Shortly after I published the third part of the Costs of Book Blogging series, the post received some traction and the posts and their responses circulated around Twitter and Facebook.
My primary goal of my collaborative series is to give book bloggers a voice. I wanted to give book bloggers the opportunity to talk about topics that we don’t often talk about to promote greater transparency, greater awareness and understanding. Ordinarily, I don’t mind at all if people talk about my posts without directly involving me. I don’t mind if people dislike what I have to say or disagree with my opinions. People can say what they want to say; they can think what they want to think.
I acknowledge that the ‘debate’ prompted excellent discussion and encouraged people to reflect on the monetary costs of book blogging for themselves and others. I’ve subsequently read a lot of great and insightful blog posts that responded to the debate, offering their perspective or sharing their own costs of book blogging.
However, the tweets that prompted the ‘debate’ blatantly misconstrued and misrepresented the purpose of the Cost of Book Blogging collaboration series. Many of the responses that followed were ignorant, arrogant, hurtful, and were expressions of unchecked privilege. So today, I’m going to call them out on it.
A few minutes into reading the Cost of Book Blogging series, it should be clear that the goals of the collaboration were to explore and promote transparency of the costs that different book bloggers face and accrue. I even stated multiple times across all three of the posts that the posts were (a) specifically about monetary costs, (b) not intended to be a guide as how much you ought to spend, and (c) explore the pressures that book bloggers face to invest in books and their platforms. Reading the responses that the book bloggers shared, it is clear that the bloggers discussed ‘cost’ as something that simply costs money – not something that is inherently bad or good; a cost that just is. The book bloggers did not talk about the personal value of book blogging – that’s an entirely different discussion (and I am certain that many book bloggers would say that book blogging has significant personal value in their lives).
A book blogger shared Part III of the collab series and stated that ‘[they] were surprised to see what some bloggers consider a cost’. Many people responded to this tweet. Many of the replies to this tweet are not worth addressing, because they were demonstrations of further ignorance, disingenuous and pretentious virtue-signalling, and blatant arrogance. Unfortunately, this cascaded into a wider discussion or ‘debate’ that spilled over into the wider community. Many people were confused. To be honest? I was one of them. Because I kept thinking: why is a frank and vulnerable discussion, in which book bloggers were being honest about how much money they spent as book bloggers, causing such an unnecessary and unsubstantiated stir in the blogging community?
Because in my eyes, the book bloggers and I were addressing, talking, and discussing the costs of book blogging and acknowledging its costs – that’s it.
On the definition of ‘cost’
I feel both astounded and very weary that I have to spell this out to a group of bloggers who know very well what the definition of ‘cost’ is. So, allow me to be very clear so there is no room for willful ignorance: When you say “I never saw buying books for my book blog as a cost because I was going to buy the book anyway”, this makes no sense. Buying books still costs money, regardless of whether you consider or perceive it to be a cost or not. Perhaps it isn’t a ‘cost’, in a sense that you don’t begrudge paying it, but it still costs money. Yes, book blogging is a hobby, but it still costs money. Even if you have already bought the book and you therefore don’t see that as a cost that falls under book blogging, you still paid for the book and it therefore still costs money.
On the topic of ‘why we buy books’, it is unfair and unjustified to criticise book bloggers who buy books purely for their blogs or for following popular or hyped-up books. Isn’t sharing our love for books one of the reasons why so many of us book blog? And isn’t talking about the books we all love and recommending books to each other one of the greatest joys of book blogging and being in the book community? And so what if the books that people buy, based on another reader’s recommendation, is a popular and ‘hyped up’ book?
There is nothing wrong with book bloggers buying books just so they can talk about it and review it on their blogs, particularly when most book bloggers do this to support the authors they love. Frankly, I am appalled that someone would even suggest that this is something that warrants undue criticism and shame. People can read and review the books they want. To be book bloggers, and call themselves book bloggers who love to read, and then to shame others for reading and buying what they want is disgraceful.
Addressing the privilege and ignorance
People responded and made comments about how much it costs to be a book blogger. The answer is not as straight-forward as most people have postulated it to be. Indeed, you can be a book blogger and pay absolutely nothing at all – you can use a free domain and get books at your local library. In fact, I rarely ever buy books because I can’t afford to and I use my local library. My most significant cost as a book blogger is paying for my domain. However, that is not the reality for everyone (some people are in a different situation as me! who would have thought?), and to read books at no monetary costs comes with immense privilege.
Not everyone is as fortunate to be able to purchase a book with such ease that it doesn’t even constitute a significant cost. For instance, books can actually be very expensive in some countries, and buying a book can require budgeting, saving, and weeks of being frugal. Moreover, some book bloggers are teens/students who are dependent on their guardian/s to purchase books for them.
And so, you all suggest: ‘well, the library is free!’ To which many international book bloggers have said countless times that not every library is fully stocked with the latest book. Some book bloggers do not even have a library at all, and thus rely on purchasing books. For some, accessing a library requires a subscription fee – and those fees can be very expensive!
And so, you all suggest: ‘well, as a book blogger, you get access to ARCs and eARCs and you get books for free!’ To which I’d say, as many international book bloggers have said time and time again, some publishers are not willing or legally able to send ARCs to people who live outside the US, UK, and Australia, and some eARCs are not even available to request because of the limitations that publishers face to send a book internationally.
Consider this: not every book blogger out there is in the same position as you and not every book blogger has the same access to resources as you. I suggest sitting with why this makes you so uncomfortable that it causes you to express hostility. I implore you to ask yourself why you opt for being hostile to those who point this out to you, when displaying empathy costs $0.00.
On the baffling comment that book bloggers are ‘forced’ into it
On that note, absolutely nowhere in the collaboration posts do any of the book bloggers insinuate that they are being forced into book blogging. Being transparent, being candid, and simply talking about the costs of being a reader and a book blogger does not mean that they resent it nor does it mean that they are being ‘forced’ to buy or invest in anything. Rather, the book bloggers were merely stating facts about their experiences as book bloggers – and it really is that simple. The costs made by book bloggers are choices that they have made. As Aimal from Bookshelves and Paperbacks said, ‘just because the cost is a choice doesn’t mean it isn’t a cost’.
To suggest that the book bloggers who are being open about their experiences are being ‘forced’ into book blogging (and to then, in the same breath, pat yourselves in the back that you blog ‘because you love it!!’) is such a sad and pitiful display of narcissism. Book bloggers who are honest about what book blogging costs are still autonomous individuals who make their own decisions. They deserve better than the narrative that you pushed onto them. They are not victims, and to frame them as such is outrageous and hurtful.
So, I have no patience for the people – who claim to be readers and yet have no reading comprehension or critical thinking whatsoever – who deliberately misconstrued and twisted the definition of ‘cost’ in the collab series (despite the fact that it was very clear across the collab series that the book bloggers were talking exclusively about monetary cost) to create fodder for their egos. I have no patience for people who will perpetuate a false and misrepresented rhetoric, at the expense of book bloggers who gave their time to provide honest responses to a sensitive topic, to push an inane argument that does absolutely nothing to help, support, or do anything positive for book bloggers as a whole. I also have no patience for people who present strawman arguments to then perform a conceited façade of ‘but book blogging is a labour of love and I’m going to feign confusion so I don’t look like an instigator and if people challenge me on my narrow-minded perspective, I’m the victim because I was just ~confused~!’
Too long; didn’t read? (Yeah, I don’t blame you.)
A discussion on the costs of being a book blogger is not a divisive topic nor should it have been controversial. Acknowledging the realities that people experience and being candid about them is not something that people should be confused about nor should it have been a point of contention. I am frustrated that it escalated to something that caused members of the community stress, particularly because the whole basis of the ‘debate’ was disingenuous and completely irrelevant to what the collab series was actually about.
Above all though? I am tired. Tired that discussions about libraries and access to books and the differential privileges that exist within our community happen again and again, and yet the recent ‘debate’ is an example of how these discussions are consistently ignored and undermined. (And to the book bloggers who called out ignorance and privilege that weekend, who understood my intent and stood up for the book bloggers who participated in the collab – thank you. I had a 14-hour work day that day and did not have the capacity to participate in the discussions, so I deeply appreciate the people who spoke up about it.)
The collab series, and my ‘The Pond Gets Loud’ collab series as a whole, is a space for people to share their experiences. The book community doesn’t talk about how much we pay to be book bloggers, and I wanted to shed light and explore that. Most of us accept that our hobby, our love for books, and book blogging, comes with monetary costs. Again, we were just being honest and talking about those monetary costs.
And if you still don’t get it, and want to further twist this into something that it never was about in the first place, then ¯\_(ツ)_/¯