Reading blog books

· Weblog Concepts

At the panel the other night I bought the two Perseus books about weblogging, Rebecca’s Handbook, and the anthology for which Rebecca wrote the introduction.
I read most of the handbook that night. It’s brief but packed with information and advice. I will write up a formal review after I’m done writing about the panel. I would consider it to be in the lineage of other writing and style guides. Interactive writing in a community of reader/writers is a new branch of the writing medium and it demands its own handbooks to help newbies get up to speed and to help experienced people improve their work and notice their blind spots.
We’ve Got Blog was a fun read. I skimmed over half of it. I’ve never objected to collecting online material in book form and don’t understand people who object to it on principle. Yes, some content native to the web would not work or would not make any sense or would lose most of its charm in a book, but the idea that things can not be adapted from one medium to another does not convince me. What an impoverished media landscape we’d live in if the lines between one medium and the next were rigid and did not permit crossing over.
I do think the subtitle (how weblogs are changing our culture) does the book a disservice. I recognize the publisher’s desire to make a bold statement, and it is catchier than “a bunch of earlier web writing and blog posts about blogging,” if less accurate.
I’m still looking forward to reading We Blog to see what pb, Meg, and Matt have to say about this phenomenon. Both Meg and Rebecca told me the other night that they had been approached out of the blue by their publishers, and since Wiley specializes in technical and business topics, apparently there was some tension around the book’s approach or coverage: namely, how technical to be.
These technology/culture innovations give rise both to think-pieces about what does it all mean (which are fun to write but sometimes difficult to sell) as well as more mundane books about how to use the new techne (which are often not as fun to write even if they do have a little perspective and advice folded in, but can be easier to sell). I’m not sure if We Blog tries to do both. When I read it, I’ll report back.
As for the other usual suspects, I gather that Blogging: has more to do with using a weblog CMS to add daily or frequently updated content to a commercial website (a good angle), and Blog On is a curiosity, seeming to lump together blogs and discussion boards in larger set of features to add to web sites to facilitate community. Everyone I’ve discussed this book with wants to know where Todd Stauffer’s (the author’s) weblog is.
(Of course Rebecca, the contributors to We’ve Got, pb, Meg, and Matt are all well known bloggers and Biz Stone is from Xanga and presumably has a blog.)
The two O’Reilly books, naturally, are more about how to implement the technology. People keep citing the Running Weblogs with Slash book even as the debate about whether group/collaborative weblogs (such as Slashdot and Kuro5hin) should be considered blogs at all. (That is, are “blogs” weblogs run by individuals, or is that not part of the definition? Rebecca actually uses blog in her book to mean a more personal/diary type weblog, so these terms are definitely still in flux.)
The other O’Reilly book, Essential Blogging boasts a long author list packed with well known bloggers and stands out as the first general introduction to blogging technology out there. I reviewed the book in galleys after expressing some interest in contributing back when I pitched a blog book ideas myself to O’Reilly a few months ago, and I recall that it packed a wide range of coverage into a fairly short page count, but that it wasn’t able to delve too deeply into any one software approach. It may suffer from being too hardcore techie for rank beginners and too broad and general for hardcore techies.
Of course, there are more books on the way.