that he/she has a very limited view. 3-4 good blogs and about 50 crappy blogs? That amounts to about what? One millionth of a percent of the blogging community that has at least some focus on books? Please. If that is the extent of Anonymous' research into his/her well reasoned arguments (written with sarcasm), it is a wonder that any of this could even be taken seriously.

Someone who is that narrow minded is not "rubbing shoulders with other talented people" developing your own gifts. Instead that person is small minded. The proof that this person is ultimately only worried about themselves is the fact that in making a ludicrous statement about other book bloggers "ruining" his or her good name, he/she doesn't even have the courage to put his/her blog out here for the rest of us to judge?

Why? Perhaps because making such unfounded, vague and ultimately petty statements is what would really tarnish this blogger's "good" name.

Chris said...

That was a great comment, Carl! I was nodding as I read it. It's all about confidence in your own abilities not the abilities (or lack) of someone else. I try to concentrate on my own blog and try not to compare myself to others.

Carl V. said...

I agree Chris. Once you start comparing yourself to others for the purpose of deciding if your blog is better than someone else's I think you start traveling down that road of blogging for all the wrong reasons. There is nothing wrong with comparing your blog to someone else's if you are wanting to improve what you do, gleaning the best bits from people you admire in an effort to make your blog more like you ultimately want it to be. But measuring yourself against others and deciding that you are at a certain "level" or "tier"? Seems a bit misguided and petty to me.

Wendy said...

Thank you, Carl - you said what I was trying to say but much more eloquently. You are obviously a top tier commenter *laughs*

Amy@The Sleepy Reader said...

Wow! Great discussion Amy!

I just stopped in to view this post since I was directed here by Stephanie's blog. I definitely feel this is a community and I don't measure it by who gets free books or who has the highest readership. I read the blogs I like and discard the others.

Some people really pour a lot of time and effort into their blogs and it shows. Some people have much better writing skills than me and it shows. I may not have as much time or mad skills but I care about books, blogs and book bloggers.

Lately, I have been lamenting the fact that I haven't been able to keep up with twitter, my reader, posting at my own blog and responses to comments as I would like to because I have 3 kids(one who is home-schooled) and their activities have kept me pretty busy. That won't last forever though and I hope I can still share my love of books with my blogging friends when life slows down and I can participate more fully again.

P.S. Carl and Chris, thanks for sharing your excellent writing skills and voicing my thoughts.

Jenny Girl said...

I think it's both community and connection. I consider the people I comment and chat with friends, and if we didn't like each other, I'm pretty certain we wouldn't continue to communicate.
It seems silly to me to think that you can only have commuity "in person". I tend to talk more with my online community than I do with my "in person" community. Weird? Maybe but I think it's because it's easier. Drop an email or a comment and you have connected, and it didn't take much time.
I, like you, feel book bloggers or knit bloggers are part of a community, and if that is too hard to understand for someone, then it is their loss.

3m (Michelle) said...

Whoa, did I miss out on a discussion!

I'm actually a little shocked by anonymous's statements. Four or five good blogs and 50 crappy ones? I'd say there are at least 50-100 great blogs and only a handful that aren't up to snuff. My problem is that I don't have time to read all the ones I want to.

I do agree somewhat with one of anonymous's points, and that is that I wish there wasn't so much focus on new books to the exclusion of older ones. I still love getting, reading, and reviewing new books, but I've decided to cut back to about 1-2 per month and concentrate a little more on my tbr pile. In fact, I've only read two 2009 books so far this year. And I still like to read reviews of the older titles on other blogs as well.

I love the connection and the community, even though I don't visit and comment as much as I should. I think there is room for all who want to to participate, and I don't begrudge anyone for getting a free book, whether they've been blogging for 5 years or 5 minutes.

Tif said...

Thank you for such a great discussion! It's been so interesting to read others' thoughts and opinions!!!

Just some of my thoughts (probably from one of those parasitic bloggers!! ha, ha, ha) . . . I started my blog almost two years ago now. I did it solely to keep track of the books that I have read and strictly for my own enjoyment and purpose. Since then, I feel that my writing and reviews have improved (at least, I hope that it has!!) and I have established a small gathering of followers. I do not blog to get the free books (though I will admit that I have received a few). Do I hope to eventually gather more followers? Yes, but I don't write strictly to be read even now! I still write primarily for myself . . . as a way to de-stress, share my thoughts about a book so that I can go back and reflect at a later date, etc.

As for the community aspect . . . It has been only recently that I have discovered the book blogging world . . . seriously late considering I've had my own book blog for almost two years, in my opinion. However, because I am moving so often, it is always so hard to find fellow bookers like myself in my new homes. I am so thankful for the book blogging community, to know that there are so many others out there like myself and always someone out there that I can go to to talk books. Even though I may not have people in my own real community to talk to, I know that I always have some in my virtual one!

Others have their opinions on this matter, but for me . . . whether I am truly *parasitic* or not, I will continue to leech off of the many bookworms out there!! It's nice to have that connection and not feel so alone! So, thank you to all . . . the good and the bad!! Afterall, don't we all have to start somewhere?!?!

samantha.1020 said...

I really had to stop and think of a coherent response to Anonymous and their comments. Carl said it the best but I am going to add my two cents to the mix. I may not be the best reviewer in the world and my blog may not get the most followers or visitors but it is mine. And that is what matters as I take the time to post my thoughts and share my love of books. If that isn't good enough for anonymous, then too bad. I take the time to share my honest thoughts with my reviews and that is all that matters to me. I love that there are so many book blogs out there so that I can find even more books to add to my TBR list. I have tried so many different types of books because of other blogs that I normally would have passed by. I have to say thank you to everyone out there who tries....who loves books and takes the time to share their love of reading with other readers. I appreciate you and your hard work even if others don't.

Amy said... too!


Beth..very well put, thanks for commenting!

Caite...most people (work people excluded) also know I blog. Not all of them read, some read everyday but never comment...though they'll comment when I talk to them. My sister and I had a long email conversation on the definition of community...she disagrees that community can be found online..much like you. :)

Carl...well said.'s funny how easy it can be to fall into a comparison trap. Honestly, no matter how good you do something, I think you will always be able to find someone who does it better. Accepting that leads to a more peaceful life. :)

Carl...Exactly! Compare only to improve not to measure your self-worth.

Amy...definitely focus on family..blogging will always be there...or some form of it. :) Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Jenny...good point. Especially with twitter. I talk to my online friends everyday.

Michelle...that's how I feel!!! I don't have enough time to read all the blogs I'd like to.

Tif...I love it! And isn't the community great? I'm so glad you're here!

Samantha...I think you're awesome.

Serena said...

Wow did I miss the discussion! I've been having issues with embedded comment boxes, so I missed all this great discussion.

Amy, I want to applaud you for venturing off on this topic and shedding light on your thoughts.

As a blogger and professional writer, blogging is a way to connect and form communities. I'm happy to be part of the book blogging community no matter how paltry my visitor traffic, though I really wouldn't know since I don't keep track.

As for the other discussion that has grown out of this post, I think there are some blogs that are more polished than others, but to call them parasites is a bit mean. I think that blogging is a way of expressing ones opinions and thoughts and to call someone a parasite is just mean-spirited. I'm not about to determine which are the best blogs or worst blogs...that's not my place...that's the readers' decision to make. What blogs they choose to read and frequent is up to them, and I can tell you there is enough variety in the book blogging community alone to meet the needs, interests, and desires of all readers.

Once again, great discussion.

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