By Lauren Sleeper I will be the first to admit, I love the smell of books. Books, bookstores, libraries - anywhere there is ink on paper draws me in. I always said I would never buy an eReader - but I was going on a cruise, and I didn't want to add 20 pounds of books to my luggage. I caved in and bought one. What can I say - Kindle, I love you. My dramatic shift over to eReading got me thinking. Just how much has technology and social media changed the way we read and share books?
Sharing and Recommending
For starters, technology has clearly changed how people recommend and first hear about great new authors and titles. Over the years, I have had a few friends I would normally ask for recommendations, but now I have roughly 3,000 people to poll between my Facebook friends and Twitter followers. In fact, a few weeks ago I asked my Twitter followers what books they recommend:
Book lovers know that the next best thing to reading a great book, is sharing it with others. My tweet received a handful of RT's, over a dozen replies from people I would have never sought out to ask, and I ended up with a great crowd-sourced reading list.
The new Facebook Questions feature also allows you to poll your friends with specific questions. Of my reading list, I am able to ask my friends what they think I should read next:
Web and mobile applications also make sharing complete reading lists -- including your own notes, links to purchase the books, and your ratings -- as easy as sending an email. I currently keep track of all the books I've read and want to read on Springpad. I quickly add books via their web app, or I use their mobile app to save the books I come across when I'm out and about. I can then share my entire reading list with friends through one link. Springpad allows my list to be a "living thing," and as I add new books and ratings, the people I have shared it with will be able to follow along.
There are multiple networks and applications that have been created that are solely dedicated to reading. With many similar features, you can visit these sites to connect with other book lovers, write reviews, read recommendations, and really immerse yourself in a larger book community. Top reading networks include: GoodReads, Shelfari, and LibraryThing. There are also a multitude of Facebook applications including weRead, I'm Reading and Visual Bookshelf that all bring readers together. If you prefer "live" interaction, technology still can help you out. Meetup allows you to quickly and easily find active readers in your area that you likely would never have met otherwise. A quick search on Meetup found 107 book clubs around the Boston area -- all with one click.
While the act of reading still remains solitary, of course, the entire experience is becoming much more social. With all of these networks readily available, you can interact with people who love the same books as you in an instant - whether they're the next city over, or across the world.
Books vs. eBooks
Electronic readers make purchasing a book almost instantaneous. In February 2011, ebooks became the single largest selling category in American publishing. eBook sales have increased over 200% since last year alone - whereas hardcover sales have dropped 34%. Does this mean the days of bookstores and paperbacks will come to an end? Probably not. As the infographic below shows, only 15% of eReader owners say they will cease to purchase printed books. In fact, I think it would be a safe assumption that eReaders and eBooks have led to a revival of reading -- more and more people are buying eReaders, and eBooks are the easiest type of publication to purchase!
Nerds can rejoice; reading has become cool.
What are the biggest effects of social media/technology on the book industry? How have your reading habits changed? Share your thoughts in the comments below!