Big Box Book Blogs: Do You Read Them?

Barnes&Noble and Borders both have book blogs dedicated to the romance genre. B&N’s launched in July 2009, and Borders’ launched a month later. I can understand why B&N and Borders established their own blogs.  If you can create a community right at your store, meaning that folks like me visit your store even when we aren’t planning to shop, that’s great for business. It also creates positive feelings towards the store, probably good for customer loyalty. It’s why brick and mortar Borders host French language clubs and seniors’ reading groups and open mike nights.

Barnes&Noble’s romance blog is called “HEart to Heart”, and Michelle Buonfiglio and Melanie Murray write for it. I know Buonfiglio only from the dustup over her comments about bloggers at last spring’s Princeton romance conference. She has her own blog called Romance B(u)y The Book. Murray, an author, is also a blogger for RBTB and a moderator for the romance forums at Barnes and Noble. Heart to Heart (or H2H) is a daily blog with descriptions of romance novels. You have to be registered and logged in to comment, which is a major annoyance. Neither H2H nor the forums appear to be especially active except when there is a free book involved.

Borders.com’s romance section, Borders True Romance has a blog, as you all know, run by Borders romance buyer Sue Grimshaw, with bloggers Jane of Dear Author and Sarah Wendell. Sarah and Jane do a Sunday post, often a mix of video and text, guest readers post on Fridays, and Sue Grimshaw does a regular “Must Reads” video post. On the other days, authors contribute posts, and there are also high quality video interviews with bestselling authors like Linda Howard, Nora Roberts, Jill Shalvis, Carly Phillips, J.R. Ward and others on the site. You do not need to be registered to comment. There are no forums as yet at Borders True Romance (or I couldn’t find them if they exist).

Both sites offer giveaways and exclusives of various kinds.

One thing I find kind of odd is that you wouldn’t know these blogs were there unless you were specifically seeking them out.  Unlike at a brick and mortar store, I don’t go to the Amazon or Borders or B&N homepage and “browse”.  My online shopping starts out much more directed and targeted. I might type in “Linda Howard Ice” and then things happen from there.

H2H is not hard to find, but you have to be looking for it. And who would be looking for it? I didn’t know it existed until I read a Tweet today that led me to RBTB, which led me to B&N. You go to the B&N website. “Book clubs” is a tab at the top. Not too difficult. (As an aside, another B&N book club is “Unbound”, which is about ebooks, although you wouldn’t know that from its name. Carina Press Executive Editor Angela James wrote for that one.)

But at Borders.com, for example, I have to know in advance to click on “Borders Media” to find the Borders True Romance blog. Why would someone shopping for a romance novel hit a button called “Borders Media”? I think it’s just odd that as a semi-regular online customer of both outlets, nothing in my regular shopping experience would bring me to their blogs.

I compare this unfavorably to Amazon.com, which generates links to often quite active (not to say hysterical) discussions that relate to the books you are shopping for right on the same page. (As another aside, why doesn’t Amazon have a blog? Is that in the works?)

Between the two, Borders has the edge in terms of quality and comprehensiveness. If number of comments is any measure, neither seem as active yet as the blogs run by Buonfiglio, Litte, or Wendell.

Perhaps these blogs are a way to get at that large percentage of romance readers who are online but are not denizens of Romanceland?

What do you think? Are you enjoying this new kind of blog in Romanceland? Is “new” even appropriate in that sentence?

Are they a daily “must visit”, just another feed in your Google reader you click when interested in post titles, or not really on your radar?

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