Good Houskeeping magazine is launching a Reader Recommended Books scheme. In association with publishers, copies of submitted books will go out to 50 GH readers who then decide whether or not they would recommend them to a friend. Sufficient recommendations result in a 'Good Housekeeping Reader Recommended' logo appearing on the book's cover, and coverage to that effect in the magazine.
I'm all for helping readers find books they will enjoy but what puzzles me about this initiative is what the magazine's editorial director Lindsay Nicholson (as quoted here) says lies behind it: "It is very difficult to get independent, non-agenda-driven suggestions about what one would like to read and this is an authentic way of doing it." She goes on, "We’re constantly told to never judge a book by its cover but in some cases we don’t know if we can judge a book by its reviews either. This is why we’re calling on our trusted consumers to review a selection of books in their home to offer peer-to-peer recommendations.”
I'd have thought that in these days of so many high-quality book blogs, the books pages (admittedly not what they were in terms of volume) in newspapers and magazines, 'staff choices' in bookshops, the proliferation of book groups, recommendations from the likes of Richard & Judy and The TV Book Club, (and not forgetting excellent publications such as this one), there was no shortage of easily-available advice and informed, unbiased comment on books, no matter what you like to read.
I've said it often before but it's relevant here - one of the great strengths of book blogs is that they are written by individuals, and it takes very little time for a reader to see how far that individual's taste overlaps with their own, and thus whether the books a blogger rates highly are likely to appeal. Knowing that a book is 'Cornflower recommended', if you happen to share Cornflower's literary predilections, may be worth more to you than the consensus of a group on a magazine's mailing list. Granted, perhaps the target audience for the scheme are people who aren't drawn to blogs and specialist books pages but are more inclined to look at, for example, the supermarket book selection and see what catches their eye from what's on offer there, in which case they might find a 'sticker of approval' of one kind or another helpful in making their choice, but still, I'm surprised that the editor identifies a need for more independent advice.
Would that I could have a 'Cornflower recommends' logo put on my favourite books, but that fantasy aside, it strikes me that while book jackets feature quotes from well-known writers or from newspaper reviews, publishers might do well to include bloggers' verdicts more often too. I am quoted from time to time both on covers and marketing material and on Amazon listings, and usually I've discovered quite by chance that what I've said in a review has later been used in this way - and of course my comments have always been spontaneous and genuine, never made to order or in terms of some agenda (as Lindsay Nicholson refers to above); but it would be lovely to see a little more prominence given to the opinions of bloggers - we are indepenedent, after all, and blogs do sell books!