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.