Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Postscript to "RJ Ellory and Andrew Delbanco" message

RJ Ellory, AMAZON, and Morality—here are some comments on the subject.

In August 2011 I wanted information about the book Higher Education? and was pleased to see a review on Amazon by Richard A. Schwartz, the author of After the Death of Literature. I posted a comment, slightly trimmed here: "Hurrah for Amazon for allowing real scholarly academic critics a place where they can have a large audience for a review and not have to wait a year or two to get into print in an academic journal. Is Schwartz retired? If he is still working, will he get credit for a scholarly review posted on Amazon, where almost anyone can post? If universi­ties and colleges don't credit something like this as a publication, they ought to."
Schwartz replied: "I'm not yet retired. I do list in my c.v. that I do reviews for Ama­zon. I believe Amazon reviews to be very worthwhile because, as you note, they reach so many people. They also invite instant dialogue."
HP: "At best, Amazon is a great force for democratic intellectual exchange. I tumbled to this when I wrote a review of Sally Bushell's Text as Process [Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009] for a Wordsworthian journal only to have it rejected as not the laudatory review that was required. It was not hostile at all, just honest. I had taken time off serious work to review it because the topic was so important and because Bushell cited me as one of the two American theorists she was engaging, but then did not engage my ideas. Ten minutes later I had it up for all the world to see, not just the 300 subscribers of the Wordsworthian journal. It is great not to be suppressed, but it is also great just to write a review on your own, as you did, and post it on Amazon."
Even if dishonest publishers hire people to write positive reviews, honest reviewers can still do what Schwartz and I do, sign our real names to anything we post as an Amazon review. Along with literary bloggers and litblogs, reviewing in Amazon or any future similar sites will go far to make up for the decline in number of print reviewers and the quality of print reviewing. 

Today's news, with Ian Rankin, Lee Child, and other famous writers speaking out about dishonest reviewing, makes this note of mine timely. 

P.P.S. The main point to be added is that Amazon should require everyone to join the class of those identified as having signed with the "REAL NAME."

1 comment:

  1. This is a good prod--probably I should start doing little reviews, particularly of books that I know are being overlooked. Yes, there is a sad decline in attention to books, particularly those whose publishers don't give them a push.

    I was talking to the owner of an independent bookstore in North Carolina who told me that she finds Amazon quite useful...