Social Media and Reading

28 Oct

Many will say reading happens in a vacuum. That it’s a singular, solitary exercise. Any effort to make it particularly social will ruin the reading experience, which is an internally transformative experience (when done right) that makes a person want to speak to others after reading.

Well, some readers can’t wait that long. They want to talk about what they’re reading, as they’re reading it, with as many people as possible.  There are myriad ways to do this, including engaging in awkward conversations with strangers on the subway, and way better methods, like Wattpad.

While sites like Goodreads and Shelfari do an adequate job of joining a social community and book information together, they feel like little more than ways to tack up a picture of the book you’re reading and offer opinions (sometimes while reading) and maybe a review when you’re done. Basically, an online version of what you do with books in real life: pick, read, talk about them.

There are great efforts from traditional publishers to create and sustain buzz for books coming out next year, engaging potential readers on Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, etc., etc., but there is still a passivity inherent in this approach. The world is a frantic, overly-connected place that has shifted from passive input (antenna and cable TV, radio, best-seller lists) to deliberate choices (person-picked music on iPods, Netflix, word-of-mouth book picks). Reading as a passive input system must be challenged.

Wattpad does what any online version of literature should do: it enhances the experience. Wattpad allows readers to make a real, tangible difference in how a story turns out through their questions and constructive criticism as an author builds a story out (providing the author would like to change some aspects). And as some readers become writers, they discover which kinds of comments are helpful, and which are harsh or unhelpful firsthand.  Readers can get directly in touch with the author of their favorite stories, and move their stories to the top of the site’s reader lists. Somewhere around 18 million readers/writers are on Wattpad, and I think it’s a bit more popular in the UK than it is in the US…it took me a while to jump onboard the Wattpad train. But now that I spend a good deal more time on the subway, I am really enjoying the loads of free, mobile stories I get with having the app. And of course I’m thinking of writing a story on the site as well.

As an added bonus, Wattpad introduced a fan-funding component to their awesome online community a couple months ago. What a concept! An online community of people who watched a story built from the ground-up coming together to see it finished, polished, and set free for the rest of the world to read. It’s amazing what a site that fully integrates reading, writing and online social components can create.

I’m well and truly excited to see what Wattpad wants to do next. Having already partnered with legendary novelist/poet Margaret Atwood, I figure the sky is the limit.

More info:

How Storytelling Has Made Social Networking Interesting Again: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/oct/27/ebooks-new-reading-wattpad-atwood

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One Response to “Social Media and Reading”

  1. site2cite October 28, 2013 at 7:38 pm #

    Reblogged this on site2cite.

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