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GIFs, memes and liveblogs: The controversial new language of book reviewing

The Internet hasn't really changed the form of the book that much, but the book review is another matter. Yes, you still sometimes hear pundits proclaiming that books need to get with the 21st-century program by including multimedia elements, but publishers now report that their tentative forays into "enhanced e-books" -- texts with additional video, audio or image files -- have not been a hit with readers. Instead, the e-book explosion of the past five years has been about innovations in distribution -- books that can be downloaded in a trice and stored by the dozens in slim, lightweight devices.

Meanwhile, the Internet, as everyone knows, has led to a staggering proliferation of reviewing; people craft elaborate (or cursory) critiques of everything from energy bars to bluetooth speakers, as well as books, art, music, film and television series, which can now be reviewed one episode at a time. Here is where an unanticipated creativity has flourished. If you had told any of us 20 years ago that we'd be amusing ourselves of an afternoon by reading parody reviews of ball-point pens written by total strangers, well, you'd have gotten some strange looks.

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