From time to time, I’ve been encouraged to consider publishing a book comprised of blog posts at Historiann, plus (presumably!) some new, not-published-on-the-blog material. While I’m always terribly flattered by the suggestion, I have real problems with this idea on a number of levels.
Maybe some (or most?) bloggers hope they’ll be the next Julie Powell of Julie and Julia fame–the book about the blog that begat the book that begat the Nora Ephron movie starring Amy Adams and Meryl Streep–I don’t know of too many books-from-blogs or Twitter feeds that are all that impressive or successful. Most of them seem to me to be (like most blogs, perhaps) disposable celebutainment, “lifestyle” books in the Martha Stewart style, books about weird diets, or baby blogs turned into baby books. Even Julie and Julia was a pretty bad book–entertaining, but poorly written in large sections and only lightly edited, if at all, and it only made me wish I had followed the blog in real time. (Ephron’s movie was the product of a larger and more mature imagination.)
In the main, my problems with the book-to-blog concept revolve around the fact that blogs are a particular genre of communication that I don’t think translate particularly well to other media, and maybe to print media in particular:
- Blogs are not just about the blog author’s ideas, they’re about her audience’s reaction to her ideas and the interplay between and among the author and commenters. How would a book capture the freshness of an ongoing conversation or debate? (Even if it published the comments on each post, I don’t think it would! If yesterday’s news is tomorrow’s fish-and-chip papers, then maybe it’s OK for old blog conversations to go down the memory hole.)
- What about the links to other blog posts or articles? What about the images that accompany most blog posts?
- Blogs are not peer-reviewed or edited, and many books-from-blogs appear never to have been edited or revised for clarity.
- On the other hand: thank goodness blogs aren’t peer reviewed or edited–not everyone can be sparklingly fabulous and brilliant in every post! An editor would probably have advised me not to threaten readers with contamination in this recent post. I try to keep in mind my brother-in-law’s advice that “content is king” in the blogosphere, but music and fluff are sometimes what get us through busy teaching days. I’m sorry–that’s just the way it is, kids.
- I get it why publishers love blogs-to-books: the audience is already there, and the social media marketing platform is built right in! But don’t the blog readers and commenters resent it if the blog kind of becomes all about selling the books rather than the ongoing bloggy conversations (Are books blog-killers, like the greedy farmer who kills the goose who lays the golden eggs? Not that I’m making any golden eggs off of this blog, of course, but I wouldn’t want to kill my blog.)
- Codex is a superior form of information storage, at least since fire has become less of an issue in libraries and homes. But who knows what will happen to blogs if their authors or host publications choose not to pay for server space? Speaking of libraries: the Schlesinger Library asked my permission a few years ago to periodically capture and preserve shots from this blog in their effort to create an archive of digital media, so there’s that, but who knows how successful their effort will be 20 or 50 years from now? (I’m sorry: that’s rather grandiose, isn’t it? Who will give a crap about this blog 50 years from now? As George W. Bush once said: History? We won’t know. We’ll all be dead.)
- Maybe books-from-blogs are the best argument I’ve heard for e-books so far? Then it would be technologically much more feasible to embed videos and links, and to take better advantage of the bloggy format. (But if you’re on a tablet anyway, why would you buy a copy of a book about a blog when you could just read the blog, for free? Duh.)
- This is an objection perhaps particular to me: wouldn’t a book turn the blog into work? When of course, although this ain’t a blog about celebutainment, it is for the most part my daily fun. (Is that just too sad?)
I’d like to take advantage of the blog platform to hear from you all. Do you know of any successful non-disposable non-celebutainment blogs-to-books? What in your view is the benefit (if any), and what is lost in the transfer to a book?
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