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Jan Stürmann for The New York Times:  John Battelle, who is writing a  
book about Google, likes the immediate feedback that his Web blog  
offers.

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When he has writer's block, John Battelle, author of the forthcoming  
book "The Search: The Inside Story of How Google and Its Rivals  
Changed Everything," keeps on writing. But not his book manuscript.  
Instead, he goes straight to his blog (http://battellemedia.com).

Mr. Battelle, a founder of Wired and The Industry Standard magazines,  
sometimes makes quick notes on the blog about a topic related to his  
book, and other times posts longer essays. "Writing for the blog is  
more like having a conversation," Mr. Battelle said.

For years, book authors have used the Internet to publicize their  
work and to keep in touch with readers. Several, like Mr. Battelle,  
are now experimenting with maintaining blogs while still in the act  
of writing their books.

"It is very satisfying to write something and get an immediate  
response to it," said Mr. Battelle, who calculated that last year he  
wrote 74,000 words for his book, and 125,000 words on his blog. "It  
is less satisfying to write a chapter and let it sit on the shelf for  
six months."

Instead of simply being a relief from writerly solitude, these blogs  
have turned into part of the process. Mr. Battelle said that he was  
surprised by the number of people who read his journal and offered  
feedback, correcting mistakes, making suggestions of people to  
interview or articles to read and contributing ideas that are finding  
their way into his finished manuscript.

  "It has provided such a wealth of sources," he said. "The readers  
pointed me to things I might not have paid much attention to."

Authors' blogs also change the solitary mission of writing into  
something more closely resembling open-source software. Mistakes are  
corrected before they are eternalized in printed pages, and readers  
can take satisfaction that they contributed to a book's creation. The  
blogs can also confer some authority: Aside from drawing on the  
collective intelligence of its readers, Mr. Battelle's site has  
become a compendium of Google- and search-related issues.

Authors who have experimented with blogging in this way - and there  
are still only a handful - say they hope to create a sense of  
community around their work and to keep fans informed when a new book  
is percolating. The novelist Aaron Hamburger used his blog to write  
about research techniques he employed to set his coming book in  
Berlin (http://www.aaronhamburger.com). Poppy Z. Brite, another  
novelist, has written about her characters on her blog as though they  
have a life of their own, not just the one springing from her  
imagination (http://www.livejournal.com/users/docbrite).

Despite the encouragement some authors receive from their online  
readers, the steady stream of feedback can be paralyzing. For some,  
the open process invites criticism and self-doubt when there is  
research to be done.

David Weinberger, the author of "Small Pieces Loosely Joined," a  
nonfiction book about the Internet, posted his daily progress online  
while writing that book. But as he frequently rewrote each section,  
Mr. Weinberger found it was not the best way to capture readers'  
advice. For his new book - "Everything Is Miscellaneous," about how  
information is organized in daily life - he is posting chapters only  
when they are complete, rather than in fragments (http:// 
www.hyperorg.com). "And then I will beg for comments," he said.

Chris Anderson, who is writing "The Long Tail," a nonfiction book to  
be published next year by Hyperion, freely posts his ideas on his  
blog to solicit responses (http://longtail.typepad.com). His book  
grew out of an influential article he wrote - by the same title -  
last year for Wired magazine, where he is editor in chief.

"The Long Tail" examines the shift from mass markets to niche  
markets. Taking a cue from Mr. Battelle, Mr. Anderson has made his  
blog a source for anything related to the topic, whether written by  
him or someone else. The blog charts new applications for Mr.  
Anderson's theory since the publication of his article, and helps him  
collect ideas for the book.

  "The conversation is happening whether you like it or not," he  
said. "To hope that it will pause for 18 months is unrealistic."

By introducing new ideas through his blog and inviting responses, Mr.  
Anderson is operating on the notion that if you give something away,  
you will get more in return. "I very much want people to take the  
ideas and improve on them," he said.

The question for these authors is this: By feeding and engaging their  
readers' curiosity, are they destroying the market for the books that  
they, after all, are paid to write?

"Blogs are a way to listen in and find out what people find funny and  
respond to," said Marion Maneker, editorial director at  
HarperCollins's HarperBusiness unit, who said it was too early to  
determine whether blogs would affect sales.

Michael Cader, who is the editor of two industry publications,  
Publishers Marketplace and Publishers Lunch, said he believed that,  
based on the limited examples, authors could build a much bigger  
audience for their work through blogging. While there is no evidence  
yet that blogs affect books sales, Mr. Cader said, anything an author  
could do to create a readership was beneficial.

Since the publication of their book "Freakonomics," an economic lens  
onto human behavior, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner have  
fielded questions about the book with their blog (http:// 
www.freakonomics.com/blog.php), debated topics with readers (anything  
baseball-related strikes a nerve), and contemplated readers'  
suggestions (one reader suggested that fluoride in the water may be  
the root of all evil).

While saying that he was impressed by the depth and complexity of  
readers' responses, Mr. Levitt added that it was unlikely he would  
float his book ideas for mass consideration on the blog.

"The concern we have is about having our stuff sound fresh," he said.  
In addition to the conversation it engenders, the blog is mostly a  
receptacle for the ideas not spun into magazine articles.

Steven Johnson has used his blog (http://www.stevenberlinjohnson.com)  
to keep readers informed of his appearances and readings of  
"Everything Bad Is Good for You," his thesis on how pop culture  
strengthens, not erodes, intellect nonfiction. He has also rebutted  
his critics, chronicled his book tour, and responded to reader  
feedback. Mr. Johnson decided not to blog about the book while  
writing it, however,

Mr. Johnson said that many people who seek out the blog have read his  
earlier books and are interested in reading about, or commenting on,  
how his work has evolved. The readers get a behind-the-scenes look at  
the author's thoughts on the book's reception and other topics.

"There is only so much you can get out of a book signing," he said.  
"I feel like people don't really go to promotional book sites. They  
want the live feeling of the author who's out there fending off the  
critics and confessing his sins."