10 Quick Takes on Common Bookish Controversies

10 Quick Takes on Common Bookish Controversies

Bookish controversies roil the book blogosphere every so often–and many of them are actually recurring debates. Below are a few of my quick thoughts on some of the most commonly discussed subjects in the book blogosphere.

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Yes, you can review a book you DNF’ed (Did Not Finish).

The fact that you thought a book was so unengaging that you could not even finish it, is a review! I see no problem with people discussing why they did not want to finish reading a book, as long as they acknowledge in the review that they did not read the entire thing.

Read Briana’s Thoughts on “Why I Think It’s Fine to Rate a Book You Did Not Finish.”

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Yes, listening to audiobooks counts as reading.

I think people’s concern with what “counts” as reading stems from how reading is taught in schools–a topic I plan to address one day in a lengthier post. Teachers are indeed concerned with making sure that students can read and decode text since not everything in life is linked to audio yet, and being able to do things like read textbooks, the news, menus, bus schedules, medications and more tends to be useful when audio options are not available. But the people online who worry that listening to audiobooks is not “real reading” are not in school, have already learned how to recognize words on a page, and do not need to judge other people for “not really reading.” Listening to the audiobook is still experiencing the book! People can absorb and analyze the exact same content, through text or audio. In fact, for many, audio is a preferable option, and it’s not very kind to say that they are not doing the work of comprehension and analysis just because they’re not doing it with their eyes.

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Yes, picture books, graphic novels, audiobooks, etc. count towards your GoodReads Challenge.

I think this controversy also stems from how reading is taught in schools too, since many educators are concerned about making sure students are advancing through more complex texts so they can read on grade level and be able to access texts that could be important–prescriptions, leases, student loan documents, college textbooks, etc. So teachers do encourage students to read longer books and to try reading texts without pictures since those are scenarios they may encounter one day. But…this has nothing to do with the Goodreads Challenge, which is a personal reading goal. People can count whatever they like. Books are books. It’s not a competition! No one is “cheating” by marking that they read a picture book, a novella, a comic book, or any other type of book!

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I don’t really care about getting a New Adult (NA) label/section.

The age labels publishers use now generally indicate two things: that a book will likely be of interest to a certain age group and also that it is developmentally appropriate. The movement for a NA section seemed largely to be a desire for more books about single college students in their early 20s (not even the whole 20-something experience), and I feel like those types of books could just be highlighted through lists, displays, and so forth. I don’t think there needs to be a section of adult literature just for characters in their early 20s since adult fiction as a whole already includes those characters, and there’s no special developmental need for it since presumably most adults reading adult books are ready for adult books with characters of any age.

Read my longer thoughts in : “Do We Need a New Adult Section?”

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I don’t think required reading in schools is evil.

I did a lot of things in school that I did not particularly enjoy, because the school system or society at large saw some benefit in it. Required reading is one of those things. It helps to have required reading (or at least a list of various titles to select from) so the instructor can lead a class discussion about the book and know how well the students are comprehending and analyzing the work. And, people have this idea that required reading is all boring and all dead white men, but required reading could actually be a way to introduce more diverse books into the classroom or engage students in discussions about current events. It does not have to be a terrible experience, but could be a way to introduce students to books they would not otherwise know about or read, or open up discussion about the issues that are important to them.

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I think it’s fine to upcycle books.

Sometimes, book lovers have a tendency to view books as sacred, believing that books can never be recycled, thrown away, or removed from circulation. And so, crafts that upcycle books into decorations, ornaments, and more are seen by some as wantonly destructive. However, there are plenty of reasons that a book’s lifespan may naturally be over–damage or outdated information, for example. It makes sense to upcycle them! Additionally, there are many, many books that are still in print and hardly in danger of disappearing if someone uses a copy for art. These upcycled crafts are not using the last copy of a medieval manuscript! I don’t see books as inherently sacred, and so I do not see the trouble with using the paper to make something new.

Also see: “Why Your Local Library Weeds Books from the Collection”

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Negative reviews are important, not mean.

I believe that negative reviews are actually necessary to ensure the integrity and usefulness of the review process. If people only generated positive reviews to be nice to authors, those reviews would no longer be perceived as honest looks at the quality of a work, but instead as mere advertising. It is important, of course, that negative reviews be done respectfully, and that they focus on what in a book or story did not work for the reader. They absolutely should not be personal attacks on the author. But there is nothing inherently mean-spirited in a person saying that they did not enjoy a book for various reasons. That is just information other readers can use to decide if they should invest time and money in a particular book–or not. Because, in the end, reviews are for readers to make informed choices–they are not really for the authors.

Read Briana’s thoughts: “Negative Reviews Aren’t ‘Mean;’ They’re Integral to Selling Books”

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I don’t want to be paid to book blog, though publisher recognition would be nice.

I understand that blogging is a lot of hard work, and many bloggers would like to be recognized for that by receiving cash from publishers (or even more ARCs, at this point). However, I blog for fun, and I do not want the stress and commitment that would come from making my hobby into a job. I also think being paid would fundamentally change how I would have to blog. I would have to promo publishers’ stuff, of course, but I would probably also have to do other things like focus on generating content specifically for views, so publishers would feel justified paying me. I’d rather blog about whatever interests me and do it with no commitment to an employer. But if publishers would at least admit that book bloggers still exist, that would be nice.

Read my full thoughts on “I’m Okay With Not Being Paid to Book Blog.”

Read Briana’s musings on “Four Things That Might Happen if Book Bloggers Were Paid.”

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Bookstagram is probably consumerist.

I don’t really go on Bookstagram a lot. Sometimes I take photos for Briana to post on our account. But I do get the sense that there are trends on there that promote buying a lot of books or buying fancy books to get views. Remember that time everyone had to acquire enough books to create a rainbow bookshelf behind them, complete with fairy lights? Sometimes it seems like these books are acquired just to be photographed, and not to be read. And there was even debate for awhile over whether library books were suitable for Bookstagram, meaning some bloggers at least were feeling a lot of pressure to buy books to keep up. So is Bookstagram all about consumerism? At least in some corners!

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I don’t worry too much about acquiring ARCs.

There’s an idea in the book blogosphere that acquiring more ARCs will make a blog more popular, though I have never seen hard data given to support this. My own experience is that our ARC reviews get less traffic than backlist titles; people seem to prefer to read and comment on reviews of books they have already read. I also don’t see the point of chasing traffic in order to convince publishers to give me more ARCs. The reality is that book bloggers are not paid. There’s no prize for receiving the most ARCs or even getting the most traffic. So, I don’t worry about it.

What are your thoughts?

44 thoughts on “10 Quick Takes on Common Bookish Controversies

  1. Books Teacup and Reviews says:

    I agree with most of your thoughts. One thing I want is getting paid as it’s like this is what I’m good at and I don’t do any other job as I’m stay-at-home parent. It would be good to have a side income even though it’s not big enough and just pays for self-hosting and book buying!
    Another controversy that isn’t on the list is, if you can separate art from artist/creator or book from author. I don’t exactly agree with the masses on this subject. I can easily separate art from author as long it’s good art. I don’t care what authors are doing in their personal life with their personal opinion. I guess I should write post on that.

    Liked by 4 people

      • Krysta says:

        I think that’s something Book Twitter doesn’t realize. If you’re not on Book Twitter, or you were even offline for a day, you can completely miss any controversies happening there. And most people, such as myself, don’t do a deep dive into the lives of authors before starting every book. I just see a book on the shelf with an interesting summary and I read it.

        Like

      • Books Teacup and Reviews says:

        I can’t agree more. we are not stalker who keep tabs on what they are doing or saying on social media and if people have noticed, okay fine they said wrong thing because of their own personal belief and we all have misguided beliefs. Why not just focus on story and comment on it.

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    • Krysta says:

      That is a good point! Book blogging requires a lot of different skill sets. A little monetary compensation for all that hard work could be very appreciated!

      Same. I don’t keep up with everything every author has said or done. If it seems truly egregious to me, I might borrow the book from the library instead of buying a personal copy. If the author is dead, then I don’t normally care if they were awful in real life, unless it comes through in the books they wrote.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Rosie Amber says:

    Reading is my hobby, I just take it to extremes, so although the idea of being paid to read and review sounds good, I wouldn’t want it to influence and stifle my freedom of voice about a book.
    Good idea from ‘Books teacup and reviews’ about separating the author from the art.

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    • Krysta says:

      I wouldn’t mind a little extra cash–especially in this economy! I just don’t see it happening for me with a book blog. But, that’s okay!

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  3. Sara @storiesandsidequests says:

    Pairing audiobooks with the physical (or digital) copy can be incredibly helpful for students and adult recreational readers alike. Having the audio version available is also great if you are reading a book with a lot of unfamiliar names, either from different languages or fantasy stories.
    On a personal level, I find that there are certain types of books that I will intentionally read in physical form rather than only in audio just because I know I want to give them my full attention and be able to flip back and forth to reference or take notes.

    I agree that when reading for fun you can count anything you want toward your goodreads goal. My personal issue with goodreads and other similar challenges is more along the lines of “why are we making reading a competition in the first place?” which is why I always intentionally set a numerical goal that is much lower than what I know I will read.

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    • Krysta says:

      Yeah, that’s one thing I don’t like about audiobooks. If I want to go back to reference something, I’m not going to try to find the right track number and get the reference. So anything that I need to take notes on, I’d want in a physical format.

      I’ve started setting my Goodreads goal low, too. I like to use it for fun, to see how much I read this year. But I don’t like being stressed out about having to meet the goal.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Mint says:

    Lots of interesting thoughts here! About audiobooks, I personally take the opposite stance.

    Yes, someone still absorbs the material through audiobooks and it can be a fantastic way of engaging with material for people. And I would still count it towards something like a reading challenge. But I just don’t think the act of listening is the same the act of reading because those are two different actions and two different forms of engagement.

    I wouldn’t say that I am listening to a book when I read a physical book or ebook, yet someone could say that they are reading a book when they listen to an audiobook. That contrast is interesting to me.

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    • Lila @ Hardcover Haven says:

      i get the aversion to the word choice, but scientifically speaking, the exact same neurological process happens when you “read with your eyes” and when you “read with your ears,” and also when you “read with your touch” (reading in braille). like, when someone reads in braille, we just say they are reading, even though their eyes aren’t involved in he process. so why should it be different for reading via audiobooks? the other reason i think it’s easier to say that listening to an audiobook counts as “reading” but reading doesn’t count as “listening” is because the written tradition was created to preserve the oral tradition and not the reverse. the only original purpose of creating writing was to remember sound and physicality. so for me it makes sense that if the story itself is the most important information being processed by your brain, then of course reading with your eyes, listening to an audiobook, and reading in braille are all the same thing, if that makes sense?

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      • Mint says:

        Yes, it does! I personally would never use the same word to describe audiobook/written word (whether that be eyes or touch) because it just seems… off to me but I can see why the two things are a lot more similar than initially thought.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I think there are two categories of “you didn’t READ the audiobook” people. The first are the people who think it’s easier/lazier to listen to an audiobook, and therefore it doesn’t “count” as reading for your Goodreads goal, you shouldn’t get “credit” for reading it. etc. And obviously that’s ridiculous.

      The second group is just being technical about the word choice. I would agree technically someone listened to the book being read and didn’t read it with their eyeballs, but I’m willing to accept “read an audiobook” is just a colloquial expression now. I know what people mean by it, and I guess I don’t have the energy to be pedantic and be one of those people who reply “you mean you LISTENED to it???” anyone time someone says they read an audiobook. :p

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      • Krysta says:

        Yeah, I think “reading an audiobook” has become an everyday expression. People understand that you are technically “listening” to the audiobook, but it’s a phrase we seem to have adopted as language evolves.

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      • Mint says:

        I definitely think that “read an audiobook” has become colloquial among the bookish community but I don’t know if it’s the same among non-bookish people (gotta keep my ears out for that in the future).

        I do think it’s easier to listen to an audiobook simply because it’s something you can take with you everywhere, whereas reading a book with your eyes or touch requires more of a time commitment. But that’s not a bad thing for the audiobook to be ‘easier’ either, and nothing to exclude from your own personal reading challenges for.

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  5. Lisa @ Bookshelf Fantasies says:

    Great takes on a lot of relevant topics! Can’t say I disagree with any. 🙂 I’m not on Instagram, so don’t do Bookstagram, but my impression when I’ve looked into it matches what you’ve stated, that there’s a consumerism angle that just doesn’t appeal to me. Re Goodreads reading challenges and audiobooks, on both I’d say whatever the reader thinks is what matters! I like the goodreads challenge because it’s totally personal. If I want to concentrate on reading huge books and aim to get through 20 total, that’s just as worthwhile as setting a goal of 200 and only reading shorter books. Whatever makes the reader happy!

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Yeah, I like the personal aspect of Goodreads, too. I just use the challenge as a way to track how much I’ve read that year. I don’t even set the goal high because I don’t want to be stressed out about it. And, since it is just for personal use, I don’t understand why so many people seem hung up on what other people are counting. It’s not like there’s a big monetary prize at the end for the person with the most titles counted or anything!

      Like

  6. Lila @ Hardcover Haven says:

    another great discussion from y’all! and as per usual, i agree with nearly everything you’ve said! the only point i disagree with is your point about having an NA section, but honestly my opinion on that hinges mostly on marketing rationale and my own personal preferance. thanks for getting me thinking! 😀

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I think a bookstore could try out an NA section for marketing, sort of like how some try different organizational schemes than the usual genre divisions. It might be fun to see how it works out! Then they could report back to the rest of us on how it went! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  7. mphtheatregirl says:

    Well, I have said some of those things before:

    1. Audiobooks aren’t reading (don’t know why I said that, but I used to say the same about kindle books, but I have a kindle now). The main problem with audiobooks is how can you understand a word you don’t know what it means? I actually like a combo of different size books- plus different ages levels (I mean, still read middle grade today and also go in the adult section)

    2. Required Books are boring- oops, one of the biggest mistakes I made in high school (however, did like some of the books we read, but the genre I was mainly against was tragedies)

    3. I actually feel like books can only count if they picture or chapter books- what about magazines, would do they count (I recently finished one)?

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I guess if you are listening to an audiobook, and you want to look up a word, you’d have to pause it! I used to read books with a dictionary next to me when I was growing up. But it’s easier to just set down a physical book!

      I would say magazines count as reading! It’s just a shorter form of text like a short story or a blog post, but it’s still reading!

      Like

  8. Raji (@journeyintofantasy) says:

    Interesting post! I agree with you on most of these, especially about being paid to book blog. It would be nice, but would almost certainly come with strings attached that would limit what I blog about and how. Recognition from the publisher for how much effort goes into blogging would be wonderful though! I’m not too fussed about a New Adult section, but I do feel that books that might fall under this category should stop being shelved under YA.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Yeah, I just want to see bloggers acknowledged at the end of a book or on social media, along with Booktubers and Booktokkers. It’s not that hard!

      Oh, and I agree. Too many adult books are being published as YA! I actually know someone who thought YA was literally for adults and not teens, and I can see why based on the content.

      Like

  9. peatlong says:

    Only thing I half-disagree on is required reading. Feel like I saw a lot of my schoolmates turned off from reading by required reading that didn’t suit them. Obviously that’s somewhat the book’s fault rather than required reading, but how do you easily make sure the book picked is going to work for everyone?

    That said, I’m not sure how else teachers are meant to teach literature, so…

    Like

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I think this is the crux of it: you need to have a book that everyone is reading at the same time so you can discuss it as a class, etc., but of course there is no way to choose a book that everyone will like. I see suggestions to choose more modern books, choose YA, etc., but you will still end up with students who don’t like the book that was picked. I think the teacher can only do their best to make class engaging in general and not fixate on getting everyone to love the book selection. And maybe add one project where people can choose their own book to present on or whatever, so they have at least one book they picked themselves.

      Liked by 1 person

      • peatlong says:

        Yup. Only way of doing it I can see, if the school has the resources, is to offer X choices a year and each student makes their choice.

        Although… devil’s advocate, should literary criticism be part of school anyway?

        Like

  10. aquavenatus says:

    In LIS Programs (or, library school, as many of you call it), we take a course about collection development, which includes weeding. While on the surface, you don’t want to “get rid of books,” some books do need replacement and other books, especially non-fiction (particularly science books and encyclopedias) are weeded out in order to make room for “updated” information.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      So true! I remember one year my library had some sort of program using upcycled books and someone went on social media to yell that it was equivalent to “book burning,” and all I could think was, “So this guy was going to check out that book on using whatever version of MS word was out 10 years ago?? Perhaps he wanted some outdated medical advice that might be considered dangerous these days?” It didn’t make sense!

      Liked by 1 person

      • aquavenatus says:

        I remember when my father said he was going to get rid of our encyclopedias because they were no longer relevant. It took me a while to realize what he was saying and why. He bought that collection when my brothers and I were in elementary school, by the time we were all in college, a lot of the information in those encyclopedias had become outdated. Unfortunately, the public does not understand the process of weeding out books in a library.

        Like

            • Krysta says:

              That’s why I’m going with they’re just for, uh, aesthetic? Old-timey flavor? They’re on top of the shelves, so I don’t know if anyone actually uses them. It’s something I just see as a quirk, like, “Hey, this library has five really old globes, but WHY?”

              Maybe no one knows who is in charge of the globes and they are all waiting for someone else to take care of it! Maybe someone tried to remove them years ago and a patron who really loves geography kicked up a fuss at the local board meeting. The fan fic possibilities I could make up here are endless.

              Liked by 1 person

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