Blogbooks

"Reverse publishing" -- that's what we call it when we take material (especially feedback from readers) that originated on the Post's Web site and print it in the newspaper. The "reverse" part of the term is a legacy of the days -- it seems like eons ago, but it's been only a few years -- when the Web site mirrored what was in the daily paper, not vice versa.

Now, publishing houses are beginning to reverse-publish blogs -- they're taking material that began as Web postings and compiling it into books. Two recent examples come to mind. The first was Stuff White People Like by Christian Lander, a book based on his popular blog but that contained original material. Lander is essentially a cultural critic / humorist who writes with delicious archness about the tastes and habits of urban upper-middle class people (who aren't, in fact, necessarily white but who did necessarily go to liberal arts colleges and do necessarily watch Jon Stewart). In place of "white people" substitute the antediluvian term "yuppie" and you get the basic idea. Random House published Lander's blogbook in paperback last summer, and he's on book tour now. Lander tells us in his book that "white people" are always threatening to move to Canada, that the Boston Red Sox are their no. 1 sports franchise, and that "the one piece of clothing that helps to regulate white body temperature in all situations is the scarf."

Just this week I received the galleys of another blogbook: Good Book: The Bizarre, Hilarious, Disturbing, Marvelous, and Inspiring Things I Learned When I Read Every Single Word of the Bible. It's by David Plotz, editor of Slate -- which belongs to the Washington Post Co. -- and is based on his Slate project, Blogging the Bible. Every working day for about a year in 2006-2007 Plotz blogged about the Hebrew Bible, beginning with Genesis and working his way through Chronicles. The shtick was, here's a smart guy with a modern sensibility, no serious grounding in Bible studies (other than some Hebrew school as a kid and a bit of New Testament at an Episcopal high school) and no particular religious agenda who's reading -- really reading, cover to cover -- the Bible for the first time in his life. Of Exodus 15-17 he writes: "A woman! There's a woman! For the first time in ages a living, breathing female appears." (hint: it's Miriam, the sister of Moses). HarperCollins will publish Good Book in March.

In a way, there's nothing new about this bookblog thing. Publishers have been printing collections of newspaper columns and magazine essays since long before I was born. But with blogs, a lot of the joy is in immediacy and interactivity -- the feeling that what you're reading was just written moments ago and the opportunity to talk back. So what's next? Maybe, blogbooks that include comment streams?

--Alan Cooperman

By Alan Cooperman |  January 16, 2009; 3:35 PM ET Alan Cooperman
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I'm just happy that Lander (or someone) fixed the comma errors that hampered his prose and generally tightened up his blog entries before committing them to print. Also, the new material ties Lander's themes together a bit more. I was dubious about the book, but now I'm glad I bought it.

Posted by: Lindemann777 | January 22, 2009 8:42 AM

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