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When is a Blog a Blog and a Book a Book?

Increasingly, what differentiates many books from blogs appears to be simply–for many–a matter of published format.

By Edward Nawotka

digital self publishing

In today’s media landscape, the variety of media is becoming increasingly elastic, and what constitutes a “book” is changing. Today’s feature story discusses the launch of Just World Books, a company that repurposes blogs on pertinent international topics and publishes them as print-on-demand books. But this raises a question: what really differentiates a blog from a book? Both are typically episodic (whether that’s chapters or posts), and both have a unifying voice or vision. What differentiates them is, traditionally, the polish.  A book is, ideally, a finished work, one that has been painstakingly edited and revised, to provide a consistent reading experience from start to finish. A book is “bound” — either physically or metaphorically.

A blog is expected to be something more ad-hoc and casual, something that can contain all manner of writing — from long, labored-over think-pieces to tossed-off anecdotes and ephemera.

Increasingly, as the barriers to publish either in print or online have fallen, what differentiates many books from blogs appears to be simply — for many — a matter of published format. The absolute, ivory tower authority of the book has been challenged and reduced.

Yet, this also brings up another important question: having read someone’s blog, would you then bother to buy the book based on the same blog?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

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7 Comments

  1. Posted January 11, 2012 at 3:33 am | Permalink

    I think you’ve got it right there in the word ‘episodic’. I’d see a book of blogs as similar to a collection of reportage or letters – not necessarily polished in the sense of having been slaved over like a novel, but highly expressive of a time, place, or way of thinking. It’s telling that the company you mention, Just World Books, is looking to current events as stimulus – it’s the immediacy of the topic that would drive interest, presumably. And possibly the perspective of the curator or editor, if they make strong editorial choices around commentary, design, photography… which could turn the book into something more (read: saleable).
    Thanks for the article Edward.

  2. Posted January 11, 2012 at 6:11 am | Permalink

    Edward Nawotka is being naive when posing the question. ‘…what really differentiates a blog from a book?’ A book CAN only be a physical (ink on paper and bound between covers) product. All electronic texts, be they blogs, e-mails, or files of licensed texts, are ‘epubs’. The long established world of publishing has allowed the greatest scam of all times to take place – the hijacking of the term ‘book’. An ‘ebook’ cannot in any way be described as a ‘book’.
    We should all refer to blogs etc as ‘epubs’ – and promote this term when ever you can. Make this your New Year’s resolution!

  3. Posted January 11, 2012 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    “The long established world of publishing has allowed the greatest scam of all times to take place – the hijacking of the term ‘book’. An ‘ebook’ cannot in any way be described as a ‘book’.”

    But Richard, one of the joys of the English language is that it is in constant evolution. The term book has not been hijacked (a mis-use of a term if ever there was one!), merely modified.

    Publication only ever meant products produced with paper and ink until it embraced its current, far wider, definition. How on Earth can you sanction the hijacking of this word if original meanings are so important to you?

  4. Posted January 11, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Edward for the article and the question – a very interesting one. And I’d like to add that I agree with Mark: ebooks are books as much as printed books. Indeed, most authors who are traditionally published have an e-version of their books in addition to paperback and hard cover.

    This said, I don’t think blogs are easily interchangeable with books without undergoing some sort of radical editing. I don’t think I would ever buy a book based on a blog ever again – I’ve done it twice and really regretted it. I won’t give the authors’ names here, but believe me, I was very, very disappointed. And annoyed at myself for having “fallen” for them when all I needed to do was read the blog!

  5. Bamidele Sanusi (Research and Development Officer @ Rasmed Publications Limited)
    Posted January 12, 2012 at 3:15 am | Permalink

    Writing a book as it is involves thorough scrutiny of choice of words used as well as information passed across to the readers. Book presents a careful thought of a particular subject matter and thus involve meticulous consideration of other school of thoughts. Book involves more constructive content development compared to blog as book treats the subject matter in a broad manner.
    Blog may be a casual expression of a believe on a subject matter which could be shallow (not to detail), not comprehensively edited and the choice of words may not be as super as in books.
    ISBN(regulatory means) is also one of the elements that differentiates a book from a blog.
    @Claude Nougat- you really made a good point there and thanks for sharing your experience. As matter of fact, I am not too sure if there is a strict policy or functioning regulatory body to look into the content expressed in blogs.

    -Bamidele Sanusi
    Rasmed Publications Limited
    Research and Development Officer
    +2348076078873, +2348038400086

  6. Posted January 12, 2012 at 5:20 am | Permalink

    I think I tend to agree with Richard Joseph, that the term book has been hijacked. To me a book is a physical product, the content of which can be good, bad or indifferent, I can’t see that putting the contents of a blog into a printed book make it not a book, any more than collecting newspaper articles, letters and so on. However, I do not see an electronic file or publication as a book, it is a means of providing text, and I assume will gradually evolve to include other media in additon to text and illustrations, electronic publication or epub would make a better description.
    Yes, language does evolve by hijacking words and adapting them, but no one is forced to approve all such adaptations, and there are plenty of examples to suggest that this may often be poorly done (remember the destruction of the word gay?)

    Publication did not just mean products produced with ink and paper: hence terms like “publish a statement” which could be verbal.

    I’m glad the term email was adopted for the practice of sending electronic messages, and not eletters; the latter construct would have been as poor to me as the term ebook for trying to suggest it is an interchangeable alternative to ink on paper. It is poor use of language and does not not do justice to the many great opportunities that lie within an electronic publication format, whilst causing confusion with the benefits of the printed product. And as far as I can see, all because amazon wants it that way!

  7. Posted January 15, 2012 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    Has Richard Joseph never read Lewis Carroll? `A word means what I want it to mean’. And, looking to the future, try the following which is from the novel ‘Pornogram’ by Osric Allen…

    “Downstairs was a long, high, room, quite dimly lit, that Roding called the ‘library’. It’s walls were covered up from floor to ceiling with glazed cabinets containing hundreds of stout shelves all filled with . . . What? Boxes, he thought them at first, till Roding took one down. He saw then that they didn’t have edges closing in the space on three of the narrow sides, and that the contents were all attached to the remaining one. The contents were odd: thin sheets of something of a whitish colour that wasn’t plastic but was covered with print. ‘Pages’ Roding called them, like they were a book.
            “They are! – These were the original books,” said Roding, “the reason your ‘book’ is called a ‘book’ – and why it has ‘pages’, too. It mimics these in electronic form. It doesn’t have leaves, though.” He flicked one over with his fingers. “Two pages, one either side of a leaf – attached at the back, or ‘spine’, to form a sequence.”

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