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Blogs on Books

“Like anything new, it’s difficult for authors and agents to understand when we say, ‘I’m sorry, you’re not going to be in The New York Times or The Chicago Tribune, but you are going to be at,’ ” said Trish Todd, publisher of Touchstone Fireside.

Not me., give me a call.

Mr. [Richard] Ford, who has never looked at a literary blog, said he wanted the judgment and filter that he believed a newspaper book editor could provide. “Newspapers, by having institutional backing, have a responsible relationship not only to their publisher but to their readership,” Mr. Ford said, “in a way that some guy sitting in his basement in Terre Haute maybe doesn’t.”

That a quote from Richard Ford, evidently a naive dinosaur, is the kicker to a piece in the New York Times about the migration of book reviews to blogs is rich with lots of ironic sedimentation: exactly because newspapers have the backing of the institutions they do, they do not — can not — have responsible relationships to readers. (Judith Miller?) This is the biggest reason for people’s migration to blogs: why should the guys and gals in their basements trust the newspapers, the television stations, the publishers, all the media outlets that treat them like eyeballs attached to wallets? Respect the crowd.

For another thing, as Adam Langer wrote about in the Book Standard in 2005, there are so many external constraints on book reviewers that they barely get to utilize that judgment and filter that Richard Ford prizes so highly. To wit: Jeff Salamon at my local paper gets 200 books a week but can only review 2 to 7 of them.

Newspapers don’t buy books. People in Terre Haute, and elsewhere, living in basements and penthouses, do. I want to sell books to them.