Red Room

I'm always looking for new sites on which to book-browse, as my once-favorite bookstores are letting me down these days, with the same-old bestsellers face out on shelves. Barnes and Noble continues its slow creep over the literary landscape, nullifying the small press world, forcing even small, innovative literary retailers to compete in kind.

So I look more and more online for unusual reading fare. I seem to have eclectic tastes that the bestseller lists and concomitant reviewing just doesn't suit. The newest endeavor in bypassing the monolithic publishing juggernaut is Red Room, a startup with big ambitions to be your next online daily book-browsing experience.

It's based in San Francisco, and you can see the Bay Area literary slant from the front page. Many of the featured authors live here. You can sign up to be considered to have your works listed. Despite an inoperable link at the top of their main page called "Become a Red Room Author" (and I emailed them about it), you can apply. First, create an account,then look on the right hand column. You'll see another link called "Become a Red Room Author." This one works. It will take you to a page where you can send information about yourself to be considered by the editors to be listed.

A sophisticated new online literary review journal. And it's about time we had one based on the West Coast! There's a quality of same-old, same-old, though. Pretty predictable choices for features and reviews and interviews. They refer to Amazon for sales. They host author blogs -- but why, when anyone can get a free blog? They have unique video interviews, a nice feature indeed. They offer the opportunity to post your own reader reviews, but that duplicates Amazon's capability. They get their publishing landscape news from sponsor Publishers Weekly. Definitely old-hat in the news department. I'd rather read Poets & Writers online for or in print their Small Press Points section.

All in all, though, an exciting debut. We need a lit-review on this coast of the magnitude and scope this one promises. I just hope they can succeed in their ambitious mission.