Is This The Future For Book Bloggers?

Day 26 of the A-Z challenge.

Z is for Zoom

This time last year if you’d said to a friend “see you on Zoom”, you’d have been met with a blank stare of incomprehension. 

How life has changed. 

The name of the videoconferencing platform has now bludgeoned its way into everyday vocabulary. Zoom has become as much a part of our Covid-19 restricted life as queues, face masks and social distancing. 

Everyone seems to be at it. Parents, grandparents, politicians, doctors, care workers have all flocked to the service. People have used it to keep up with friends and relatives, to host weddings, organise music concerts, livestream funerals  and hold meetings of government bodies.

In the book world, video conferencing has provided a lifeline for publishers, booksellers and authors who want to keep in touch with readers and bloggers. With book launches, signings, literary festivals and all in-person events cancelled for the foreseeable future, creative solutions were needed.

Rising To The Challenge

Publishers, authors and bookshops have stepped up to that challenge with gusto. Author  CJ Cooke was inspired to create a complete virtual festival – within one week of floating the idea she had enough support from authors to stage the Stay-at-Home! Festival delivered via Zoom in March and April.

Bookshop owner Mel Griffin at Griffin Books in Penarth, Wales is one of numerous booksellers to move her literary events programme to a virtual platform when non essential travel was restricted in the UK. Amongst the “meet the author” sessions she’s also hosting twice-weekly storytelling mornings for youngsters and a weekly book club.

Snapshot of events from Griffin Books

Zoom is of course not the only place where these events are taking place.

The Women’s Prize For Fiction is using Instagram for a virtual literary lunch while the Comedy Women’s Writers Prize used the platform for the appropriately named “ChipWittyWednesday Drop Ins” – live chats with authors – while the folks who run the annual Brighton and Hove Book Fayre turned to Facebook. I’ve lost count of the number of book launches taking place via Twitter.

It will be interesting to see how the HayFestivalDigital works when that kicks off on May 22 since details are very scarce at the moment.

I could easily fill my entire calendar this month with readings, discussions, book clubs and other literary events. And I haven’t even touched on those taking place in other parts of the world but I bet they’re happening just as much in the United States and Australia as they are in the UK.

Is Virtual The Future?

The big question is whether, now we have got used to this way of interacting with authors and publishers, will we want to go back to the old way of in-person events?

For readers and book bloggers alike these virtual events are a brilliantly convenient way to get to know the authors. Just snuggle up on the sofa, drink and snack of choice to hand, click a few buttons and you’re in. No hassle with transport and at a fraction of the cost (many events are in fact free).

But – and it’s a very big but – the one thing that virtual author and festival events cannot offer is the pleasure of human contact. I get more of a buzz from being in the same room as other book enthusiasts than being on the same video screen. Sure it’s amusing to see glimpses of the author’s writing studio or hear the occasional barking dog and excited child. But it’s still not the same is it?

So I’m going to stick my neck out and predict that, once lockdowns are over and normal life can return (the new normal that is), we will be flocking to the in-person events like never before. I don’t see virtual events going away however – they are more cost effective to organise, so in a world of tightened budgets, why wouldn’t bookshops and publishers want to add these to their mix of marketing opportunities? I suspect it won’t be a case of events either in person or virtual but of a mix of both.

Paul Bogaards, deputy publisher of Knopf and Pantheon, gave a good indication of how the future could look in an interview with Publishers Weekly

From a publishing perspective, the economics of virtual tours are pretty compelling. That said, we are looking forward to the moment when we are able to resume physical tours.”

Paul Bogaards, Knopf and Pantheon

What about the future of book clubs?

I’ve participated in three so far, all organised in slightly different ways. One was a videoconference version of our regular monthly book club that meets in a bookshop cafe. Another was more of a book chat organised by a book shop. No pressure to have read a particular book since we just talked about what we were reading at the time. The third event was one I organised with some neighbours and friends. Again this was more of a book-related chat where we shared our current book and the stories of how we had acquired them (you’d be surprised at the ingenuity).

One big advantage these virtual book club discussions have over their in-person cousins is that you don’t have irritating side conversations. People seem less inclined to hog the floor so the quieter members get more of a look in.

I don’t see them replacing the face to face book clubs but they’re giving me an idea that they could be a superb way of reaching and engaging with a new audience.

None of the people in my book “friends and neighbours” sessions have ever been to a real book club or have any interest in doing so in the future. They tell me they don’t like the idea of having to read a particular book by a deadline. But they’re all keen to keep up our virtual network.

Then there are the people who are housebound so physically cannot get to an in person event. Often times they are avid readers. Would a virtual book group give them a safe way of connecting with other people and staving off loneliness?

I don’t know the answers, just floating some ideas…

The Future For Blogging?

Every year we get a rash of  articles posing the question “is blogging dead.”  Clearly the answer is no – you just need to look at the number of blogs to see that it’s premature to start writing the obituaries for the art of blogging.

Not dead. But different.

Blogging has changed markedly since the start of the century. It’s use as a personal journal has slowed right down (replaced largely by Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook). Blogs have now become places where people share their know-how and their enthusiasm (cue book bloggers) and, increasingly, used to sell services.

It’s going to change again in the future. We’ll likely see an even greater variety of types of content (text, video, sound etc); longer articles and evident professionalism (ie, quality).

Forecasts suggest that live blogging will be a trend for the future. Apparently it’s like tweeting from an event you are attending, except your updates are on your blog. I’m not convinced about this. Personally I would find it irritating to have multiple updates on the same topic but I guess some people would be interested.

I’m far more interested in thinking that video conferencing could become another outlet for book bloggers who want to extent the reach of their blog. We’ve already seen bloggers like Modern Mrs Darcy and Sarah’sBookshelves launch podcasts and others like SavidgeReads migrate to vlogging.

Wouldn’t video conferencing book reading events hosted by a blogger be a natural progression? We’ve seen the potential of video conferencing so we know it works (though privacy issues remain). There’s no reason why a blogger couldn’t have a live audience while they interview guests or hold a Q&A Session. If publishers can do this and book shop owners can do it, why can’t we book bloggers?

Care To Crystal Ball Gaze With Me?

If you’ve participated in any virtual book related events how would you rate your experience? Do you think this is the future? Or do we just return to the way life was before Covid-19 ever entered our consciousness?

About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on May 3, 2020, in Blogging and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 25 Comments.

  1. haha yup- life has certainly changed. I’ve definitely seen the book world step up to the plate. On the topic of blogging, I’m sure it will evolve, as it’s evolved in the past, but it’s not going anywhere as far as I can see (not only is there a large existing community, but also new blogs/bloggers arriving every day). I couldn’t guess what the future for blogging could hold- but I do think more live events are possible.

    • Those live events are likely to be around for quite some time I think given that – at least in the UK – theatres and other venues are not likely to open until the Autumn

  2. I just wanted to congratulate you on a great series of posts. I have found them illuminating – there is so much to blogging that I have not attended to – and I have already been coming back to reread them and will probably continue to do so for some time.

    I’ve already started making changes based on what you’ve written about. I’ve updated my About page (as you know, thanks again!), I’m adding Alternative Text to my photos, I’m going to build a system for checking my links and I’m even going to start using sub-headings to break up my very, very long reviews.

    As you worked through the alphabet, I was hoping ‘S’ would be for security, since I don’t know too much about it. There are also some bits of advice I can’t enact because I am not on a paid plan. I guess I will have to look into what the advantages of a paid plan are for a small personal blog because it sounds like a lot of book bloggers are on them.

    • Take a look at thehttps://www.wpbeginner.com/ site Jason, I think there was an item in there on security. The biggest advantages of the paid plan are: more storage space for images; no wordpress branding; more flexibility for designs and themes and more plugins you can use. It does come at a cost of course so yes it’s not something to jump into without thinking it through

  3. I’ve started an online facebook live book club and people seem to enjoy it. So far, many people have just joined the group for ideas on what to read, etc. but the group of people that are active participants are fun to have along. I basically just host a facebook live discussion once a month where I talk on video and people type in to chat-it’s fun and super casual 🙂

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/ivereadthisonlinebookclub/

    • Just been looking at your facebook group Anne – it seems like you have a very engaged base of participants. Would you be interested in doing a guest post on my blog about how you’ve managed to make Facebook pages/groups work as an extension of your blog?

  4. I could definitely see more book blogger and book clubs incorporating zoom and video conferencing in the future.

    Congratulations on your A to Z!

  5. Thank you for this entire series, and on finding an actual subject for Z! Now you’ve started me thinking seriously about the future of book blogging . . .

  6. Hmmmm. I don’t think Zoom is the way forward for me. Like Lisa, I’m always going to prefer reading the book and then just sharing my thoughts about it!

  7. I’m impressed by the creative response to so many cancellations but there’s a part of me that thinks authors might secretly welcome a rest from what feels like an endlesss cycle of engagements which must be tiring and interrrupt their work. Not so publicists, obviously! I think I’ll be one of the die-hard bloggers who steer well clear of video but I’m a classic introvert.

    Thanks so much for all the effort you’ve put into this series, Karen. It’s been interesting and enlightening, both your posts and the contributions from commentators.

    • It partly depends on how soon the bookshops re-open and under what conditions. Waterstones CEO made some interesting comments yesterday about the effect social distancing will have. There won’t be much of an option to browse it seems. So if bookshops don’tre-open until late in the autumn, I think the authors may well still want to continue with virtual events. Especially those who are not household names

  8. Yes, I agree with the other comments. I can read much faster than I can view or listen, and I much prefer it. I have signed up for a digital Litfest but that is out of loyalty not desire. Don’t be surprised if I forget to attend, I started reading The Mirror and the Light today and I’d rather read that than do anything else. (Except possibly have a haircut).
    What I like about f2f book events is the slim possibility that I might meet in person a booklover like myself, i.e. not just someone who reads books, but who reads the same kind of books as I do. But I reckon I could get by if I never went to another book event, what matters to me is that I get to hear about interesting books, from people who’ve read them. For me, that means book bloggers.
    Well done for presenting this series!

    • I don’t go to many “real” book events either – I feel I need to know the author in order to get the most out of the session. I like the convenience of the virtual event (no having to eat at a ridiculously early hour or eating far later than is comfortable) but they are clearly not the same beast at all.

      I’m also reading Mirror and the Light although at a very very slow pace.

  9. Congratulations on reaching Z! Thank you for all the great content. I haven’t read it all yet, but plan to. Each post I’ve read has helped me think differently about some aspect of blogging or my blog (I still have to update my about page).

    I’m a bit burnt out on bookish video events. It’s surprising — I can attend a book conference in real life and still feel energized at the end of the day, but book events on video wear me out. That said, I am enjoying what I have been watching and “meeting” lots of authors I wouldn’t have been exposed to. A Mighty Blaze is a group that has exposed me to some new to me authors.

    Also so glad that my IRL book club is able to meet online.

    As for the future, I think many authors, bookstores, and libraries have learned how relatively easy it is to put events online. Maybe after we can all be social again there’ll be more online options than there were pre-COVID-19, but I think nothing beats being inside a bookstore or library.

    Live blogging, as described above, isn’t anything I’d be interested in. I remember a blogger who “live blogged” watching a movie adaptation of a book. This was over 10 years ago and I don’t remember the details but he came off sounding way too smug in his commentary and analysis. Plus, readers had to refresh the site for new comments which was a pain in the butt.

    I think written blogs will be a thing for a long time to come. People have been predicting the end of email and websites, too, but as more people come to understand they don’t have control over their content on social media platforms, I think blogs will continue to grow. Digital marketers have come back to seeing the value of email and businesses who thought they could ditch paying for a website for a free page on Facebook realized they made a big mistake.

    • Great to know the series has been of interest Chris. If there’s anything you don’t understand, don’t hesitate to ask…

      I wonder if the reason you don’t find the virtual events as energising is that you don’t get the same electricity in the room. Plus of course you have to concentrate more so its more demanding.

      Interesting to hear that you’ve experienced a live blogging event – it does sound awful to be honest

  10. I have organized our last 2 book club sessions through video conferencing – though I use Google Meet, not Zoom. And no deadline issues, each person shares about the book he or she has read during the previous month.
    I’m also in an online book club exclusively on Murakami – it has nothing to do with Covid by the way, it was started before. We have a certain number of chapters to read per week, and we start the discussion on Sunday until the following Sunday. Through forums and chat, no video. We use Discord. I love it. It’s more technically a read-along

  11. Z!!! You made it!!!

    I think I would have the same difficulty with zoom or book tube content as audio content….I can read/skim/scan faster than listen! I prefer using my eyes and speed reading skills!

    I think the book club format of sharing what you’re currently reading in lieu of everyone locked into one certain book is called a Literacy Club and I love love the concept!

    It’s my prediction that people are craving person to person interaction! Maybe we’ll utilize zoom more now that we know we can do it and for its convenience….but I don’t think it will replace personal interaction!

    What a great series Karen! I learned a lot through your posts and all the comments! Thank you for all your efforts to post and engage! You could probably run the series every year!

    • I don’t think your reading/listening speed matters that much if you are just listening to a discussion or a Q&A though.
      You’re right about people craving interaction though there is still a lot of nervousness around being in places with a lot of other people so events in bookshops will be a bit thin on the ground I suspect for some time yet.

      I did make it – phew. What a lot of work this turned out to be so I don’t think I’ll be in a hurry to do it again. I will probably just do a post once a month on the topic….

      • Yes that’s true about listening to discussions….I guess I was thinking about audio books or YouTube reviews where there is no interaction.

        You’ve got an entire series now that you can rerun sometime when you want to take a vacation!

  12. Nice post….

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