State of the Site
Annual Report for
the complete review - 2011
i. The site
The complete review went online, at www.complete-review.com, on 31 March 1999.
Growth of the site continues to increase by roughly the same amount, year in and year out:
a. General review data
Books under Review Month Total
December, 2000 529 December, 2001 750 December, 2002 934 December, 2003 1128 December, 2004 1331 December, 2005 1548 December, 2006 1774 December, 2007 1986 December, 2008 2205 December, 2009 2377 December, 2010 2598 January, 2011 2618 February 2636 March 2652 April 2673 May 2687 June 2703 July 2720 August 2737 September 2750 October 2768 November 2792 December 2810
Totals: 212 books were reviewed in 2011, down slightly from 2010's 221 but slightly above the soft target of 200.
Length: The 212 reviews totaled 163,841 words (2010: 179,843), an average of 772.83 words per review (down slightly from an average of 813.77 in 2010).
Languages: Books originally written in 31 different languages were reviewed, the most represented languages being:
Country of origin: Books were written by authors from 51 different nations, the most represented being:
- English: 44 books
- French 36
- Spanish 23
- German 17
- Japanese 12
Sex: Embarrassingly the trend of male-dominance continues:
- France: 28 books
- US 22
- UK 15
- Japan 11
- Sweden 9
Year of writing/publication: The overwhelming majority of books under reviewed were written/first published in the past five years. (Year of writing/first publication is not of the first English-language publication, which would make the list even more current-heavy.):
- 177 of the titles had male authors (83.49 %)
- 35 had female authors (16.51 %)
Year by year, for the seven most recent years:
- 111 books were written/first published 2006-2011
- 191 1946-2011
- 13 1900-1945
- 5 in the 19th century
- 3 prior to the 19th century
Genre: Fiction dominated coverage even more than usual, with novels alone accounting for more than four-fifths of all titles reviewed.
- 18 books were written/first published in 2011
- 2010 20
- 2009 22
- 2008 18
- 2007 14
- 2006 7
- 2005 12
Reviews were of books in the following genres:
- Novels 170 (80.19 %)
- Non-fiction 21 (9.91 %)
- Stories 9 (4.25 %)
- Biography 3
- Poetry 3
- Comics 2
- Dialogue 1
- Diary 1
- Drama 1
- Various 1
Grades: Only one book was graded 'A+' in 2011, while none got a 'D' or 'F'; overall grades skewed slightly lower than in 2010. The number of reviews with the following grades were:
b. Most popular reviews
- A+ 1
- A 1
- A- 12
- B+ 60
- B 102
- B- 23
- C+ 2
- C 4
- no grade 7
The full list of the most popular reviews, for the year and month for month, can be found here.
The 25 reviews receiving the most page-views in 2011 were:
- The White Tiger, Aravind Adiga
- Disgrace, J.M.Coetzee
- Atonement, Ian McEwan
- Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
- 1Q84, Murakami Haruki
- The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery
- Mygale (Tarantula), Thierry Jonquet
- Mister Pip, Lloyd Jones
- Q & A, Vikas Swarup
- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson
- Norwegian Wood, Murakami Haruki
- Mildred Pierce, James M. Cain
- The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafon
- The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen
- Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
- The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Mohsin Hamid
- Decolonising the Mind, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o
- Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser
- Arcadia, Tom Stoppard
- Freedom, Jonathan Franzen
- The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Murakami Haruki
- The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, David Mitchell
- Kafka on the Shore, Murakami Haruki
- Snow, Orhan Pamuk
- Salmonella Men on Planet Porno, Tsutsui Yasutaka
c. Other pages - most popular
The 10 most popular author pages in 2011 were:
The index pages receiving the most page-views in 2011 were:
- Murakami Haruki
- Amélie Nothomb
- Patrick White
- Amos Oz
- Herta Müller
- Mario Vargas Llosa
- Hilary Mantel
- Antonio Tabucchi
- Juan Goytisolo
- Geoff Dyer
- Books Written Before 1900
- Eastern European literature
- Books Written Between 1900 and 1945
- Erotic, Pornographic, and Sex-related books
- French literature
- Contemporary British fiction
- Far East Asian (Chinese, Japanese, Korean) literature
- Mysteries and Thrillers
- Latin and South American literature
- Contemporary American fiction
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Traffic to the complete review was battered by Google's re-jigging of their search algorithm (see, for example, here for their 'explanation' of what they were trying to do), which led to pages from the site coming up much, much lower on Google searches (still by far the major source of traffic to the site). While traffic was at record levels for the first two months of the year, it began to sink after the black day of 24 February, and for the year as a whole the number of visitors was down 25.44% from 2010, the number of page-views 25.63%.
Traffic was hardest hit from the major English-speaking countries, down 31.04% from the US, 21.66% from the UK, and 34.31% from Canada.
Among outside measures of total site-popularity:
Among outside measures of popularity for the Literary Saloon:
- The year-end Alexa-ranking (3 mos. avg.) was 208,445 (down from 146,117 at the end of 2010)
- The year-end total for Google-subscribers for the RSS feed for new reviews was 773 (2010: 677)
- The year-end total for Google subscribers for the Literary Saloon RSS feed was 2,251 (2010: 2,057)
On 1 April a Facebook 'like-button' was placed on several main pages, and on all new reviews. As someone who doesn't use Facebook, I don't really know what this means, but:
Several reviews are also much 'liked' -- with Decolonising the Mind by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o apparently leading the way with 69 'likes'.
- The site's main page immediately had 61 'likes'; the year-end total was 136
- The Literary Saloon ended the year with 88 likes
On 8 June 'Google +1' buttons were added on several main pages, and on all new reviews. 'Google +1' does not seem to be very popular: the site's main page registered a year-end total of 6, the Literary Saloon 4.
According to Google Analytics, visitors from 220 countries and territories visited the site in 2011. An average of at least 10 visitors per day came from 48 different countries (51 in 2010), and an average of at least one visitor per day came from 106 countries (105 in 2010).
Among the few countries and territories that could be identified as having sent no visitors were: Chad, American Samoa, Christmas Island, Falkland Islands, Montserrat, North Korea, Norfolk Island, San Marino, and Tuvalu.
The twenty nations sending the most traffic to the complete review were:
India overtook Australia for fourth place, while Ireland dropped several places (another Google casualty).
- United States - 37.82% of all visits
- United Kingdom - 11.63%
- Canada - 6.45%
- India - 4.06%
- Australia - 3.92%
- Germany - 3.58%
- the Netherlands - 2.00%
- France - 1.77%
- the Philippines - 1.47%
- Italy - 1.44%
- South Africa
- New Zealand
The ten cities sending the most traffic to the complete review were:
- New York - 3.15% of all visits
- London - 2.92%
- Melbourne - 1.28%
- Los Angeles
- New Delhi
While the vast majority of visitors read the complete review on their computers, there has been an increase in readers who read it on mobile devices -- with more than 1 in every 20 visits in 2011 via a number of platforms:
- iPhone - 1.94 % of all visits (and 36.57% of all mobile visits)
- iPad - 1.66 %
- Android - .89 %
- iPod - .42 %
- BlackBerry - .21 %
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iii. How users find our material
While the majority of visitors to the complete review reached it via search engines (i.e. specific queries) in 2011, the Google-mess lowered the total from 80.35% to 75.84% of all traffic
And, despite it being much worse at pointing visitors to the complete review, Google continues to be by far the most popular one leading visitors to the site:
(Clearly, Google is still the only search engine that matters, at least in getting users to the complete review.)
- Google - accounting for 89.38% of all searches (down just slightly from 92.10% in 2010) of all search-engine queries leading visitors to the site
- Bing - 4.32% (a big jump from 2.63%)
- Yahoo - 3.97% (up from 3.12%)
- Search - 1.29%
- Ask - 0.46%
The fifteen most popular specific search query phrases in 2011 -- each asked at least one thousand times -- were:
The twenty-five sites referring the most traffic to the complete review via static links to the site (or the Literary Saloon) in general (of the blogroll sort, for example) or linking to specific reviews or blog-posts were:
- complete review
- literary saloon
- book review sites
- the complete review
- haruki murakami
- the elegance of the hedgehog
- the literary saloon
- mildred pierce novel
- kafka on the shore
- the white tiger
- my name is red
- disgrace coetzee
- amelie nothomb
Since 15 May 2009 it has been possible to get the Literary Saloon on Kindle. A (small) number of readers do subscribe to it.
- newyorker.com (The Book Bench weblog)
- rochester.edu (Three Percent weblog)
M.A.Orthofer -- the complete review himself -- began posting on Twitter, too, and at the end of the year had 2,089 followers (compared to 1,151 at the end of 2010).
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iv. Review Copies
In 2011 the complete review received significantly more review copies than in 2010; much of this can be attributed to my being a judge for the Best Translated Book Award, where we were better able to convince publishers to send books to us than in previous years.
Submissions to the complete review in recent years break down as follows:
(The actual 'List value' is probably considerably higher than recorded because titles are only counted once and a significant number now arrive first in proof form (entered at a zero value list price) and then in final print form (at which point we do not record them again).)
Review Copies Year Total List value 2011 484 $ 7653.52 2010 413 $ 6664.87 2009 483 $ 7092.94 2008 476 $ 7699.84 2007 387 $ 6133.38 2006 348 $ 5775.44 2005 299 $ 5321.78 2004 179 $ 3378.83 2003 131 $ 2673.16 2002 127 $ 2710.27 2001 134 $ 2559.14 2000 136 $ 3257.72
127 of the 484 titles submitted in 2011 were reviewed by the end of January 2012, similar to last year's percentage. Still, publisher- (or author-) submitted titles continue to make up only slightly more than half of all reviewed titles -- the rest still being ones I purchase privately, or borrow from a library.
(Review copies are often not reviewed immediately; the longest-delayed review in 2011 was of Ludvig Holberg's The Journey of Niels Klim to the World Underground, where the review was posted 2309 days after the book was received from the publisher -- far off the 3607 day record, but still .....)
The electronic form has still not taken off at the complete review -- I find it hard to work with, and prefer, wherever possible, to avoid it --, but in 2011 three titles submitted electronically were reviewed.
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As always, we greatly appreciate that many users follow our links to the Amazon.com pages for the books under review (and, where available, the British Amazon.co.uk, Canadian Amazon.ca, German Amazon.de, French Amazon.fr, Amazon.it, and the newly-added-in-2011 Spanish Amazon.es pages), and often go on to make purchases (for which we do receive a commission, which does make up by far the greatest share of our operating budget).
Unfortunately, the decline in overall traffic at the site also impacted Amazon click-throughs and sales, leading to dramatic across-the-board declines.
Needless to say, this has had a major impact on revenue at the site, which dropped precipitously. While advertising income was actually up slightly in 2011 over 2010, this could not compensate for the diminished income stream from the Amazons. While not a threat to the site's survival -- as long as revenues cover costs the site will remain up -- it does impact the sustainability of the current model (and the current rate at which books are reviewed). Given the increase in the number of titles covered at the site, the decline is all the more alarming, though it remains to be seen whether this is a long term trend or an aberration.
Amazon click-throughs and sales, 2011 Amazon Click-throughs
US -31.03% -30.91% UK -36.38% -23.86% Canada -53.64% -57.08% France -53.44% -38.07% Germany -40.69% -17.79%
Even the number of sales of Kindle-devices was down -- 9 were sold in 2011, compared to 11 in 2010 -- and purchases of Kindle (i.e. electronic) titles remain limited; users of the site clearly prefer their books in print.
In addition to links to the Amazons, the complete review began adding affiliate links to Indian bookseller Flipkart on 2 March 2011. While there have been some sales -- the first of which was, predictably enough, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo -- and the number of click-throughs was fast closing in on those at Amazon.co.uk by the end of the year, revenue so far has been minimal.
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For the most part, there was just the usual notice and mention of the site, but it was nice to see foreign coverage include two interviews, Aby se o knihách mluvilo: Rozhovor s Michaelem A. Orthoferem by Jiří G. Růžička at A2 (3/2011), and "Persian literature still a strong and active literary culture" at the Iran Book News Agency (Persian) (10 December 2011).
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The Literary Saloon once again offered 365 days of posts in 2011 (with a few slight hiccups, as posting was slightly delayed on several days).
While coverage remains on a level similar to that found in previous years, Google's refigured algorithm had a devastating effect on traffic to the site. Reviews -- especially newly posted ones of popular titles -- tended to fare very poorly on Google title/author searches, as results now seem to favor new weblog-reviews. (Once reviews have been up for a while they do tend to 'drift' up the search results, but cracking the top ten -- which is all most people seem to search for -- remains a rarity.)
Google's new algorithm -- reducing it from a second- to third-rate search engine -- has also made it more difficult to find other reviews to link to, and while I have tried and true methods, it has made the process considerably more time-consuming and labor intensive (and a whole lot more annoying). Other search sites consistently provide better search-results -- notably, for title/author searches, Bing and DuckDuckGo -- but also have weaknesses that makes it impossible to rely solely on them (as one was able to on Google during its brief run as a first-rate search engine for a couple of years in the 2000s).
Search inadequacy remains a big and frustrating problem -- by far the biggest one the site has to deal with.
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Plans/hopes for a facelift/redesign/overhaul (bringing the code slightly up-to-date, while keeping the site as ... sleek ? and fast as always) remain, though it'll probably still be a while. Otherwise, we just hope to continue doing what we always do.
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© 2012 the complete review Quarterly
© 2012 the complete review