Dispatches from the Digital Revolution
By JEN BRAY
So it seems that the future of ebooks is social reading, but how will this affect the solitary act of reading itself? Will educators, publishers, and readers think social reading is beneficial and helpful? Or distracting and harmful? Can reading really be a social act?
I thought it would be beneficial to look at potential advantages and disadvantages to reading socially now that networked ebooks may be the next big thing.
I think one of the biggest advantages is that social reading platforms can assist people in discovering titles. As more and more books get published, lesser known authors or titles are becoming harder to find. Discoverability has been a growing challenge to publishers. However, these social platforms could be one way of helping consumers who don’t know exactly what they are looking for find titles that interest them.
Social reading platforms have the potential to fill the lack of virtual hand-selling out there. While online at Amazon’s bookstore as opposed to a bricks and mortar store, you miss the opportunity to speak to a bookseller about book recommendations. Social reading platforms can fill this void and enable you to get recommendations from your friends and others with similar interests, right on a website or your e-reading device.
Reading socially could also add a deeper level of understanding to the books you are reading as you are reading. As Goodreads’ website states, “Knowledge is power; and power is best shared among readers.” As a result, social reading platforms could help book clubs make a comeback. With the ability to form groups and discussions on many of the platforms, many virtual book clubs could be formed with friends without the limitations of distance or time.
Some platforms also have ways to connect authors and readers. Amazon has the @author program that is slowly gaining traction, but authors’ willingness to participate will determine if this is successful or not. Subtext also provides a reading community where readers can chat with authors. This component of the networked book could help authors to discuss their books before they are even published, as well as publicizing the book by answering questions and engaging in discussions post-publication.
One could say that a book’s purpose is to allow for the exchange of ideas, so shouldn’t they be open for sharing, linking, highlighting, and note taking? This is especially true in how socially networked books could have benefits for education. Some teachers are already using platforms like Goodreads in the classroom to discuss readings, post reviews, and take quizzes.
The only potential issue I see with social reading is that it’s just too distracting. With new inventions in technology, distractions are already becoming prevalent. Shouldn’t reading be the one thing that doesn’t cause distractions? Won’t people be too worried about linking, sharing, highlighting, taking notes and lose focus on actually reading? The act of reading has always offered moments to reflect, relax, be alone, and concentrate. People who read socially with these platforms may lose these advantages. Is reading socially worth losing these moments to ourselves sans distractions?
Do you think you’ll ever be a social reader? Why or why not?