Sunday, February 17, 2008

Oh, get over it

Brian Braiker recently wrote a semi-review of a blogging anthology for Newsweek. He seems pretty offended at the notion of this anthology.

Brian follows the blogosphere, so he has a couple of superficially rational reasons for objecting to this anthology:

- The blogosphere is all about timeliness, and the publication schedule of a book means that that timeliness is lost. Several of the featured posts are about things that happened a year ago now.

- The blogosphere is also about interactivity, and the format of a book removes the ability to provide relevant hyperlinks or ensuing comments and conversations.

Both of which are true about a significant segment of the blogosphere. But in my mind, fairly irrelevant.

There is not one blogosphere, you see, there are many blogospheres. This book is an anthology of writing, and a good portion of the blogosphere is most definitely about "ordinary" people who have found extraordinary writing talent inside them. And have been able to share it with the world in a way that must make people who consider themselves "real" writers feel quite put out.

I am not sure what makes this anthology any less timely than a recent book I bought of Paul Krugman's, which was comprised entirely of his NY Times columns, most of which I had read. Same goes for countless books that have managed to make the best-sellers list...anthologies of columns, essays, NPR appearances, cartoons etc. etc.

An anthology of previously published and acclaimed work isn't, by its very nature, a waste of shelf space or money.

As to the interactivity complaint. I understand this more. But I still maintain it's a very simplistic view of the blogosphere when Braiker says:
Well, blogs tend to include outbound links to other sites, commentary on funkiness found in the news and Web flotsam, comments from readers and responses to those comments by blog authors. They are timely and interactive, and they couldn't exist offline.

Does that describe a lot of blogs? Sure. Are there a lot of blogs that don't rely on that description? Yes. Are they less "bloggy"? Braiker might say yes. I say no.

What do you think?

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I haven't seen the Newsweek yet this week, but I can think of some blogs that would make great books. Simple Bits being an example that a guy could understand. Dan Cedarholm took stuff straight from his blog to his bulletproof web design books. As a female example, how about Dooce by Heather Armstrong. You can't tell me that reading that stuff in a book 20 years from now still wouldn't give you a laugh. On a more personal note, I was thinking the other day that I ought to take all the hundreds of writing prompts I've dreamed up on First 50 Words and put them in a book.
Some bloggers do a good job of turning an excellent series into an ebook of sorts. Sometimes they sell it for a few bucks (for effort, since people can get the posts for free if they don't want the near and tidy version). Other times I've seen them for free.

Makes sense to me. Sometimes information is useful on its own and makes a good reference. Some posts rely more on user interaction.
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