Monday, January 5, 2015

Then Dreamers Would Ride

Carolyn Kellogg, who writes about books for the Los Angeles Times gives her list of six wishes for book publishing in 2015.

I more or less like all of them, although I think the second one -- "Amazon figures out how to purge irrelevant one-star book reviews" -- is more or less meaningless. Kellogg says that the issue is that one-star reviews ding a book for something like Amazon's failure to deliver it. That's not the author's problem, but the one star gets averaged into everyone else's more serious reviews and affects the book's rating for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the book.

I don't disagree, but there are plenty of bestselling authors whose fans drop a 5-star review on their latest work for no other reason than it's their latest work. Those reviews are equally meaningless and may even be posted before the shipping box goes into the garbage. Then there's the political review, especially of nonfiction books: "I didn't even have to read this book because it's typical conservative and or liberal malarkey that's so wrong I could tell by the cover that the author was dumb, wrong, evil and steals food from baby pandas." If you think that's a review, I hope you invite me to your Taos beachfront home so you can laugh at my cluelessness.

You may be thinking that I'm suggesting not very many Amazon reviews are all that valuable, and you're right. And you may be thinking that's pretty rich coming from a guy who spends a lot of electrons posting book reviews -- but my reviews are opinions, too, and you shouldn't give them any more weight than you want to. I've read a lot of books, but that's about the limits of my expertise, so if it seems like my opinion doesn't jive with the book you read, then that's OK.

If you check out something I say about a book (or movie or record album) but think you want to buy or see it anyway, then you should. I'll probably laugh at you, but you have lived most of your life not worried about whether or not I think the movies you watch or books you read are dumb and you can probably continue upright and drawing air a long time after learning that I do think just that. I've got no few friends who've managed that same feat, in fact.

As for Ms. Kellogg's wish list, she leaves one item off, but I suspect it's not unique to her or to 2015 -- every reader at every time in history has wished for more better books and fewer worse ones. Now all we have to do is get the folks who read to agree on which ones those are...

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