Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

Quotations, Epigraphs and Blurbers

I’ve added three fields to Common Knowledge, fun fields that should keep the more obsessive of us busy for a while, and which move us somewhat closer to being the “IMDB of books”—quotations, epigraphs and blurbers.

Quotations. Members have been wanting a place to stick interesting or important quotations for some time, often keeping them in their quotations field.

There are, of course, sites devoted to literary quotes. But none can match their quotes against the books in your own library, giving you more incentive to add them. Together with first and last words, added recently, I foresee all manner of fun applications—guessing games blog widgets that cycle through quotes from your library, etc.

Example: The Stars my Destination (Tiger! Tiger!) by Alfred Bester

Epigraphs. Users asked for this to be separated from quotations.

Example: I am in an epigraph free-room. Help!

Blurbers. If you’re not in publishing, you may be unfamiliar with this term. A blurber is someone who blurbs your book, writing up a very short review for your publisher, who selects a sentence or two and puts it on the back cover. If/when your book goes into paperback or gets reprinted, the blurbs may be replaced by quotes from professional reviewers, or they may not.

Often labeled “Advanced Praise for” or something like that, blurbs are an essential part of the authorial economy, and not always a pretty part, as Rebecca Johnson wrote in Slate:

“So much of blurbing process is a corrupt quid pro quo. You praise my book; I’ll praise yours. In the ’80s, Spy magazine ran a monthly column on the very topic called ‘Log Rolling in Our Time.'”

I’m looking forward to seeing this information develop. It’s well known that blurb relationships are reciprocal, and that some people write blurbs for more books than–it seems–they could ever read.

Example: Hidden Iran by Ray Takeyh, with the ubiquitous Fareed Zakaria and Zbibniew Brzeznski.

Labels: blurbers, blurbs, new features, quotes


  1. elenchus says:

    Came to this late and may be missing relevant posts elsewhere, BUT … I'll put in a plug for some of what Tim hinted at in Sep 08:

    – a Quotations from my Library widget (sortable by collection of course)

    – a searchable database of all quotations

    – a list (similar to Most Read or Most Wishlisted) of recent quotations from LT members

    Really love the feature and will go back and move my quotations, currently embedded in my reviews.

  2. Amy says:

    I ended up here when adding a less popular book and thinking I could add to it’s 100%-empty common knowledge page. However, I assumed you would want the blurbs themselves, not the ‘blurbers.’ They help you get interested in a book. (Helpful when using LibraryThing to find new books to try. So I thought that’s why it would be a feature.) There’s no place for blurbs/reviews in the common knowledge page (reviews/blurbs published on/in the-book as opposed to user reviews)

    Now I’ve read this page about what you want for “blurbers”… But how do we tell if it’s a real blurb or a real review quote? I didn’t know there was such an official distinction. And why such disdain specifically for blurbs? Surely the process of professional reviewers is just as likely to be false? Is that not the case?

    Most importantly: How do we determine if it’s a “blurber” or a “professional reviewer”? Based on *WHY* you said people wanted this feature, I would assume any quote that seemed like it was from ‘a real author’, a ‘fellow author’, not someone with a magazine or website after their name, would be acceptable. (Even if we can’t tell if it’s a blurb or a real review) Is that right?

    • Loranne says:

      This feature was designed some time ago, well before I joined the LT team, so I can’t really shed any more light on why there’s a field for blurbers but not the blurbs themselves—I wasn’t around for those conversations. I can, however, assure you that there’s no particular “disdain” for blurbs at all.

      To address your other questions, a blurb would appear credited to a person’s name only, without a publication appearing after it. A professional reviewer’s quote would appear with their publication cited, as well. So, a quote credited to “John Doe” would make John a blurber, but a quote credited to “John Doe, The New York Times” would make him a professional reviewer. So, you are right there!

      I hope this information helps. If you have any other questions, please feel free to reach me directly at loranne@librarything.com.

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