Red Room–What Is This Thing, Again?

I wrote a few weeks back about the launch of Red Room, a San Francisco-based Web site that intends to be a destination for readers who want to know more about their favorite authors. At the time I voiced some skepticism about the usefulness of the site–why do I need a portal to find an author when I have Google?–but with a new story about the site in the San Jose Mercury News (via), I gave it another look.

The story attempts to make some noise about Barack Obama being a new member on the site, but what’s on his page? His “blog” has one entry, and it’s the transcript of a month-old speech. There’s nothing else there–videos, book links, reviews–that I couldn’t find just as easily elsewhere. Ishmael Reed, the story tells me, with some excitement, has a page at Red Room. His blog? It’s got one entry, three months old, and it’s a quote he gave to a newspaper. The Salman Rushdie page getting the big push on the homepage hasn’t been updated since December. Which author pages have been recently added on the site? At a glance, I can’t tell.

This is silly, and more silliness is encapsulated in this sentence in the story:

Readers can also join but they do not get pages.”

If this is some new frontier in social networking for book types, it’s flailing. There’s no reason why any self-respecting writer who wants to connect with readers can’t start their own blog or Web site, and while I understand that Red Room has an interest in making it clear who the writers are and who the readers are, I can’t even make pals with other readers. Does T.C. Boyle have fans? You bet he does. Can I connect with them through Boyle’s Red Room page? No, I cannot.

6 thoughts on “Red Room–What Is This Thing, Again?

  1. Sheer bunk!
    Why waste time when you have newspapers and best of all google?
    Google is amazing in what you can find out about writers.
    Often they contain their home page and the latest reviews of all their books.

  2. It’s not bunk at all. You can get an interview
    on in ways you can’t elsewhere.
    I was featured and it felt good.

  3. Thanks for weighing in, Mr. Curzon. What I’m still stuck on, though, is what Red Room is offering that a personal homepage can’t. For instance, if I want to contact you via e-mail through Red Room, I’m forced to register for the site; if I go to your homepage, your e-mail link is right there. So: What is Red Room providing you that your homepage isn’t?

  4. You might come upon a writer on Redroom
    by accident while looking for somebody else.
    You have to be deliberately looking for a
    writer to get that wqebsite, usually.
    (Redroom is not perfect, still developing,
    and probably most writers are looking mostly
    at their own stuff. I would think some kind of Notice Board there would be helpful so that others can pick and choose to read what others have put up from samples or teasers.)

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