Are blogs destroying the book?
The term “blog” is a contraction of “web log”. Initially this was a journal published daily or weekly online, however since the rise in easily accessible commercial blogging sites it’s become so much more, with vast swathes of information blogged each day. Now there are those who foresee a world where printed books are obsolete and content is dumbed down irrevocably, but are such fears unfounded?
One area where the impact of blogging on traditional publishing has been most dramatic is in the world of thoughts and ideas. Academic publishing remains a major part of the publishing world today having always been the means of propagating ideas and theories, and sharing papers with like-minded colleagues the world over.
It’s in this environment that blogging is beginning to have a widespread effect. And so it should. Let’s not forget that in its earliest days the internet itself was conceived as a means of sharing academic papers between universities so it’s only right that it should continue to play its part in this area.
The intention was that electronic transfer would speed up the sharing of thoughts and information, and the wide availability of commercial blogging sites means this is now a highly accessible tool for quickly and practically sharing writing even for those in less technical fields.
There are both positive and negative effects arising from the use of blogging in scholarly discourse. The unrestricted spread of new and incompletely developed theories at a rapid rate, often instantly, allows for quicker and more spontaneous collaboration between experts whilst being far less restrictive than traditional scholarly collaboration, which had generally required completed theories and a formulaic approach.
In a sector that is often tightly controlled and restrictive in other ways, blogging has also been a means for empowering women and minority groups to publicise their ideas with equal billing to more established thinkers. Naturally some of the latter have raised concerns about information overload; some feel that blogging is undignified and lacks the discipline of traditional academic publishing though these same qualities are seen as advantageous by many others, especially those who tend to be locked out of the established circles.
Broadening the pool
To follow the thread of empowerment reveals the real strength of blogging; and it’s a power that will ultimately be of lasting benefit to the publishing industry. The blog provides an easily accessible platform for those lacking the money and means to become recognised as writers through traditional routes.
This can only be good news for publishers and the reading public as it will broaden the pool of writers and ideas, and allows for experimentation in styles and subjects which would hitherto have been stifled by the necessarily risk-averse publishing industry.
Blogging has also been adopted more directly by the publishing industry. One of the most powerful tools for selling books and launching new authors has been through word of mouth, and blogging is the twenty-first century manifestation of this process.
It’s advantageous then for publishing houses themselves to maintain blog sites, and for their staff, as individuals, to do so too, in order to stimulate interest in their work and increase their sales reach. A blog is not simply a press release placed on line; generally it’s a piece of the writer’s art in itself and has to be written in an engaging and accessible way.
Many have feared over recent years that electronic communication will ultimately spell the end of the humble printed book, but it’s becoming clear that this is a needlessly pessimistic prognosis. The blog is another medium; another means for the writer to practise their art with the two requiring different styles and approaches to achieve maximum reach.
The mediums of printed book and electronic blog should be seen as mutually complementary tools for propagating the written word, with the latter increasingly acting as a means to stimulate interest in the former. The more ‘bite size’ nature of the blog nurtures the initial interest in a subject, thus prompting the reader to explore longer, more in-depth publications later on.
So no, the book and the blog will surely sit alongside each other for many years to come with blogging sites launching both new readers and new writers to the ultimate benefit of the whole publishing industry.
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