Volume I, Issue 2 -- May, 2000
complete review's Survey
of Book Review Sites
(UPDATE - February, 2003: Please note that the online situation has changed so drastically that this survey has already become essentially obsolete: addresses have changed, several of the sites now require registration for access (Daily Telegraph, The New York Times, The Times, The Washington Post) and access at some of the others is also limited -- while Ed's Internet Book Review has apparently completely gone under. For a more useful (though not as in-depth) guide to a far larger number of book review sites you are now advised to consult our links list.
This survey will now no longer be updated, but remains available as a piece of perhaps historic interest.)
Book review sites of all varieties continue to proliferate on the Internet. From major print publications such as The New York Times and The New York Review of Books to small websites devoted to esoteric literatures there are a multitude of resources available to those seeking reviews of books. The complete review wishes to helps its users find the information they seek and to have a better understanding of what is available to them. For that reason the complete review Quarterly will periodically provide surveys of book review sites and sources.
This first survey covers a few -- indeed only a fraction -- of the larger English-language book review sites on the Internet, especially (though not exclusively) those which are, in fact, only Internet editions of book reviews available in print. (Notable exceptions include Salon and the complete review itself, both of which are solely available on the Internet.)
Future surveys will cover print media and smaller Internet sites, as well as sites and sources that are updated only on a monthly or quarterly basis, and foreign-language book review sites.
As with the reviews on the complete review the opinions presented here are entirely subjective and should be recognized as such. Nevertheless, the data collected here and the opinions offered may provide some guidance.
An explanation of the criteria by which sites were judged is offered below.
There is also a chart summarizing the complete review Quarterly's findings.
The selection of sites under review is relatively small -- twelve sites in all. Most add a significant number of reviews (five or more) weekly -- the exceptions being Danny Yee's Book Review site (which adds fewer) and The New York Review of Books (which adds books on a less regular basis -- bi- or tri-weekly). No monthly or quarterly review sites were considered for inclusion. A number of prominent and large sites were also not considered, foremost among them the behemoth Under the Covers. While the number of books under review at this site is impressive (an awe-inspiring 3500-plus) the books under review are generally penny-dreadful stuff, catering to a select rather than generalist audience. Similarly, sites devoted solely to genre fiction (science fiction and mystery books, for example) have also not been considered.
The complete review Quarterly's survey includes information on the apparently irrelevant -- user registration and cookies -- because we believe that this is significant information that users must be aware of. Most Internet users blindly accept cookies without even knowing it; certainly they should at least be aware of who is depositing those cookies (and how many are being deposited -- and how long they might linger on a harddrive).
The complete review reminds users that there is no reason whatsoever for any site to register users or put cookies on users' computers except to invade users' privacy. In particular, cookies from outside sites (generally advertising marketeers like DoubleClick and the like) are unwelcome and unnecessary additions to your harddrive. When commercial transactions are made over the Internet cookies might be deemed necessary -- but in the case of book review sites their use can not be countenanced. (Remember also our advice regarding registration: if you are asked to register on a site: lie, lie, lie. Skew those demographics and screw those marketeers.)
The complete review Quarterly's survey is not scientific. Data was collected over the period February to April, 2000. Users should recognize that it may be outdated or superseded by the time they refer to it. The only thing constant about the Internet is change. Data may be inexact. The complete review Quarterly made every effort to collect the best available information, but this information may, in fact, not reflect the actual state of the sites under review.
Certain criteria are naturally subjective and the opinions expressed are solely the opinions of the complete review Quarterly.
Proprietary cookies from advertisers may change over time, as advertisers are changed. Some send more than others. Information given is that received by the complete review Quarterly at the time when the sites in question were accessed.
(UPDATE - December, 2001: Please note that several of these sites have instituted radical changes since this survey was initially conducted, notably by limiting access to their archives (to those willing and able to pay for the privilege). The grades have not been adjusted to take these (or other) changes into account, nor have our original comments been altered. Instead, we have added Update-notes to our original comments, making users aware of the relevant changes. But note that, were we to grade these sites now, several (The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, The Times) would be graded lower than they are here.)
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- Explanation of review criteria
- Sites under review:
- Chart Summarizing Reviews
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Review Criteria:Site: Name and URL of site (opens new window)
Reviews per Week: Approximate number of new reviews added per week
Total: Total number of reviews available -- and total freely accessible
Types of Books reviewed: Types of books are reviewed
Registration: Is it necessary to register to use the site ?
Cookies: Does the site try to place cookies on your computer if you use it ? If so:
Number: How many cookies are sent.
Type: Identifies cookies -- are they from the site itself or privacy-invading mass-marketeers such as Doubleclick ?
Duration: How long are the cookies embedded in your computer ?
Advertising: Nature of the advertising on the site, if any
Archive: Is there an accessible and free archive ?
Search capability: Can the reviews on the site be searched for on site ?
Index: Does the site have a usable index of books under review ?
User Friendliness: How user-friendly is the site ?
Reviews: Description of reviews.
Links in reviews: Are there links in the reviews -- and where do they lead ?
Additional Features: Other features of interest
Overall Grade: The complete review's grading of the site, from A+ to F
Pros: Summarizing the good points of the site.
Cons: Summarizing the bad points of the site.
Overall: A brief summary of the site.
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