Some reflective thoughts about social reading…

We read to know we are not alone.  

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I have recently purchased a new Kindle e-reader. You can click on that last link and read the specs but in short it has “Amazon’s 6″ Paperwhite display technology with E Ink Carta™ and built-in light, 300 ppi, optimised font technology, 16-level gray scale“.

It is a vast improvement on my first Kindle, purchased in October 2009, when they became available in Australia. That e-reader had a clumsy joystick, was not backlit, had no sharing functions and certainly was not a touchscreen.

In recent months I been reading ebooks on my iPhone Kindle app (since giving my iPad to Miss 9 for her BYOD classroom). It was really easy to share from that app but I started noticing that I was being distracted by tweets or email and, as you know, it is not good to look at such a screen in the hours before bed. 

This new Kindle is quite customisable and the social reading features work; with a swipe of a finger one can propel a quote into the twitter-sphere or to Facebook friends without such interruptions. What I like best of all is that no longer does the page or percentage read information distract me from the page of text.


flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

Brilliant ideas

Recently Alan Levine wrote about social bookmarking commenting that, “it’s one of those brilliant ideas that still make tons of sense yet never really caught on beyond the people who can get compulsive about tagging.” His reply to my tweet amused:

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Social reading seems to be in a similar state. The idea of clipping a quote and sharing via social media with friends, acquaintances and other readers interested in the topic, book or conversation seems brilliant but has just never really caught on at all in the way I’d imagined four years ago when I wrote a number of articles suggesting it would. I still hope this may be develop.

You may have read some of my other posts about social reading over the last eight years. The first time I wrote publicly about e-readers was in mid-2008 was when I could not find one in Australia worth buying. The following year I purchased and blogged about my new Kindle when they finally did become available. Since then I have written about libraries, ebooks and BYOD, and my troubles with Amazon, happily now resolved. I have also posted reflectively on buying books and wondered if social reading was a fad or the future.

A good percentage of the books I read electronically have authors who are active on Twitter. If I clip a highlight and share it to this service pinging the writer, a conversation, albeit brief, ensues. I like it. The connection is made in a few seconds and is enjoyable. Here is a detailed post explaining this process which is now completed embedded into my personal approach to reading ebooks. For example, the last ‘reading post’ I finished details such an exchange with an author who ended up reading my opinions about a book he loves. Pinging the author has become my habit.

 

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The future?

I have always imagined that students would love sharing (at the very least for their English class or book group). Maybe if another craze, like the Harry Potter thing comes along, it will become faddish to share what one reads more widely with friends and strangers. It just seems like such an obvious way to have students participate and collaborate in discussion, perhaps even engaging the author. There is great potential for this too happen and it is very easy to do (at least via Amazon’s services which, of course, comes with a number of caveats about monopoly and what makes for a healthy industry). I feel that engagement with the author would excite many students.

How can you envisage students engaging with social reading?

There is some evidence, much of it anecdotal or soft data, to suggest students prefer traditional books, especially for reading novels but we are still really at the beginning of the curve with e-readers, certainly compared to the history of bound books. Time will tell.

I would love to know if there has there been any growth in social reading in the last 12 months? I would suspect some growth but have not seen any evidence. Last year it was widely reported that Amazon still developing sharing functions and I would love to see the company’s data.

I am looking forward to see what Librify do in the social reading space and hope that Goodreads, which I find a disappointing service, really focus on developing more innovative strategies that focus on making reading more social. There’s so much potential and one hopes it will not just be a brilliant idea for a very small minority. At least those of us who like reading can share and connect more widely.

 

What are your impressions of the current state of play with social reading?

 

Featured image: flickr photo by Darcy Moore https://flickr.com/photos/darcymoore/24913769733 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

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