On the Web Book In Sites

Keeping abreast of what’s hot on the bookstores shelves is no mean feat especially when most managers are probably having enough trouble keeping up with their own paperwork let alone the wider world’s latest literary achievements. That’s where literary review sites can come in handy. They provide useful insights into what you might enjoy reading over summer saving you some precious time on your next trip to the bookstore.

This is the website of the New York Review of Books, that institution that has been reviewing books since 1963. Reviewers are generally of the highest literary ilk. Everyone from Norman Mailer and Truman Capote to Susan Sontag has contributed over the years prompting Esquire Magazine (for one) to label the NYRB as “the premier literary intellectual magazine in the English language”. The website ain’t half bad either, in fact in some ways it’s better. For one thing, good number of the reviews are free to non-subscribers (subscriptions are either US$94 annually for the magazine or $64 online). The format is good too and extremely simple to follow. The perennially popular caricatures of cartoonist David Levine are all available on the site (he has been there since the inception of the Review in 1963).

Markedly different to the NYRB site, the goodbookguide website is more like an online bookseller than site dedicated to literary reviews. Mind you, this is not bad business practice. The magazine form of the guide has built reputation over the years for honest reviews written without acquiescence to publishers’ desires and the website now provides an outlet to buy the books that are recommended in the magazine. (It will be interesting to see whether in the years ahead the Guide finds pressure from within to write more positive reviews to enable it to provide broader online retail offering.) The website offers wide range of literature – from children’s books, to sci-fi to fiction and travel. There are other features such as interviews, author profiles, newsletter and discounts on some publications.

The London Review of Books was founded some 16 years ago, starting out as an insert in the NYRB. It didn’t take long to become fully independent publication however. The LRB has similar format to the NYRB site with just little more colour. The home page utilises literary “bites” from current reviews that do good job of hooking you into the site from the outset. There is useful archive which can be searched by subject, contributor or just general search. There are also letters, newsletter and bookshop. And of course there’s the subject matter, where the NYRB reviews are naturally more focused on American stories, the LRB is more English affair.

You can’t really talk about books and the web in the same sentence without referring to Amazon.com, the world’s largest online retailer. Amazon has pretty effective review framework for its books. Publications that are being advertised usually come with copy of review from other literary publications but they also include reviews of books from customers who have purchased the book. Amazon also provides list of “customers who bought this book also bought” so if there’s particular author you enjoy, chances are you might find another within the list of like reading.

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