I was browsing through my RSS feed yesterday and came across this post by In the Library with the Lead Pipe: Building a Community of Readers: Social Reading and an Aggregated eBook Reading App for Libraries. The article briefly discusses various social reading platforms and advocates for creating a new aggregated reading app in order to support social reading of library e-books. The imaginary app, called Book Bench, would aggregate e-book vendors and integrate library e-book services with Goodreads and other platforms for a seamless social reading experience. It sounds amazing and I wish it existed! But the article got me thinking about social reading in general.
I’ve always loved book discussion groups and casually talking about what I’m reading with friends. It’s always fun to recommend books to patrons and then share our thoughts later. Connecting through reading builds community and helps us develop empathy and understand different worldviews. My library has several book clubs and discussion groups for children, teens, and adults that meet regularly. The one at my branch, Page Turners, typically has between 11-14 members that come every time, which is pretty robust—but imagine how much bigger, broader, and more inclusive book groups could be online and through apps!
Although I had signed up for Goodreads some time ago, I hadn’t been very active, so I took this opportunity to explore the world of social reading. It’s very easy to connect with friends via email and Goodreads is also integrated with Facebook and Twitter. You can search for books, add them to self-labeled shelves, and rate and review them. Your ratings and reviews will show up on your Facebook wall and also in friends’ emails if they choose to receive digests.
The social reading aspect of Goodreads is really interesting. People can read and comment on your book reviews and you can do the same. You can follow popular reviewers and authors, and interact with them on their pages. You can post status updates about what you’re reading and initiate or participate in discussions about particular books. There are thousands of groups on topics as wide ranging as vampires, Proust, fan fiction shipping, and historical fiction. I joined the Killjoy Feminist Bookclub, Queereaders, and the Folklore & Fairytales group. Already, I’ve found myself hooked into the various discussions. There are discussions about “must-read” books, specific books an entire group reads together, favorite authors, and so on.
I searched for my own library in vain, but did find that there are a few public libraries on Goodreads as groups. The Huntsville-Madison County Public Library has 215 members and discussions include staff picks, member picks, community reads, and new on the shelves. It looks like most patron interaction is through book ratings, but some topics get a lot of comments, and there are certainly a good amount of views. The DC Public Library has 220 members and has readers advisory discussion threads, monthly book discussions, and general question threads. This group seems to have more interaction, and I was interested to see reference questions being asked and answered. I think Goodreads is a great platform for social reading and could integrate really well with public library websites and Facebook pages. I know that our patrons enjoy talking about what they’re reading and getting recommendations- connecting through Goodreads and other social reading platforms would be a great way to broaden that interaction.