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Rekindling Online Book Reviews

Some of us saw it as a sign of the times when Metacritic suddenly stopped compiling book reviews. For those of you unfamiliar with the site, Metacritic carries aggregate review scores for video games, TV shows, movies, and music. For a time, it was also a cheat sheet to literary taste-making.

Then in 2007, CNET, Metacritic’s parent company, killed the book section without explanation or ceremony. The rule seems to be: if it doesn’t require electricity, you can’t read about it on Metacritic.

Now the gap between books and digital commodities like video games, music, and other screen-based entertainment is narrowing, as eBook readers, led by the Kindle and Sony Reader, slowly gain mainstream acceptance.

At the same time, the web is starting to give books the same social treatment it has given music.

Book-centric web applications have cropped up across the internet. GoodReads, for example, is a kind of for book lovers; Reading Trails resembles a hand-cranked incarnation of Pandora, the algorithmic music recommendation site. Books are coming into the digital fold.

Metacritic was ahead of its time when it launched its book review section in 2005. Now that the internet is catching up, how long before book Meta-reviews stage a comeback?