Founder of African American Literature Book Club Says Google is Jeopardizing Black Book Websites

Troy Johnson started The African American Literature Book Club in 1997 and registered in 1998. It contains reviews of new books, lists of authors, and forums, and according to him it is “the oldest, largest, and most frequently visited website dedicated to books by or about people of African descent.”

Johnson has also maintained a list of other websites dedicated to black American literature for almost as long, and over the years he has noticed a disturbing trend: while the web at large is growing, the number of websites devoted to black American books has actually been shrinking. Before 2011, there were around 67 sites. In 2011, it fell to 55. In 2015, it fell to 42. Now it’s 30., gone., gone., Urban Book Source, Rawsistaz, gone. Originally, Johnson restricted his list to sites with an Alexa ranking, but he dropped that requirement because the list was getting so thin.

The explanation is familiar: Google made changes to its search engine that caused the traffic to these sites to nosedive, Johnson said. One change came in 2011 with its Panda update, which was intended to decrease traffic to spam and low-quality sites.

The other change came some time after 2012 — sources estimated it was “years” ago although no one could pin it down precisely — when Google started plugging answers to queries right into its search engine. Search “African-American books” and you’ll get a carousel — a row of images that you can scroll through horizontally — with names and faces right at the top of the search engine results, without having to click through. Search “N. K. Jemisin” and you’ll see an excerpt from her Wikipedia entry with her bio, website, awards she’s earned, and direct links to her books.

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SOURCE: Adrianne Jeffries 
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