LitHub's Bookmarks Website Hopes to Guide Readers to the Best Books
The Literary Hub website has released a "Rotten Tomatoes for books" website called Bookmarks. The site seeks to search the web for "the most important and active outlets of literary journalism in the US—from established national broadsheets to regional weeklies and alternative litblogs" and aggregate them on the Bookmarks website. When a book receives at least three reviews from LitHub's list of respected reviewers (see image below for the sources at launch), that book is given a grade rating that coincides with the favorability of the reviews. Like with Rotten Tomatoes, a list of links to the different reviews with snippets are shared giving a general idea what the review thought of the book.
For example, Louise Erdrich's LaRose is given an "A" grade based on 15 reviews. On the main Bookmark page for LaRose, there are three reviews (the top reviews?) to the right of her "grade" with a link to see all the other 15 reviews.
One of my favorite features of Rotten Tomatoes is the ability to look at which reviewers had negative things to say about the movies and to see if their negativity merited regard. I tend to give more of a benefit of the doubt to critical pieces than to fluffy ones because I believe those are most honest regardless of whether I agree with them or not. Sometimes reviewers, especially book reviewers, will lighten their criticisms so as not to hurt feelings. The goal has merit but it leaves us readers with a less honest review of a work.
Also, one has to wonder how lesser known authors or authors with little media or PR will fare in this system. Since the sources are the gatekeepers to this website and the promotion of these books, one has to first get into a review to be even considered to get a good or bad "grade". Will book reviewers even care enough to finish a bad book to write a review on it which will then go on to the Bookmarks website to receive a grade of "F"? Most likely, the reviews will be largely positive in order to share the best books unless the author is well-known and a bad novel actually means something to the literary community. Maybe there's a better system than a "grade" rating, but I have no idea what that would be. Perhaps a community based system with aggregated ratings on a universal rating system, which seems to be the antithesis to this current Bookmarks website, would work better.
BookRiot wrote up some criticisms of the Bookmarks website that are interesting to think about. They criticize the grading system, the subjectivity of creating a grade out of the reviews, the gatekeepers of sources that LitHub has chosen, and more. However, I have hope in the Bookmarks system. I have hope in its aspirations to help readers parse some of their book choices like some of us do with movies using Rotten Tomatoes.
For right now, the Bookmarks website will serve to at least show us what books are getting good coverage and fanfare as well as to aggregate the book reviews for easy reading. For book nerds, that's enough.