One of my favorite things about the online book community is the way it allows us readers to chat about books in the way we prefer. Anyone with a computer and a basic facility with writing can share his or her views on a book with the world and, with a little luck, find some like-minded (or even not so like-minded) readers who will enjoy reading what they have to say. We book bloggers (and book vloggers, book tweeters, book podcasters, and book tumblers) don’t have to get the approval of an editor or an academy to say what we think. We need only answer to our own good judgment.
In a world where just about anyone can talk about books in the way they choose, some will choose a way that others find grating. In Salon this week, Laura Miller wrote a great piece about how online reviewers are using GIFs (short, animated images) and other expressive tools. She treats these innovations as one of many tools that a reviewer might use, and some will use them better than others, just as some traditional critics use the written language better than others. She writes,
Reaction GIFs can seem canned (particularly if they’ve been used by many people, like a clip of Orson Welles clapping in “Citizen Kane”), but then so do certain shopworn reviewer’s words like “compelling” and “poignant.”
I don’t use GIFs, but I’ve used plenty of those shopworn words. Not having to answer to an editor and having limited time to craft posts means I often don’t bother searching for some new way of saying what I mean. I’d rather use my time to search for a good example of what makes a book compelling than try to find a better word than compelling. I’m guessing that the folks who use and reuse that clapping GIF feel the same way.
As for GIFs and other innovations, I’m not a particular fan of them. Although I’ve seen people use them well, I tend to avoid blogs that use them all the time, not because I think using them necessarily constitutes poor thought but because I simply have trouble looking at a page with lots of different types of moving objects on it. I get a little seasick and headachy if there are more than two on my screen at once. But that is a personal preference issue. I’m sure people come to this blog and see what looks like a great wall of text and do this:
And that’s just fine. I like my long, text-heavy posts, so that’s what I write. So far, enough other people seem to enjoy them that I’ve no lack of people to exchange ideas with.
In this great, wide world of online book talk, there are so many different languages and styles. The fact that a review is online doesn’t make it, by definition, less insightful and interesting than a print review. So, too, the use of GIFs and such doesn’t make a review a less valuable contribution to the conversation. It’s the ideas in the review that matter … and come to think of it, even if the ideas don’t seem original and interesting to me, that doesn’t mean they aren’t meaningful to someone. The diversity of styles is part of what makes the online book world so wonderful. Not every style is for me or for you, but that’s perfectly OK.
There’s also been some chatter about GIFs on LibraryThing.
In Other News
The official announcement for the TBR Triple Dog Dare is up. If you’ve got a lot of unread books around the house, sign up and get (a tiny bit, but not really) caught up.
There’s one more week until Aarti’s More Diverse Universe Event, celebrating people of color who write speculative fiction.
Chris at Chrisbookarama ponders the slow down in comments a lot of bloggers are experiencing. (We’ve had more of a leveling off than a slow-down.)
Alex at Thinking in Fragments alerts readers to a MOOC about Hamlet, starting in January.