The Booking Community Online

Growing up, I associated my “community” with distance – however far my parents were willing to drive to deliver me to play, and later the mileage I covered in my own car, cabs, trains, and planes.

As I’ve continued to age, the boundaries shifted from place to place, but frequently covered tangible ground. Within my community were others that shared similar interests and hobbies and had somewhat comparable moral values. Under their influence, I purchased clothing, drank my first wine cooler, and got my navel pierced. Obviously, my most prevalent hobby/interest has always revolved around books (even in my “rebel” years). And since reading is typically a lonesome activity, when I meet those rare souls with whom I can banter, discuss and share favorite authors and writing styles, I hold on tight. Luckily, with the advent of social media, connecting with people has never been so easy.

Thanks to noted technology, my community is no longer limited by distance. I can find people with shared libraries by a quick blog search, or if I’m really lazy just log into GoodReads or LibraryThing and see whose bookshelves are most similar. I can get personal book suggestions, read intelligent reviews, and even win the occasional new release through blog giveaways. So while my community may no longer be on speed dial, it is very accessible.

Earlier this month, the Denver Post questioned the future of book blogs in the interesting article, Who Will Write the Future? While the article is examining the more prestigious litblogs and discussing pay walls, I think it overlooks the importance of the book blog that may be “more enthusiastic than professional.”

The book community I’ve discovered online seems to be built around common interests and respect, as opposed to a revenue-seeking business model. Sure, some blogs may make pennies from their advertising, but I see more passion behind the reviews than determination to be the pinnacle of book-bloggerdom or the answer to copious amounts of disposable income.

Furthermore, the same article also says, “…no one has demonstrated that litblog readers are a significant part of the book-buying public”, and with that statement I heartily disagree.

Technorati and Alexa rankings allow site visitors to see the rankings of any said blog. The higher the ranking, the more influence/popular the blog is. The number of visitors to any review automatically raises awareness of a title in a similar way to viewing a print ad, even if the content is not read and digested.

But, more than a number denoting success, these dedicated book bloggers far and wide do become a community. Though they may not be the ones encouraging dramatic decisions (no more piercings, thank goodness), they do influence book purchasing decisions. The Word of Mouth Marketing Organization repeatedly reminds people that word of mouth has been statistically proven as the most successful marketing tactic. And just by offering a free opinion and expecting no compensation, the book blogger becomes a trusted advisor and confidant as opposed to a marketing mouthpiece. So I think it’s naïve of any publisher to discount the power and influence of a positive or negative book review just because it’s in a blog. Of course, blogged book reviews may not all be relayed with perfect grammar and the need to grab a thesaurus to be understood, but the intent is genuine and the audience is obviously engaged.

Book Blogger Appreciation Week recently concluded, and blogs and bloggers were recognized in a variety of categories, one of which was Best Community Builder. From the responses I viewed online, these weren’t contests with a cash prize but merely grateful acknowledgments of the humongous time, efforts, and sharing of information provided by dedicated book bloggers to the online community. That sounds more “community-like” than many neighbors I’ve had (especially the one that backed in to my brand new car).

It’s no longer necessary to limit yourself to those you meet in person—I consider many of my Twitter followers to be friends, albeit digital ones. The prevalence of social media has taken the “creepiness” out of meeting people online, though I advise sticking to book review blogs over the personal ads on Craigslist.

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