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 Post subject: Reviews here, reviews elsewhere...
Post #1 Posted: Sun Feb 13, 2011 8:54 am 
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Those who write book reviews here may consider cross-posting them on Sensei's Library for wider audience. A lot of book pages there would gain from that as well. Please don't cross-post other than your own reviews.

Please note, there are no likes on Sensei's Library. Your contribution is appreciated nonetheless.


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Post #2 Posted: Sun Feb 13, 2011 9:13 am 
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Take this for what it's worth, but given the way Sensei's library works, I have no desire to post book reviews there. If anyone can edit it, then it's opening a door for eventual abuse. And I just don't like the way Sensei's organizes stuff.

Feel free, however, to post links on Sensei's to the reviews I've posted here.

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Post #3 Posted: Sun Feb 13, 2011 11:14 am 
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While Sensei's isn't perfect with maintenance, I think you'll find that material like a book review is unlikely to be edited in place. There is a strong presupposition against altering the content of an individual's signed contribution. It may be moved or removed during a WME, but we rarely even see copyediting.

Basically, if it's attributed to kirkmc, it's your creation.

Of course when someone adds content that's unsigned and intended to be part of the main article for a book that's different.

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Post #4 Posted: Sun Feb 13, 2011 11:27 am 
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Hmm interesting, I always post reviews on SL rather than here because that's where I look for reviews and because it seems more visible in the long term

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Post #5 Posted: Sun Feb 13, 2011 11:51 am 
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If long-term storage is your concern, then also post to rec.games.go.

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Post #6 Posted: Sun Feb 13, 2011 11:58 am 
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Longterm in the sense I. normally only ever scan the first 2 pages of new posts on L19 but I do unde could search

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Post #7 Posted: Sun Feb 13, 2011 1:26 pm 
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RobertJasiek wrote:
If long-term storage is your concern, then also post to rec.games.go.


Oh, right, that certainly has a future...

Fewer and fewer people have Usenet access, and most younger people today have never heard of it (except, perhaps, as a conduit for illegal downloads). And, finally, Google copies everything that goes to Usenet groups and exploits it for their nefarious uses.

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Post #8 Posted: Sun Feb 13, 2011 3:36 pm 
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Regardless of your sarcasm, newsnet has the most storage mirrors and some store for decades as a free service. Regardless of whether users are declining, some people do not know what newsnet is or Google is doing some nonsense. Newsnet is available even when all go webpages are not available at a time.

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Post #9 Posted: Sun Feb 13, 2011 6:49 pm 
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The reviews here and most reviews elsewhere say little more than whether the reviewer liked the book and some comments about the production. Not surprising since we are all amateurs and not capable of evaluating the correctness of the teaching. The old equipment and book section on GD was nice because it allowed for star ratings which didn't require a separate post or comment. Why doesnt L19 have a similar section?

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Post #10 Posted: Mon Feb 14, 2011 1:54 am 
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gowan wrote:
The reviews here and most reviews elsewhere say little more than whether the reviewer liked the book and some comments about the production. Not surprising since we are all amateurs and not capable of evaluating the correctness of the teaching. The old equipment and book section on GD was nice because it allowed for star ratings which didn't require a separate post or comment. Why doesnt L19 have a similar section?


We read reviews not to evaluate the correctness of the teaching, but rather to discover more about the content of the book and to hear a subjective opinion from a player of x strength on the extent to which they found a particular book valuable. Reading what people write about a book is more useful to me when I'm deciding what to buy than a bunch of anonymous stars.

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Post #11 Posted: Mon Feb 14, 2011 4:46 am 
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RobertJasiek wrote:
Regardless of your sarcasm, newsnet has the most storage mirrors and some store for decades as a free service. Regardless of whether users are declining, some people do not know what newsnet is or Google is doing some nonsense. Newsnet is available even when all go webpages are not available at a time.


Apparently even you don't know what it is - it's Usenet, not "newsnet." And it's not likely to last for any long period of time.

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Post #12 Posted: Mon Feb 14, 2011 4:47 am 
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daal wrote:
gowan wrote:
The reviews here and most reviews elsewhere say little more than whether the reviewer liked the book and some comments about the production. Not surprising since we are all amateurs and not capable of evaluating the correctness of the teaching. The old equipment and book section on GD was nice because it allowed for star ratings which didn't require a separate post or comment. Why doesnt L19 have a similar section?


We read reviews not to evaluate the correctness of the teaching, but rather to discover more about the content of the book and to hear a subjective opinion from a player of x strength on the extent to which they found a particular book valuable. Reading what people write about a book is more useful to me when I'm deciding what to buy than a bunch of anonymous stars.


Exactly. It's of more use to me to know what a player around my rank thinks of a book than to read a review by, say, a dan player (in most cases).

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Post #13 Posted: Mon Feb 14, 2011 10:27 am 
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Go books have their own special issues. A major one is a paucity of advertising outlets and consequent lack of advertising. It's also hard to advertise without putting the price of books up. It is, however, possible to simulate advertising to a degree if another major problem could be addressed - lack of reviews. L19 probably deserves an A for effort (and Kirk, especially) but the performance of the national journals is currently abysmal, even though it wasn't always thus.

Reviews seem especially necessary for go books not just because of the lack of advertising but because it is difficult to handle and inspect the merchandise very often. Mostly you are restricted to tournaments where there is a book vendor. We have been blessed for years in Britain in having Gerry Mills attend most tournaments with a huge stock, but he has retired now and the likelihood of a replacement even a tenth as good looks bleak at the moment. I don't know the vending situation well elsewhere, but I imagine it's safe to say that it's limited to a handful of tournaments and the handful of players who are close enough and well off enough to attend.

What seems to follow from this is that when reviews are done, they need to be done in a special way that replaces the chance to riffle through the contents by hand and to reflect the fact that purchases are often now made on the internet. Priority therefore should be given to listing the contents in some detail. Sample pages are useful, too. Sensei's Library has occasionally been good in this respect, but in my view SL shoots itself in the foot with its twee, pseudo-objective language and also with its strange obsession (sometimes replicated here) for posting errata pages. I really do fail to understand what goes through the minds of people who post things like "a comma is missing between X and Y on page Z", as if they were the only people ever to be capable of spotting such an error, yet never manage to say anything positive about a book that must have engaged their attention massively for them to spot the hiccups. (I don't say don't point out errors - but a more fruitful way is just to pass them to the author or publisher).

Apart from replacing the personal riffle effect with detailed contents, reviews seem to be called on here most frequently to do two other things. One is to put an estimate on the ranks of the target audience. It might seem ideal if publishers did that on the covers of the books, but in an already hard world for them, I think it's reasonable to assume they don't want to slice their already niche market into smaller pieces. In any case, I think I would speak against targeting anyway. It's probably inaccurate, and I think there is immense value in looking at a higher-level book. It inspires you and broadens your horizons, and remains there for a re-read when you are stronger. Even looking at a lower-level book is not a waste if you use it for revision. I think the only type of book where ranking really matters may be problem books, and it may be significant that they are by far the worst sellers anyway (niches of a niche market).

Another demand that comes up perhaps surprisingly high is a comment on durability of a book. Too many western go books have covers that fall off or break, are bound too tightly to read comfortably, are laid out in surreal ways, or are poorly proof-read. Even though I understand the economics behind this, I'm actually in the camp that is put off by poor presentation and I welcome this sort of comment in reviews, especially where, again, you are using the internet and don't get a chance to handle the product.

The subject matter of an ordinary review - whether the book is actually useful, entertaining or whatever - therefore comes way down on the list of things to look for. That is not say it should be omitted, but I have been told that one reason for the decline in book reviews in national journals is that reviewers are afraid of saying anything negative. If this is the case, then they can get away with criticising the technical content by omitting it and giving a still useful or better-than-nothing contents list-type review instead (though if the covers fall off, I would hope they'd still be brave enough to mention that).

Another useful review service would be to remind the go world that there are publishers other than Slate & Shell or Kiseido. Without a chance mention from T Mark, I would not have heard about a book I thoroughly enjoyed - Guenther Ciessow's work on Felix Dueball (I recommend it, but note that it is in German, and that my covers have not fallen off!). Without getting free copy from the author, I possibly would not have known about Franco Pratesi's works on the history of go in Europe. They may not be conventionally entertaining but they are surely important. I wonder, too, whether our own Robert Jasiek is getting his fair share of coverage.

David Carlton once ran a site devoted to book reviews. Is this not the sort of thing Kirby might take over on behalf of the AGA (if he's still looking for a voluntary project)? Failing that, I think, like Kirk, that L19 is currently the best place for reviews and SL should be avoided for the reasons above, though with some reform SL could be a more logical place.

Although this thread probably started with the point of view of potential readers in mind, I think it would be useful to stress that readers are just part of a chain that includes authors, translators and publishers. If you truly do want to grasp the scale of the problem, I will reveal this. I recently received my annual royalty statement for Golden Opportunities. I've filed it away, but from memory it said I sold 15 copies in 2010 and got $18. I'm not certain, but I don't think that book has ever sold more than about 40 a year. Some books obviously do better, but I am often asked to advise people who hope to translate, write or publish a western go book, and I feel obliged to warn them that even a good book can struggle to sell 200 a year (and that figure is based on experience before internet piracy came along). I always add that no-one should venture into the field if he is looking to make money.

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Post #14 Posted: Mon Feb 14, 2011 10:36 am 
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John Fairbairn wrote:
I don't know the vending situation well elsewhere, but I imagine it's safe to say that it's limited to a handful of tournaments and the handful of players who are close enough and well off enough to attend.


In Vienna we're pretty lucky in this respect as we have a wide selection of books and magazines as well as boards, stones etc. for sale directly in the Go7 club. (Of course, we also sell them at tournaments.)

I've also started to add reviews to the Go7 web site, in German: http://go7.at/buecher.html

For the review of "New Moves", I've added a situation diagram for each chapter to make it easy for potential buyers to see what's actually covered in the book.

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Post #15 Posted: Mon Feb 14, 2011 11:29 am 
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If anyone's interested, there is a nice go book review website here:

http://gobooks.nemir.org/browse.html

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Post #16 Posted: Mon Feb 14, 2011 11:35 am 
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If anyone's interested, there is a nice go book review website here:


I didn't know this one, and I see it is an implementation of my suggestions to use David Carlton's work.

But it says last updated September 2008.

Kirby, where are you?

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Post #17 Posted: Mon Feb 14, 2011 12:42 pm 
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John Fairbairn wrote:
(I don't say don't point out errors - but a more fruitful way is just to pass them to the author or publisher).

That's true, but it's also very useful for people who already own the book and thus want to pencil in any corrections. Of course it would be nice if publishers would send errata updates and/or new versions to book buyers but… ;-)

I've noticed that even vendors of electronic publications often don't send or make available corrected versions. This is unfortunate IMO.

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Post #18 Posted: Mon Feb 14, 2011 1:07 pm 
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daal wrote:
If anyone's interested, there is a nice go book review website here:

http://gobooks.nemir.org/browse.html

For me, as a book seller, this is perfect.
Having the publisher's code for the book in the URL makes it possible to link to it "automatically" from each book in my store, same for e.g Slate & Shell's webpage while SL, lifein19x19, and Kiseido are much more difficult to handle.

Now, I said for me as a seller, but I believe that it is also good for the buyers.
When they browse my (or someone else's) shop and want to find out more about a book, it's very nice to have a link to reviews etc as opposed to a link to eg lifein19x19 and a suggestion to search for info there.

/Mats

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Post #19 Posted: Mon Feb 14, 2011 1:12 pm 
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imabuddha wrote:
John Fairbairn wrote:
(I don't say don't point out errors - but a more fruitful way is just to pass them to the author or publisher).

That's true, but it's also very useful for people who already own the book and thus want to pencil in any corrections. Of course it would be nice if publishers would send errata updates and/or new versions to book buyers but… ;-)

I've noticed that even vendors of electronic publications often don't send or make available corrected versions. This is unfortunate IMO.


I suspect (but could be wrong) that the errata pages on Sensei's started with the intent that users post errata of go problems, which is useful--when I get a problem book, I scan the errata, so I don't spend 5 minutes on an unsolvable problem.

Regardless, the copy editing serves little purpose other than to obscure actually useful corrections.

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Post #20 Posted: Mon Feb 14, 2011 1:37 pm 
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judicata wrote:
I suspect (but could be wrong) that the errata pages on Sensei's started with the intent that users post errata of go problems, which is useful--when I get a problem book, I scan the errata, so I don't spend 5 minutes on an unsolvable problem.

Regardless, the copy editing serves little purpose other than to obscure actually useful corrections.

I agree; the focus should be on errors of substance, not on missing punctuation.

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