Getting the Blog Rolling

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Blogs, short for Web logs, are rapidly becoming ways for individuals to share information about their lives and work. Teenagers love them, authors communicate with readers, even politicians are chronicling their activities and philosophies through blogs. Some booksellers are experimenting with blogs to pass on information of interest to dedicated customers.

Melissa Mytinger, marketing director of Cody's Books in Berkeley, California, has started a store blog ( because, as she wrote in her introduction to the blog, "We're thinking that a lot of interesting information -- some of it benign gossip, some of it factually correct, but all of it relevant to readers -- crosses our desks and paths every day. This blog is an effort to share as much of that news as is warranted. I'd love the postings to be timely, and, of course, intensely compelling reading, but, hey, no promises. Give us a bit of time to adjust to a new-found forum, one that opinionated booksellers find awfully seductive but one that'll take getting used to, and we hope a posting here, a posting there, will be of interest to you."

Mytinger told BTW via e-mail, "It's something I'd wanted to do for a while, initially as something for staff, as it's often difficult with staff in two locations to find the right medium for communication. Our Web master was able to find some time to build this into our hybrid site, and I began with a post in early July.… We've still not made much of it -- it hasn't appeared in our print newsletter…. I'm still fooling around with it, still thinking how opinion can sometimes be integrated into a commercial site without pretending to speak for everyone associated with Cody's.… This is still in such infancy."

Blogs are not really intended as interactive communication. They can serve as cyber-bulletin boards, and readers can always send queries or questions. These might be answered individually, or responses may be posted on the blog if they have particular significance to others.

Posted on the Cody's blog since its inception in July have been notices of author appearances; links to obituaries for notable authors, including Carol Shield and James Welch; and links to various authors' blogs and Web sites. Neil Gaiman and his are particular favorites. Pieces culled from Publishers Lunch, Publisher's Weekly, USA Today, and Bookselling This Week have appeared; the Al Franken-Fox News brouhaha received attention as did a checklist to determine if "You Suffer From Literary Abuse Syndrome." The blog is also a perfect place to include store pictures with photogenic child readers.

Does a blog draw traffic to a store's Web site? Possibly, but the store may not want high blog traffic. "We'd be quite happy with a select group of dedicated readers," Mytinger explained, "because I can guarantee that I will never has as much time as I'd like to devote to the blog, nor will anyone else at Cody's -- and a great blog (Neil Gaiman's comes to mind, but there are others, of course) does require both motivation and time."

Blogs are entering the mainstream and are popular on college campuses, with literary types, and with other early adopters of technology. Mytinger noted, "Just this afternoon, the Daily Calilfornian, the student newspaper at UC Berkeley, sent a note that they're doing a story about "Berkeley blogs" and want to include ours. Who knew?" --Nomi Schwartz