It seems like every few months a new controversy pops up regarding bloggers and their role in the publishing community. This is a debate that I don't often engage in, especially in a public sense (via twitter, facebook, or publishing on my blog), because I feel like it involves many of my readers who are not bloggers and merely those who love books in an "inside baseball" situation that they may not have any interest in.
That is why I'm not going to directly reference the recent issues that have come up, but I will provide you with a few links that talk about it in case you are interested and would like to "catch up."
Kelly Jensen from STACKED
HD from Reading, Writing, Breathing
What I would like to talk about is how bloggers and even regular readers with any online presence can participate in a meaningful way to the industry and community. I know that I am not alone in my love of books, and would never intentionally do something to harm a publisher, author, librarian or teacher. However, in this new age where anyone can throw up a blog and start publishing, I think that it is important to have a discussion about how those who are truly serious about contributing can do so. I keep hoping that those who really aren't serious about books but only want free stuff will eventually burn themselves out. I think this is the case, in part, but a new crop will always come up to replace them.
I began my blog in June of 2009 (oops, I missed my blogiversary at the beginning of this month. So, yay me!). My sole purpose was to have a place where family and friends could see the books that I was reading and possibly pick up some recommendations since my retention is so poor. I naively thought that I was the first person to think up this idea of blogging about books. I soon learned about a much greater community of readers that loved to talk about books as much as I did.
As my blog has grown, so has my awareness of the community. While I make close to nothing (monetarily) spending hours working on this blog, I have benefited greatly in knowledge about how the books I love come from start to finish. In a way, I have discovered my passion. I have become a greater advocate of my local bookstores, and local library that does so much to promote literacy in the community.
I recognize that my small and simple blog does not wield great influence. I do not sell books. If I were to stop blogging tomorrow, there would not be an Emily's-shaped hole in the publishing universe. However, I think that as a community, bloggers can wield a great deal of power. We can talk about books we love that may not be getting a great deal of attention. We are not constrained by any higher institution telling us what we can and can't read. And we can be great advocates. But only if we work together.
My question to the community as a whole is this: how can we do more in our own specific communities? I'm not advocating for any cohesive group that spans the nation and the world (rounding up bloggers can be a lot like herding cats). However, I think that there are opportunities within our individual communities for bloggers to make an impact.
I particularly want to know the opinion of librarians, booksellers, teachers, or those who are really on the front lines. What role (if any) do you see bloggers playing in your libraries, schools, or bookstores? Is there a place for us to be helpful?
For bloggers, what are you doing right now to make an impact in your community, and what ideas do you have to take it one step further?