Reading a Social Experience
Written By: Timothy Fish Published: 11/29/2007
Suppose you had a device that would allow you to interact with other readers and even the author of a book, while you are reading. Suppose you could highlight a paragraph and make a comment. Suppose you could read the comments of readers who have come before you to a chapter or paragraph. Suppose that when you reach the end of the book you would rate the book and leave a comment for potential customers. Would that be a geeky thing or is that just a natural progression of our Web 2.0 society?
In the comments to a recent post by Michael Hyatt, Christopher Coulter commented that he believes that if a social aspect was added to an electronic book reader it would only be used by a very limited geeky market. He believes that reading a book is a very solitary experience. While it is it true that most people read books in the privacy of their own home, I do not believe that it is as much of a solitary experience as Mr. Coulter seems to think.
One time, when I dropped my truck off at a dealership for maintenance work, I was riding in the shuttle van on my way to work when one of the other passengers ask a man in the back seat about the book he was reading. It was a book from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. The man began to tell the woman about the other books that he had read in the series. It was not that long ago that I wrote about the South Park Book Club. Many churches have libraries and the members of the church donate books to that library. Along with that, people talk about the books they have read, about other books that will be in a series and many other things related to books. All one needs to do is visit Amazon.com to see how much discussion books and topics related to books generate. Reading is a very social experience.
In many ways, I think that the nature reading is what makes it such a social experience. Other things, such as movies, are more of a shared experience. A group of people goes see a movie. Because they shared the experience, there is no reason to tell each other about what they saw. They all saw the same thing. One of these people might go home and tell a family member about the movie, but he will not talk so much about it with the people who watched it with him. With a novel, there is no shared experience. Occasionally, a book might be read aloud, so people will have a shared experience then, but most of the time we find a nice quiet place to read. We disappear into the world of the novel and when we come out, we realize that no one knows about our amazing experience other than us. We want to tell other people about what we have experienced. Or it could be that we are watching someone else read and occasionally we hear this person laugh, or we see tears come to her eyes or she has a look of concern on her face. We want to know, what is it that has caused this great emotion? Perhaps it would be better not to disturb this person, but we want to know. We ask this person about the book.
Some of the social aspects of books may not translate well into an Internet based social interaction, but people want to talk about books. A big part of Perhaps it would be better not to disturb this person, but we want to know. We ask this person about the book.
Some of the social aspects of books may not translate well into an Internet based social interaction, but people want to talk about books. A big part of why we read is because we want to be able to talk to people about what we have read. Perhaps I should say that a big part of why many of us read is because we want to be able to talk to people about what we have read. We extroverts may be more interested in sharing our reading experience while introverts may be less interested. Still, being an extrovert does not make a person a geek. Likewise, being a geek doesn’t make a person an extrovert. I believe that the social aspect will be essential in the success of electronic books.
Do you agree? Do you disagree? I would love to hear from you. Use the link below to leave a comment.