Neth Space mentions what I consider to have been one of the least interesting panels of ReaderCon: "Reviewing in the Blogosphere." Ken wasn't actually there, but I was. I was incredibly frustrated that when they did an introduction of the panelists, only one of them, Kathryn Kramer, actually had a weblog, and that weblog was not devoted to science fiction or reviewing. (There is a first-hand summary of this panel at Fantasy Book Spot.)
I wouldn't expect every panelist on reviewing in the blogosphere to be a blogger. There certainly should be an old pro print reviewer like John Clute defending tradition against the rabble like ourselves. But the split should be at least 50/50. As it was, it was like doing a panel called "What do you think of Brooklyn" which contained nothing but Manhattanites.
Of course, the limitations of blogosphere reviews were discussed at length. Blog reviews are "plot summaries" with a few author opinions thrown in, bloggers write too fast and too sloppy and don't think enough about what they say. And to some degree they have a point. I am not going to spend three or four hours coming up with a blog post.
But then I have already stated that I'm not going to do reviews as such. What I don't think was discussed extensively enough is the limitation of "reviews as such" in the print or the online market.
Reviews, by their very nature, tend to be about whatever came out in the last five minutes. Most reviews out there do not address the larger trends happening within the market of a genre, or compare works that might have come out last year, or ten years ago. Reviews are expected to primarily address the basic question "Should I read this or not?" Not many professional reviews out there really place a work in the larger critical framework. With a blog you can address whatever you want whenever you want, because no one's writing the checks.
And lets face it, a lot of reviews are just as rushed as a blog post can be. Someone gets a review copy of the new, say, Tad Williams doorstop and is expected to read the whole book and write a thoughtful review for, say, one hundred dollars, which is probably a lot in the current market. And they need to do it fast, before it's on the shelves at Barnes & Noble. So assume they are speed readers and can get through the book in ten hours or so, and then spend five hours or so coming up with a good review. That's, what, six dollars an hour? I think McDonalds pays better in most places right now. So can we really expect the person to write like the next TS Eliot?
One of the topics of the debate was whether you got to write more or less words in an online column. John Clute said that he likes the freedom to write as many words as he wanted. Other panelists pointed out that maybe he could only get away with that because he was John Clute, and who was going to tell him he had to keep it under 500 words? The most interesting statement was when another panelist (Gordon van Gelder, I believe), suggested to Clute that in fact everything he does is a blog, because people are going to his columns not to find out "Is the next Charlie Stross any good?" but to find out what Clute's view of the world and scifi market is.
In other words, it might be that what John Clute does, and thinks that other reviewers are all doing, is more like what a good blogger does than what a mediocre reviewer does.
Or to re-apply Sturgeon's law:
Q: Isn't ninety percent of the blogosphere crap?
A: Ninety percent of everything is crap.