Book blogs have been a burgeoning part of the literary scene for a decade or so,and Rebecca Gillieron and Catheryn Kilgarriff (editor and publisher, respectively, at Marion Boyars) have decided that this a good moment to take account of an enormous and rapidly changing scene.
Writers' blogs are central, and can offer more satisfying encounters with authors than pressing the flesh at signings. Along with their takes on their art, the minutiae can be fascinating. In moments of frustration, for example, Jeanette Winterson she throws rubber paperweights at her cats, while Toby Litt is perplexed by the question of whether burnt toast is really carcinogenic.
Another rewarding niche is literary-magazine blogs. One of the star stalwarts is 3:AM, with its devotion to the emergent avant-garde. Among newer contenders worth bookmarking is the religiously anti-mainstream Scarecrow, while in the US, the daddy of them all, Salon, continues to scroll majestically onwards.
Elsewhere in the book blogosphere, the pixels are more mixed. Reader blogs score for spreading the word about titles that the bloggers enjoy, and for fostering interactive communities who share similar tastes. Regrettably, this fellow-feeling fails often to deliver illuminating criticism.
The Guide's authors are ambivalent on the issue, understandably perhaps, because reader blogs provide such invaluable marketing information. Kilgarriff favours Dovegreyreader, a community nurse in Devon with a mind of her own. She refuses to succumb to the hype surrounding Irène Némirovksy but, less admirably, is prejudiced against the book by the cover picture.
The inescapable reality is that bloggers don't have to get their writing past editors and publishers, so quality control is a problem. Sometimes (but not always), reader blogs produced by journalists are better. The Guide praises Peter Stothard, editor of the TLS, whose classical predilections do indeed repay scrutiny.
The Guide's index of bookblog URLs will tempt many away from Facebook, at least temporarily. Where it is flawed is in not giving more coverage to good author- and reader-blogs, dedicating space instead to more parochial blogs about publishing and retailing (although the bitchy agent Ms Snark merits a surf).
Finally, although Gillieron and Kilgarriff have had problems editing their own work, fortunately, their book relies more on content than style.
Marion Boyars, £7.99. Order (free p&p) on 0870 079 8897Reuse content