I recently came across an article at The Story Siren in which she interviews Author X, who wanted to remain anonymous in the interest of avoiding self-promotion. Honestly, I don't believe that was the real reason. Anonymity on the internet is about protecting one's self. In this instance, it became clear to me that the author simply did not want any negative backlash coming from the community he/she was condemning - which is book bloggers.
There are many assumptions that Author X makes about what happens to a book in a bookstore, which I believe she got said information from an agent who would be handling all of these technical details. Author X writes "What's going to move copies is store visibility and marketing on the publisher's part (springing for table space, displays, and stuff)." Throughout the entire article, the author's focus is what works in a bookstore, because that can be tracked and factored as so many numbers and figures on a print-out. The internet is basically too big and constantly evolving to be charted and recorded so simply. Although Sniffly Kitty's Mostly Books made an excellent attempt at quantifying it.
In today's modernized digital age, the bookstore is no longer the only way to get new literature, and print is no longer the only format to read a book by. Especially with the bankruptcy and closing of Border's locations across the U.S., people are relying more and more on the internet to buy books. My own small town up in Canada had a bookstore years ago, but it did not make enough money to survive.
I managed in a bookstore for a number of years in the U.S. before moving up here, and really, individual books have to rely on randomness and coincidence for the average bookstore pedestrian to be interested enough in said book to buy it. Book bloggers have a way of focusing that aimless wandering that a display table or featured spot in the store just can't achieve.
The thing about all those fancy displays is (a)they get changed pretty quickly and quite often, so a single title is not going to stick around very long, and (b)they never feature only one title (though they may feature only one author) -- which means choices. Though the assumption is that people love choices, too many choices tend to overwhelm someone who does not already know what he wants when he walks in the door. The book blogger and book reviewer simplify the decision-making process.
In today's world of financial distress and recession, people want to be certain that they will enjoy the book they spend good money on. Book bloggers help with that certainty.
As for the average bookstore customer, they come in all shapes and sizes, with a good portion never reading anything but the newspaper, their favorite magazine, or the latest best-seller and just as many only coming for the coffee. Browsers will pick up random books and sit in a chair to read, but never purchase. Just as many of the younger generations will come in with mom and dad, but not have the pocket money or the persuasion capabilities to make a purchase, either. With the internet, the push of a button is infinitely easier than shopping blind or standing in line, and cheaper than the rising cost of gas combined with the very-real chance that the bookstore won't even carry what the shopper wants. Not to mention, the internet makes buying books possible for even those who can't leave home, whether sick, handicapped, without transportation, or no bookstore location for hundreds of miles. Desktop computers, laptops, e-readers, cell phones, etc., all have the ability to shop online for anything, and so easily that even a four-year-old can do it. (No really, a four-year-old taught me how to use I-Pad.) Few bookstores have the ability to sell e-books from the store location, and bookstore employees don't work on the store's matching website (with the possible exception of indy bookstores). But book bloggers are on the internet, and will oftentimes know much more about books than the average, minimum-wage employee of a bookstore.
Book bloggers are the enthusiasts, the collectors, the bookworms, those who have turned reading into a profession unworthy of any paycheck. I already know I can and do sell books, and that started long before I ever wrote a single blog post. I wish I had known about the world of book blogging when I worked in the bookstore, I likely would have sold even more. I turned my whole family into avid book readers and buyers, as well as many of my friends, and I believe I will always have that effect. My book blogging is merely the record of my enthusiasm. Book blogging is the after-effect of falling in love with literature, and a way to turn that love into productivity.
Author X condemns common practices of book bloggers, such as giveaways and memes. Memes are merely ways to funnel and focus certain topics that are common to book blogging, such as the newest book purchases, and giveaways are yet another way to pass on the love of books to fellow book lovers.
Really, the community of book bloggers has much in common with the typical book club, but operates on a world-wide scale. I've come to think that the negativity against book bloggers is not because some think that book bloggers don't sell books, but because book bloggers impact the market in both unpredictable and unprecedented ways, and very little of the impact of book bloggers can be curbed, controlled, or encouraged by methods that may work for other venues.
Luckily, not every author thinks so harshly of book bloggers, Amanda Hocking is one of them. Some of the other responses to this interview are at Reading Teen and Maniac Manga Cafe.
Please share your own opinion. I'd love to hear what you think!