GalleyCat has announced the launch of Penguin's new venture: a writing community online geared towards genre writers and readers. The new site is called Book Country (horrible name - I hope it's just a tester) and can be found here.
I gave it a whirl, and it seems like a great idea. But the execution leaves something to be desired.
The site is still in beta-testing (that means it's not actually 100% done and Penguin probably won't be throwing a launch party for another month or so), so there are problems. But the big thing here is that the site is just plain ugly to look at.
When I go to a book website, I want to see book covers. Hopefully these will be added to the site before the official launch. Right now, the only good images come from the blogger pictures. The bloggers Penguin has enlisted are pretty good, I'll say - I recognize about half of them as publishing professionals.
The site features not only reviews but will also apparently have a place for writers to publish their own work for review, searchable by genre. While I like this idea, it worries me - what kind of protections are Penguin going to offer so that somebody isn't going to rip their users off? Copy and paste is quite easy to do, people.
Also, the site will be featuring contests for their writers, which I think is a great idea. It also appears to have a section on helping writers succeed by teaching them about the publishing world - I like the idea, but I'm worried that a Big Six publisher simply doesn't have the on-the-ground conversational ability that wannabe writers need. It's like having a celebrity actor whose been acting since they were a kid talk to a bunch of college age theatre kids about breaking into the business. It just doesn't compute.
But, hey, it's another online place to bitch about books. If they just made it prettier, it might work.