Thursday, February 28, 2008

Online or In Print?

A writing buddy of mine has a book coming out this May and he asked me where he should send his ARCs. The first names that came to mind were prominent bloggers. Then online mystery magazines. Then librarians. I didn't think of the Washington Post, or the Chicago Tribune, or any of the other infamous print publications. Why? Besides the fact that most of them don't even have books sections anymore, print publications aren't as accessible as those published on the web and with the masses of books needing review and the decreasing space in which to publish those reviews, the likelihood of actually getting a book read and written up is minimal.

Some of the benefits of getting reviewed on the web:
  • More accessible. Anyone with a computer can find you.
  • Free, both to read and to publish.
  • Easier to network. One person reviews your book, another blogger reads the review and links to it, someone visiting the blog clicks on the link, then clicks to Amazon for more info. People are more likely to search for further information that's just a mouse-click away than if they have to boot up their computer or go to a bookstore to find out more.
  • Endless space. Unlike print publications, web zines can publish as much as they want without fear of wasting money or precious trees. That means more books getting reviewed.
  • More personal. Usually there isn't a huge corporation behind a web publication. For the most part, it's one or two people who started the website for the love of books. There are less hoops to jump through to get a book reviewed, unlike a print publication where a book passes through a few pairs of hands before reaching someone who'd actually consider reading it.

So what are the downfalls? Prestige for one. Despite our shift toward a digital society, we still deem newspaper blurbs more prestigious. Maybe it's because you know that anyone getting reviewed in a print publication had to jump through all those hoops. Maybe it's because a newspaper is tangible. Either way, a blurb from the New York Times or the Washington Post holds a lot more weight than that of a web zine.

But which sells more books? A publication that anyone can stumble across or one that you have to go out and purchase? Yes, a blurb from a newspaper would grab people's attention, but when the odds are stacked against you, isn't it better to send your ARCs to those more likely to review it? And what is more important, prestige or book sales?

Yes, I am still one of the rare few that prefers to get my fingers inky reading the book section of the Sunday paper and I hope that print publications will always have a place in our society. But with the current trends, I have to agree that digital publications are the way to go as far as getting your book reviewed and that web-based reviews sell more books than those printed in the newspaper.


Picks By Pat said...

So true! I also prefer seeing a review in print, as if that "legitimizes" the opinion of the reviewer.
But with google's reach becomimg so far flung, most writers are moving to online content, even if they must be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

john said...

Nice post, I agree with the above post. Print will not dye but online readership will increase rapidly by the nest five years. Digitization tool is the revenue generation tool for the publishers. There are some companies like helping the print publisher to deliver their publication through web, pod cast, blog, RSS, social media, etc… These are the new technologies using in print circulations.