Monday, February 16, 2009

Star Trek books websites dying out?

A few years ago, there were several large websites devoted to Star Trek books, and at least a few active and interesting forums devoted to the subject. But things don't look quite so healthy now.

The book section of John Patuto's Cygnus X-1 Star Trek LCARS Book and Episode Database hasn't been updated since 2006. David Henderson's Psi Phi Star Trek books site has had a couple of sporadic updates in 2008, but the database itself is still long gone.

Meanwhile, my own Trek books website still gets updated, but after a decade or so still doesn't get a lot of hits.

Maybe those sites are fading because people prefer web 2.0 sites... but Memory Beta is a long way from being ready to meet everyone's needs. Even the site's name (Memory Beta Non-Canon Star Trek Wiki) marginalizes itself with the use of the phrase "non-canon." Someone who wants info on books but hasn't bothered hanging out on BBSes or forums through a dozen canon thrashes is just going to wonder what the hell that's supposed to mean.

As for the content, some of it is plagiarized from other sources (the summary of Mack Reynolds's Mission to Horatius looks a lot like a shortened and rewritten version of my site's summary of the book). There are gaps in coverage, too, and some entries are badly written. There may be a lot of enthusiasm but it still has a long way to go.

Web 2.0 sites like wikis do have a certain advantage in that the wiki model allows them to keep going long after whoever gets them started loses interest or moves on to something else. Cygnus X-1, Psi Phi, and the Complete Starfleet Library each depend on a single person staying with it, year after year after year. Let it slide just a few months, and you've got a lot of hours' work to bring it back up to date (speaking from experience, and thinking it's time to do some more updating now).

Meanwhile, the official Pocket Books discussion area has been replaced by a new, harder to use forum -- but given how moribund the old one had been for the last few years, with a very small core group of regulars, it almost doesn't matter. The Psi Phi board, which was the most vibrant and vital Trek discussion area a decade or so ago, is a ghost of its former self.

The healthiest discussion area right now still seems to be TrekBBS. It has a lot of participation from the writers and from passionate fans. Jackie Bundy's Star Trek Books Yahoo group seems to be fairly healthy, if not as busy as the TrekBBS, but personally I'm not a fan of Yahoo Groups in general. Book discussion at the official Star Trek website seems to be an afterthought; there's a "Books & Products" discussion area that has a number of regulars, but the writers seem to participate less often there, and the general tone is more newbie-friendly, but not terribly informative.

Here's hoping the new movie reignites people's interest in all the Trek stuff out there, and not just in the new movie alone.


At 5:07 PM, Blogger darfyn said...

Memory Beta looks quite good but is not well known . Web 2.00 is interactive media which I'm not interested in , too much info overflow . BBS looks good but I prefer reviews or search only .

I'm in Yahoo Groups , but they have done away with sub-categories and now when you search , it's a swim through 100's of entries .

The new Movie looks exciting but will re-interpret star trek . The problem is many fans have already deserted to other scifi series .


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