Critical review of critics

From an author’s perspective, Amazon can be seen as having democratised the way in which a book is reviewed, with reader assessments more representative of the book-reading masses and less obliged to conform to a pre-determined consensus. The internet has provided a means for an ever increasing, easily accessible and vital exchange of opinions in literary criticism. As advertising budgets are slashed in smaller publishing companies and revenue models in the industry adapt to counter the dominance of Amazon, it would seem that reviews have never been so crucial as a way of increasing the exposure of a title at no cost to the publisher. Amateur critics undoubtedly have insights and recommendations which can significantly impact the success of a book and for smaller independent publishers, this word-of-mouth marketing is key.The more books there are, the greater the necessity for a way to navigate the field. Thousands of books are published every year while at the same time pages in newspapers and magazines dedicated to reviewing new releases is diminishing. On the internet, however, every literary niche has its community of readers and critics.

Whilst I acknowledge that there is a case for critical analysis which elevates any discussion of a novel from that of personal taste, the point isn’t that traditional critics are always wrong and bloggers or Amazon reviewers are right, or even that these comments are overwhelmingly negative but rather that authority has migrated from critics to a much wider audience. We live in an age of cultural populism – an age in which readers are not only entitled to their view but are encouraged to share it.