Critics in the Cloud

I’m taking the liberty of repeating parts of a post I did several months ago about favourite reading related sites. The reason – I just saw that the Miami Book Fair is offering a panel session called Critics in the Cloud: The State of Literary Criticism in the Age of the Internet.

Participants of the panel: Maddie Crum of Huffington Post, Jessa Crispin of Bookslut, Stephen Elliott of The Rumpus, Ron Hogan of Beatrice, William Johnson of Lambda Literary, Laura Miller of Salon, Bob Minzesheimer a book reviewer and reporter, Adam Plunkett of New Republic, Jenn Risko of Shelf-Awareness, Michael Slosek of Poetry Foundation, and Sarah Weinman of Publisher’s Lunch. The panel will be moderator by Doree Sharfrir of Buzzfeed. And the stated intent is to discuss the current state of book culture in the context of the collapse of local newspapers.

Interestingly, none of Buzzfeed, Publisher’s Lunch, Poetry Foundation, Salon, Lambda Literary, or Beatrice were mentioned in the list of favourite blogs and websites used by readers looking for book discussion and recommendations. Of the others, only Shelf Awareness had more than 4 votes as a favourite site by over 2400 readers. The Rumpus was mentioned once, Bookslut twice, and Huffington Post four times.

We might be justified in asking a question about the authority of these panel members. As well as a question about the phrase literary criticism. Is this an exalted calling accessible to only a few individuals? Is literary the more important word or criticism? Has anyone asked readers what they wish to see in book critiques? (I did.)

In the middle of February, I reported on favourite reading oriented sites. And in mid-March, I posted a list of sites by category: reading sites, social media, retailers, blogs dedicated to historical fiction, genre sites, general book review blogs, author sites, industry sites and so on. The variety of this ‘reading ecosystem’ is phenomenal.

Here’s a repeat of that post – have a look at the category I refer to as Traditional which includes sites like The Guardian, NY Times, London Review of Books, New Yorker magazine. 29 traditional sites were mentioned by 68 people. In other words, traditional sites are no longer drawing an audience.


With my friend Excel at my side, I’ve gone through all named sites (696 in total) and classified them. Admittedly, this is my own classification scheme but I think it has merit.

As you can see in the All blogs category, blogs are a favourite vehicle to share book reviews and other book related information. Count refers to the number of different sites mentioned while Impact is the total mentions for that category. For example, a blog like Reading the Past is only counted once in the Count column, but given that 47 people included it as a favourite, 47 is added into the Impact total.

Note added, Nov 10, 2014: adding the first three categories together with genre blogs gives a total of 536 sites and an impact of 1418. Reading sites like Goodreads and Shelfari have an impact of 1054. The next biggest impact comes from social media at 714.

Favourite reading sites (1)

In the next group, we can see the role retailers play. Amazon accounts for 306 of the 419 Impact total.

Favourite sites (2)

A final group includes social media and reading sites like Goodreads. If we group reading sites with social media, the total impact score is 1768.

Favourite sites (3)

After cleansing the data as much as I could, 696 different sites remained of which 500 were mentioned by only one person. In 106 cases, the survey participant was insufficiently specific for me to categorize his or her entry.

What’s of most interest to me is YOUR thoughts on what all this means for readers and writers.