Thursday, February 11, 2010

Amateur, Mineral, Asshole

Bloggers, er, I mean, Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres. --Julius Caesar

There are two main categories of bloggers: professionals and amateurs. At least that's what I used to think. It is easy to spot the professionals: the reporters and writers who keep the newspaper and magazine blogs afloat. It also used to be simple to spot the amateurs: these are the rebels, wild book enthusiasts, and publishing underdogs who use the free technology to criticize books, spreading the word about treasures and clunkers, some of the books famous, others overlooked. But recently a third category has emerged: the "pro-mateurs," as I call them, a group of bloggers who straddle the blogosphere somewhere between professionalism and amateurism. Can you be an amateur if you're receiving thousands of dollars worth of free books a year from publishers (the equivalent of a salary) and basically doing PR for them? No.

One of my favorite pros, Alison Flood at the Guardian book blog, unwittingly brought this to my attention when she publicized "Not the TV Book Club," a book group established by four bloggers in response to a British TV book club. Now there's nothing new about online book groups. There are thousands of thriving book groups on AOL, Yahoo, and all over the internet. I cannot tell you how many cherished books I have discovered through participating in online book groups over the years. So if four bloggers want to start a book group, more power to them, but it's hardly news.

Here's what is news: according to Flood, "The bloggers decided that the series would focus on books published within the last five years, books previously unread by the chooser, and no 'freebies' from publishers, Hatwell says, and response from readers has so far been 'really positive'."

Oh My God! Isn't that special! These "pro-mateurs" (my name for them) are having a book club but are bringing themselves down to mortal level by not promoting their FREE books. You mean: THEY HAD TO BUY OR BORROW THE BOOKS LIKE THE REST OF US READERS?

Are they "pro-mateurs," or are they just assholes?

I do read one of these blogs regularly, and do like her, although she gets a little boastful at times: dovegreyreaders scribbles, the writer whom I have referred to as "the Esther Summerson of bloggers" (a good thing). But I'll definitely avoid the Not the TV Book Club.

Although I hate to give them more publicity, you can read all about them here. Or you can support one of the many already established book groups on the internet.

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