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Buzzfeed: No negative book reviews

December 7, 2013

If you aren’t familiar with Buzzfeed, it’s a news aggregator of sorts, if the news you care about consists of the Russian government’s stand on LGBT rights leading up to the Olympics, who’s lampooning Miley Cyrus’s music video where she rides naked on a wrecking ball, and the 25 most adorable things you’ll ever see. It’s no CNN.com, but it is an entertaining and highly popular website.

And now it’s doing book reviews. A guy named Issac Fitzgerald will be heading up it’s book section. And while that section currently has a mix of news (Three unpublished JD Salinger novels leaked online) and other types of stories you’d expect from Buzzfeed (9 books that will change your sex life), it will start publishing book reviews.

But there will be a twist to the book reviews–they will all be positive. In a recent interview with Poynter.org, Fitzgerald is quoted as saying, “Why waste breath talking smack about something? You see it in so many old media-type places, the scathing takedown rip.”

And he may have a point. Sometimes book reviews can come across like Frasier and Niles Crane paying a visit to the local pizza joint. (Budweiser? If we had to suffer through beer, we could at least be served Stella.) Never mind that it’s a pizza joint and that Frasier spent the better part of a decade sitting next to Cliff Clavin serving whatever Woody happened to draw from the tap.

But if all the books are good, what do you do with a bad book? Ignore it? That would work if Buzzfeed planned to review all the good books in the world. But it can’t do that. And there are some true stinkers out there. When you ask for abuse, it’s impolite not to accept it.

Maybe the Internet is a little over critical. Maybe this blog–at least my content–contributes to that a little every now and again. But if you write a crappy book, what’s the point of not calling it out? I’ve some less-than-stellar books by some well-regarded authors. And, truth be told, I’ve read a couple awful books from authors that sell well. Hugger Mugger by Robert B. Parker, for instance, is a massive disappointment. If you’re going out to drop $25 or more on a new title, it’s not snark for its own sake to warn people that they might not want to spend the money.

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