Books Magazine

Book Thoughts on Thursday | Remembering Why i Love the Bookish Interwebs

By Mle_vnc @Backlist_Books
The world of books is never boring. There are movies being made based on our favorite stories, raging debates over the relative merit of books and series, book-related events and a never-ending plethora of bookish topics I just like thinking (and talking) about.
While I absolutely adore my regular link-ups and have no intention of giving them up, I do feel like this blog could use a bit of shaking up - and a bit more in-depth discussion. To that end, I'm adding a new weekly feature - Book Thoughts on Thursday.
Starting now, every week I'll discuss a different topic related to books, often inspired by or in response to what's going on in the online book community (or something I've seen another blogger talk about - I'm looking at you, Karen!). Feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, or even write your own post on the topic and share the link with me! 
Everywhere I look this week I'm seeing talk of the author who took an online altercation with a book blogger offline*. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, you can find an account here, the blogger's Goodreads comments here, and the original article here [this link isn't direct - it will allow you to read the article without generating any page hits for it].)
Though I have plenty of opinions, I'm actually not here to share them. Everything I'd say on the topic has already been said (and said better than I could - see links at the end of this post), and I think the best thing at this point is to let the issue die down and give everyone some space to regain their cool. But I think there are some important underlying issues to consider in the meantime.
I know the situation has many book bloggers re-considering their online presence - some are removing personal information or making accounts private, others are now nervous about expressing a less than favourable opinion about a book (something I've never been very comfortable with, but am now even more nervous to do), and there are even some who are giving up book blogging altogether. I've been doing a lot of thinking - about myself as a blogger, but also about the book blogging community.
I worry that this will change dynamics - between bloggers and authors, between bloggers and publishers, and even between bloggers and the books they read. We've been lucky to enjoy a relatively pleasant online community. I say this knowing there have been issues. But for the most part, book bloggers are friendly folk. We'll chat with anyone on Twitter, reply to comments on our blogs, tag one another in fun posts and generally share a childish enthusiasm about everything to do with the world of books.
This sense of instant belonging that book bloggers have fostered never ceases to amaze me.
And there are plenty of authors who have joined in on the fun - many have a significant Twitter presence, will respond to their fans and even take the time to accommodate interviews and participate in blogger events. This ability to reach out to the people who created our beloved fictional worlds is one of the biggest benefits of the internet. When I was a kid, I never would have dreamed of being able to Tweet an author like Matthew Quick or Rita Leganski or Maggie Stiefvater and get a response. It's a heady feeling, to talk to someone you hold in such high regard as a favorite author.
So from my point of view, this little corner of the internet is pretty magical.
Which is why I (along with many other bloggers and authors) am feeling so personally affected by recent events. This is, quite literally, my happy place. And while this situation has prompted me to ask myself some pretty important questions about online security and re-assess some of the information I share and who I share it with, I am more concerned about losing the feeling of trust and belonging I have found through book blogging.
All my thinking keeps leading me back to one central question: How do we get back to the happy, welcoming online family we previously enjoyed?
I don't think there's one simple answer, but I have found my own starting point: Stopping once in a while to make sure I'm not saying anything online that I wouldn't say in person, and that I'm being respectful. It's all too easy (as I know from personal experience) to lose sight of the fact that the disembodied words on the computer screen are actually coming from a real, live person. Not only that, but because online interaction is devoid of the subtleties of tone, facial expression and body language, and because we don't actually know many of the people we interact with, it's so very easy to misconstrue someone's meaning or take something personally that isn't meant that way.
It's also easy to forget that, for all the celebrity status we assign to authors we revere (and I'm far more star-struck by Neil Gaiman and Rainbow Rowell than any Hollywood celeb), they're just people too. Incredibly talented, eloquent and brilliant people, but people nonetheless.
Given some time, I know that we'll be able to bounce back and regain the sense of trust and openness that I've come to associate with the online book community. For my part, while I'll be much more careful about what information I share online, I'm not going to let this incident keep me from the amazing community I've found here. Safety is important, but so is finding a group of people, whether online or in person, to share my bookish enthusiasm with!
To finish, I'd like to ask you all - what has your reaction been to this fiasco? Do you feel less safe online? Will this change how you interact online or make you think twice about sharing negative feedback on books or requesting review copies of books? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!
Further reading:
*Please note that I've removed the names of both the author and blogger from my post. This is because I don't want to get drawn into the nastiness if at all possible and because this post wasn't really about them.

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