Recently I’ve seen a couple book bloggers making the move to stop writing book reviews for their blogs altogether, and I’ve seen seen more bloggers mulling over the idea. This decision seems to come from a combination of personal lack of interest in writing reviews and the frequent suspicion of the book community at large that “nobody reads reviews.” Still, the idea that a book blog can succeed without book reviews seems baffling to many. Can it really work?
Yes, If You Replace Reviews with Similar-Quality Content
I like reviews, reading and writing them, but I’m not going to argue with the assertion that reviews get fewer views and fewer comments than discussion posts like this one. It’s true. This is for all sorts of perfectly logical reasons, ranging from readers not wanting to stumble across spoilers for books they haven’t read yet to readers not wanting to read thirty reviews of the same book to readers just having no interest in the featured book at all. Still, readers like seeing that reviews are being published on a blog, even if they don’t read every review, because reviews easily demonstrate a blogger’s personal writing style, taste in reading, and ability to talk insightfully and in detail about books.
One of the first things I do when I visit a new blog is look at the review archive. I read the reviews for a couple books I love and a couple I strongly dislike. If the blogger and I tend to have complementary opinions on books, I look around the blog more. If not, I move on. Of course, a blogger can convey some of this information in another way: a list of top favorite books or genres, a list of books they hate or ones they will never read. But usually a list doesn’t go as in-depth with reasoning for a reader’s approval or disapproval of a book, not in the same way a review can.
Readers do value in-depth content on blogs. Lists with little content and flashy gifs have become associated to some degree with content mills like Buzzfeed. People read and enjoy Buzzfeed, obviously, but they generally don’t refer to the site when they want quality content. When readers think of expertise, they think of writing that’s detailed, with arguments backed up by evidence. They want to get into the nitty gritty of things, not just the big picture, not just a random blogger’s personal opinion. Reviews, which discuss a single book at some length, often fill this niche on book blogs. Reviews are where readers look when they what to know what a blogger thinks and why they think it.
I have no doubt a book blog without reviews can easily succeed, as long as the bloggers replace reviews with content that performs similar functions. It is very possible to write posts that are thoughtful and analytical and get into the meat of a story without actually writing a book review. Stephanie’s post about Boromir from The Lord of the Rings is a good example of this, or Krysta’s post about Delphini Diggory. It’s also possible to have a blog that features many discussion posts about individual books, literature in general, and blogging in general. I just think that most readers want to see content on a book blog that goes beyond memes, tags, and lists. While posting, say, a list of the YA science fiction books being published in November is useful and valuable, it’s also something that other bloggers can easily replicate. My favorite bloggers post content that is uniquely them.
We have no plans to discontinue publishing reviews at Pages Unbound. I find reviews valuable and love reading them on other blogs. A book blog without book review may seem initially strange. After all, many book bloggers begin blogging with the expectation they will be writing only reviews, and the other content gets added in later. However, I do think that a book blog without reviews can succeed, as long as it fills the niche with in-depth, original posts.
What do you think? Would you ever stop reviewing books? Would you (or do you?) read blogs that don’t have reviews?