The echo chamber of book blogging

yacollage

There’s been a lot of talk in the past week about echo chambers on the internet. Oddly enough, I’d planned out this post before the topic exploded after the election. Now it’s even more relevant. What I want to discuss is how a similar echo chamber phenomenon happens in the book blogging community as the political echo chamber that people experience on social media.

By way of introduction, I’ll link to this Wall Street Journal experiment that provides live side-by-side feeds of Facebook posts on conservative and liberal viewpoints. You can filter the feed by topics like abortion, Obama, Trump, gun control, etc. and view the contrast between the red and blue feeds. It’s a fascinating look at the echo chamber effect in which liberals post liberal things and conservatives post conservative things, but they only respectively follow liberal and conservative sources and therefore are never exposed to what the other side is saying. For many liberals, the bubble has just been broken with the election of Trump, and they’ve realized that not everyone had the same opinion of him as social media led them to believe.

Now obviously the echo chamber in the book blogging community is innocuous by comparison and lacks the divisiveness of the above problem, but I’ve noticed a similar effect here nonetheless. In the book blogging community, the type of books that are constantly being blogged about show a lack of diversity that I find tiresome and at times troubling. I don’t mean diversity in the sense of representation of under-represented populations in literature; I think the community does a good job of talking about, sharing, and promoting diversity in literature. What I’m talking about is the lack of genre, publisher, author, and title diversity.

How many times have you seen people blogging about the following: Sara J. Mass, V.E. Schwab, Marie Lu, Victoria Aveyard, Pierce Brown, etc., etc., etc.? I keep seeing the same books and the same authors over and over on my reader feed. I walked into a Barnes & Noble the other day and went over to the YA section, expecting to see a lot of the hot titles in the blogosphere on the shelves, but guess what? What I saw was a plethora of titles I hadn’t even heard of before, all shiny and new. This made me realize that the book blogging echo chamber is not a good place to get stuck in, and I had been stuck. My brain had been tuned in to all the popular titles among bloggers but had missed all these other titles that I feel I should have known about. I was so surprised at the amount of books I’d never heard of, right there on the popular YA shelf.

I’ve always consciously tried to keep my reader feed diverse. If I’m browsing for new blogs to follow and see that someone has been blogging about the same books everyone else is blogging about, I’m much less likely to follow them. But if I see someone blogging about classics or literary fiction or middle grade, all of which are unique in the vast sea of YA bloggers, it’s pretty much an immediate follow. But even so, I still feel as if I’m seeing the same books over and over again.

I get that blogging about popular titles attracts more readers. My reviews of popular titles definitely get more views and comments than reviews of other titles, which only makes sense. If you’ve read or plan to read the popular titles (which is likely because they are, well, popular), you’re more likely to read someone’s review. This allows popular titles to continue the cycle of popularity while lesser-known titles don’t get noticed because they don’t get reviews because those reviews don’t get clicks. (Also, I’m using the word “review” loosely here; it can be any type of post). I feel like we are causing an echo chamber of our own here in which we miss out on a lot of what the “outside world,” or non-blogging reader community, is reading.

I’m not telling anyone to stop blogging about popular YA books; they are popular for a reason, after all. But what I am saying is that it is sometimes good to step outside the blogosphere for a bit and discover something new. Or follow a blog or two that have very different tastes than you. Like a news feed with nothing but liberal or conservative viewpoints, you don’t want to get stuck in a mindset that there’s nothing different out there just for the sake of comfort and familiarity. It’s easier said then done, and I am definitely not practicing this all the time, but every little bit of reading outside your comfort zone is a good bit.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve experienced this and/or if you have any blogs to recommend that cover less popular titles!

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62 thoughts on “The echo chamber of book blogging

  1. Reg @ She Latitude says:

    I love this post, and it’s something I’ve also been thinking about recently. I do blog about hyped books, but I’m very much dictated by my own reading tastes – SJM’s books, for example, are not my thing at all even though the blogosphere is crazy about them. I also haven’t read the big titles such as Illuminae, Six of Crows, etc. I do however love V. E. Schwab. 😉

    But yeah, I hear you! I think what I’ve tried to do is read more diverse books and push that focus as much as I can. I don’t always feel like echo chambers are a bad thing – many people blog because they want to talk about the books that they read, and many of them read more popular books because that’s what they know and that’s what is being sold in their countries (if applicable). I wish there were more non-fiction/memoir blogs around though because I do love those books and read them quite often (though I don’t blog about them).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Emily | RoseRead says:

      Thanks! And thanks for your thoughtful comment – I definitely agree that there should be more non-fiction/memoir blogs. I’d totally follow them. I didn’t think about the fact of what is being sold in what countries; that is a really good point. There are certainly a lot more factors that go into why people blog about what they do besides popularity. That’s one I hadn’t considered!

      Like

  2. wonderfilledreads says:

    Such a good post, Emily! And it’s insanely true. I’m constantly trying to remind myself to go and browse the bookstore/library instead of just going after that one hyped book that I’ve been seeing everywhere. The blogging echo chamber has kind of influenced me to push aside reading all of my literary/general fiction books that I typically read in favor of YA books. I have made a promise to change that in the future though!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Liam @ Hey Ashers! says:

    This is exactly what I needed to read right now; I’m struggling with this issue as both a blogger and a blog-follower, and seeing the issue laid out so precisely has really helped clarify what’s going on for me.

    In my effort to get back into the blogging groove after my long hiatus, I picked up a bunch of the hottest books everyone’s been yelling about for the last few months–and although I’m loving most of them, my eyes are glazing over because I feel like I’ve read them all already. It’s really weird to feel bored partway through a genuinely good book, but that’s exactly what I’m feeling.

    And because I’m bored as a result of having heard so much about these books, I have a terrible feeling that my resulting reviews are going to inspire boredom, as well. Which is, uh, an awful way to try to come back from a hiatus.

    I hate having a whole bunch of reviews written and scheduled, only to belatedly decide I need to frantically read and review MANY MORE BOOKS and reschedule EVERYTHING. The holidays are coming here, which (perversely) means I don’t have as much time for reading, much less hammering out new reviews.

    But your post has given me both inspiration and motivation! I can do this thing! It really helps to know I’m not the only one feeling some of the myriad effects of the echo-chamber, and that I won’t be the only one attempting to do something about it.

    TL;DR: thank you so much for posting this, it’s awesome and you’re awesome.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Emily | RoseRead says:

      Hahaha, and your comment is awesome! It makes me so glad that you found inspiration from this 🙂 I’ve never gone on a true hiatus, but I could imagine that it would be really hard because of exactly what you said. I love that you brought up the feeling that you’ve read these books before; that is such an interesting point and a topic worthy of a whole post! Like, after seeing certain books being reviewed everywhere I get the feeling that I don’t need to read it cause everyone else already read it for me. That sense of boredom makes total sense. Thank you for bringing that up and for your fantastic and thoughtful comment! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Eve Messenger says:

    Interesting topic! The book blogging echo chamber is definitely a thing. I appreciate it because I like knowing which books are “hot” and strive to read the ones that appeal to me. I think that in the echo chamber many of the best books really do rise to the top like cream and are talked about a lot because they’re the tastiest. 🙂 I’m open to reading indie books and non-“top shelf”(AKA heavily marketed) books but often find their writing to be weaker than books I learn about in the book blogging echo chamber.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Emily | RoseRead says:

      That’s good! It is definitely useful to know what is trending. I guess there’s still a little bit if that rebel teenager inside me that resists things that are popular, lol. I was definitely one of those kids. 😛

      Like

  5. Lauren @ Wonderless Reviews says:

    I love this post! It’s definitely something I’ve noticed here (and on BookTube especially) and is something I’m guilty of. I don’t set out to only talk about the hyped titles though, I tend to just read those first because I’m so weak when it comes to hype and I just want to be in on what everyone’s talking about haha. I’d never not talk about lesser known books though. One of my goals for next year though is to read more diversely and try not to get so swept up in the hype.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Briana says:

    I think you hit on some of the problem with your post: deviating from the popular books is not always “rewarding” in terms of traffic/comments. Now, I don’t think a lot of bloggers actually think “Well I’m not going to read or review X book because no one will care about the review” that often, but I think there is a subconscious sense that some books will be more popular than others, and then we get into the cycle of everyone reading/reviewing the same books. I’ll throw out, for instance, that our middle grade reviews are not nearly as popular as our YA posts. (They do, however, get more search engine hits, partially because significantly fewer people blog about middle grade, so our posts are ranked higher in Google, etc.)

    I mostly just read whatever I feel like, and I think many other bloggers do, too, but you’re quite right that what the blogosphere indicates is popular does not always align up with bookstores, bestsellers’ lists, etc. It’s worth keeping in mnid.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Emily | RoseRead says:

      Thank you! Yeah, I also don’t think people consciously decide based on what will get views, but they do decide to read what other people are talking about, which then creates the cycle. That’s not necessarily bad, but it can be limiting.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Read Diverse Books says:

    I really appreciate this post too. I like to keep a mix of popular and less-known books to stay away from the echo chamber because I have definetely seen it. Just last week, everyone was talking about Heartless and I got kind of tired of it. 🙈
    My reviews of unknown books don’t get as many views as they should, but I’ll keep reading them anyway because my reading taste is very eclectic and I can’t be happy only reading what everyone else is.

    Thanks for bringing this topic up. A lot of us needed to hear it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Emily | RoseRead says:

      Thanks, Naz, I appreciate your comment! And I appreciate your blog for its diversity! I’ll definitely continue to blog about books that won’t get the views, too, cause like you said, my tastes are wide-ranging.

      Like

  8. silviareadsbooks says:

    That’s a really interesting post and something I’ve been thinking about lately. I’ve only been blogging for a month but, with a few exceptions, I also noticed how bigger titles seem to get more likes and comments. I’m also rather new to the English-speaking online book community and to the YA genre, so I’ve been wanting in the past year/months to read “big” titles because, well, I think it’s nice to read books that are “hyped” (that is, they should be good, generally speaking) to get to know one’s tastes in literature. After you recognize a pattern of things you like, you can begin to search for less-known books, which is what I’m trying to do now.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Jeann @ Happy Indulgence says:

    This is a fascinating post Emily! I noticed the same thing as well and it’s kind of difficult findi for more books to read when everyone covers the same books. I’m glad that my co-bloggers have a different taste in books to myself so we can be more diverse on what we share.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. thelittlesquid says:

    Totally agree! (she says after just publishing a VE Schwab review… though it’s less enthusiastic than most). I think people blog about the same books in order to become part of the community. I’m much more likely to get into discussions with other bloggers about Six of Crows than Journey by Midnight, and discussing books with each other is half the fun! Then again, my next review with be neither YA nor fantasy. Imagine!
    Good post!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Sammie @ Bookshelves & Biros says:

    This is a really interesting post, Emily! It rang true with me, as I often find my WordPress dash dominated by waves of certain books or series. I’m definitely guilty of following the hype with regards to my reading (I just can’t stay away from a Sarah J. Maas book, so help me God), but I tend not to review really popular books that often, because there are already so many out there. The fact that I’ll likely just be saying really similar things to lots of other people makes me weirdly demotivated!

    I do think that the ‘echo chamber’ effect has both good and bad consequences, one of the good being that talking about popular books often leads to conversation/discussion with other bloggers. I think increased clicks/stats are sometimes more likely with a popular book or author, but I tend to find that my reviews are my lesser read posts anyway, so I try not to be guided by that. 🙂

    Lots of food for thought here! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Emily | RoseRead says:

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment! That is a really good point: hyped titles do build community. That’s definitely something I hadn’t considered so I’m glad you brought it up! And I want to read Maas anyway cause I’ve heard so much good about her lol!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sammie @ Bookshelves & Biros says:

        You’re very welcome, it was my pleasure! Haha – I think Maas books are certainly very love or hate, based on the reviews that I’ve seen and other readers I’ve spoken to. I like the ACOTAR series better than Throne of Glass, but we’re only two books into six on that one so we shall see! She’s certainly a writing machine, that’s for sure haha. Again, awesome post. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Hala Salah El-din says:

    This post is what I need now. When I started blogging this year I didn’t read any YA books and thought that it will be a good chance to discover new books but after a while I found the same books being discussed like illumnae, This savage song….etc that doesn’t mean that I hate these books but I want to read something new I want all of us to remember why we started doing this at the first place. I want to read other genres and authors. Blogging is fun if we want to make it fun.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Emily | RoseRead says:

      Yes! Thank you for your comment! I like how you brought up why we started blogging in the first place. My blog has definitely changed a lot since the beginning, and that’s not necessarily bad or good, but it’s something to think about.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Daley Downing says:

    This is a very important topic, and so well said. I’ve often not read repeat reviews of the same book – even if it’s a title I’m interested in – because one can only read about the same topic so much. Most of the reviews I’ve posted have been for books that I haven’t read about on someone else’s blog (and in some cases, never even heard of before I stumbled onto them myself).

    The other thing I think we need to be aware of in the blogisphere is the echo chamber effect on opinions. So many times, I’ve read a 4-star review of a popular title, and immediately seen 46 comments all agreeing 110% with the reviewer. That really doesn’t help, either. It makes those of us who didn’t like that book – most likely for very valid reasons – feel like we’re not allowed to share our thoughts. If we want people to feel accepted and welcome in our online community, we need to set the standard that you’re allowed to disagree with the majority.

    Thanks for bringing this up!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Emily | RoseRead says:

      YES!! Thank YOU for your thoughtful comment and for bringing up the fact that it is hard to disagree in this community! I’ve thought about that a lot, and I might even write an entire post about it….I definitely agree (irony, lol). No but honestly I’ve seen that happen and it’s something we should also work to change. Thank you!

      Like

  14. Krysta says:

    I’m always fascinated by how what book bloggers think are big books are often books that I don’t see anyone else talking about and how I can go into a store, as you said, and see a bunch of featured titles that I’ve never seen talked about on the book blog community. Actually, the Goodreads finals are interesting as they are titles that I have seen my library order because whatever catalogs they use indicated they’d be big–but I haven’t seen all of these books blogged about.

    I think we also need to realize that book bloggers talk to…other book bloggers. I see a lot of bloggers upset that publishers don’t give us more ARCs or respect all the marketing we do for them, etc., but the reality as far as I can tell is that we’re not reaching a wider audience than ourselves. Why should publishers give me more ARCs so I can tell fellow book bloggers about them? The other book bloggers already know about these books! They’re people already invested in books and the latest releases, so I’m just preaching to the choir, so to speak.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Emily | RoseRead says:

      YES YES YES! Thank you so much for bringing that up, that is exactly true. The echo chamber is such because we are only interacting with each other. And good example bringing up the Goodreads awards, I’ve definitely seen a mix on there.

      Like

  15. Fadwa (Word Wonders) says:

    This is such an interesting topic and you’ve dealt with it brilliantly too!
    I’ve never thought of this but you are absolutely right, we are seeing mostly the same books going around when there are a gazillion other books that can be read and loved just as much, if not more.
    At the start of my blogging Journey I had decided to read ALL the popular books because I was in a major reading slump before that and didn’t get to read any of them, and I started doing just that. But as the year progressed I started noticing other books that weren’t as well known and that realli peeked my curiosity. Now, I’m trying to read and review a mix of both because I honestly love putting out there a review for a book I haven’t seen going around even if that means not a lot of people will read it, but just getting it known of 2 or 3 people is better than nothing.
    I ADORE V.E Schwab, though I never read any of S. J. Maas, Marie Lu, Alexandra Bracken, Victoria Aveyard… And don’t know if I ever will. And even Six of Crows that is SO widely popular, I’m just currently reading haha.
    All of this to say that I totally agree with you and that we should look for books beyond what’s popular among bloggers because we’re missing out on a lot that way.
    Anyway, great discussion ! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Becca @ Becca and Books says:

    THIS IS SO STANKIN SMART I LOVE IT. I’ve slowly begun to become conscious about the whole WE’RE ALL BLOGGING THE SAME THING THIS ISN’T ORIGINAL OR CREATIVE AT ALL. And I’m part of the problem too, because I’ve blogged about Sarah J. Maas and such…and really, it’s not a bad thing! If you love a Sarah J. Maas book, I think you should share that with the world! But there are absolutely 839291 other books far superior to her books. But are they getting shared? NOPE. So I’m so glad you brought this to my attention and the attention of the whole blogging world! It’s really important and I hope this post spreads and encourages diversity ❤️
    YOU ROCK

    Liked by 1 person

    • Emily | RoseRead says:

      Omg Thank you so much, Becca! I love your blog because it is always creative and original! And I am totally interested in reading Maas because I think I will love her. It’s definitely not a bad thing to read and write what you love, but a healthy mix is needed! Thanks again!! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  17. thedaydreamingbookworm says:

    I think I really needed this post right now. I recently went through my TBR on Goodreads and removed a number of YA books that I just keep seeing everywhere. When I started my blog, I hadn’t been reading for almost 6 years or so, so I was out of the loop when it came to books. I wanted to know what everyone was talking about so I read a few of them, and while I did enjoy them, I have to admit I’m just tired of them now. Like you said, there’s nothing wrong about blogging about the popular YA titles, but I realized that I would rather focus more on the lesser know titles. Even when it comes to NA books, my preferred genre, I’ve been trying to read the underrated books because they deserve some lovin’ as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. hollie (hollieblog) says:

    I love this post and I definitely get what you mean! I often find I’m pushed to read certain titles because I feel like I’m ‘missing out’, and I think it’s all down to very good publicity.

    I’ve been reading Sarah J. Maas’ books and honestly? IMO, they’re not that great, especially the TOG series. But the amount of “OMG YOU NEED TO READ IT” and seeing it all over Twitter makes me want to be a part of something, but why waste your time on a series that you’re not even that into, just to say “Yeah, I read it” to a bunch of people on Twitter?

    It’s hard to get away from, and as a blogger, I do think about what posts will do better, but I make sure I never stop myself from reading a book that I’m interested in, even when it doesn’t have a lot of ‘buzz’ surrounding it.

    But, some of that buzz I am grateful for. My favourite authors are Leigh Bardugo and V.E. Schwab, and while they do one or two events here in the UK, they’re not widely publicized in shops, and so I may not have found them if it wasn’t for the online book community!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Emily | RoseRead says:

      Yes! Not feeling left out is what I think gets a lot of people reading these, good point. It’s really hard to resist the Twitter storm of press, haha. And that’s a good example – there are definitely books I wouldn’t have known about if not for book blogging! Thanks for your comment! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  19. luvtoread says:

    Great post! When I first started blogging I noticed that the “blogosphere” was blogging about all of these books that I had never heard of before. Now that I’m involved with blogging, my reading has definitely changed, as now I read far more YA than I ever used to. Partly because the books are all over the place and I want to join in the conversation, but also because I’m honestly interested in the book. The popular books do get the most likes & views, and also the most comments.
    I like to read a mix of books and I hope that my blog reflects that – I just wish I had more time to read, so I could talk about all the different books! Maybe I need to start doing a monthly “now on my TBR” post or something to highlight the lesser known books on my shelves.
    It does seem like I see the same titles all over the place – and definitely in all of the list posts that go around.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. DoingDewey says:

    Interesting! I agree that there seem to be a handful of authors who get an awful lot of the attention, but when I’ve been in bookstores recently, I’ve felt as though I’ve heard of most of the titles from the very few YA book bloggers I follow. This has left me with the impression that the books popular among book bloggers are also the most popular titles generally, but perhaps that’s not the case.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Jackie G. says:

    Yes, yes, yes! I’ve noticed this “echo chamber” as well. It’s interesting that these popular authors/titles end up with increased views and comments because I go out of my way to not read the reviews that everyone is talking about. I mean, I might read the first two reviews that come across my feed read, but the rest I just sort of overlook (unless it’s an unpopular opinion; then I will read the post just to see another perspective).

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Kourtni @ Kourtni Reads says:

    I’ve definitely noticed it and I’ve seen it affecting my own reading habits at times. I’ve never really been someone to read only new releases, but the blogging community is always talking about new releases so that ends up being 99% of what I want to read. I’ve been trying to pull myself away from that, though.
    One thing that helps me get out of that “bubble” is just by going to my library, honestly. They have all of the new titles separated from older ones, so if I just browse through the older titles, I end up coming across a lot of books that look great but that I probably wouldn’t have found if I was only taking recommendations from book bloggers. As much as I like staying up to date with new releases, I also like finding hidden gems from years ago. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Ayustika @ ThatBibliophilicCauldron says:

    This post is so welcome! I always get tired of seeing the same books over and over again. It is kind of difficult to come across other “not-so-hyped” books. So a huge thank you for writing on this topic.

    I strongly recommend you to check out this blog : https://infusoesdalma.com . It is such a wonderful and eye opening blog. They bring to my attention all the “other” wonderful books in this world – the not-so-popular books which people should be talking about.

    Liked by 1 person

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