Social Media for BookWorms

I think one of the most interesting areas where social media comes into play is with publishing and reading. We have discussed in particular the transformation of how we consume news, discuss news, and discover news in regards to RSS feeds and tweets linking to digital newspapers and magazines, but I want to touch upon a less discussed segment in our class– books– in regards to social media as well. Of course, the Internet and massive e-tailers have transformed publication and authorship, leading to lower costs of transmission and massive potential reach. But how does social media shape book consumption and open up the traditional “book club?”

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Profile & Personal Lists

My 11th grade English teacher introduced me to GoodReads in 2010 and I actually took him up on it and joined. Like many online communities, it allows for sharing, rating, and discussion around a passion. In summary, GoodReads is a social networking site centered around books, allowing users to easily set up a profile and create reading lists, categorized into “read,” “reading,” and “to-read.”

As a beginning user, I absolutely loved this because I could actually track and archive virtually all the books I had read thus far, giving me something to reference and look back-on. Its interesting that this was so appealing to me, but it almost gamefies the experience. I haven’t really used the “reading” list to the same extent but the “to-read” list mirrors an Amazon Wish List. However, it is easier to access and much more useful as you can easily check it off into “reading” or “read.” All my “one-day I will read this” books easily go on there and when I’m looking for another book, browsing it is simple and not clogged with other products like on Amazon. It’s important to note, however, that GoodReads is an Amazon-owned site. And a great source of business. In March of 2013, when Amazon acquired the site for $190M, GoodReads had 20 million members (all interested in buying books…). Now you can also sync GoodReads and Amazon, importing your Amazon book purchases and choosing what to rate. (Note: not everyone was thrilled with this acquisition since the community was full of passionate readers, some of whom were not to keen on the monetization aspect and the slight departure from a laisez-faire approach to moderating user-generated content i.e. comments and reviews)

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Community & Community Lists

I’m not much of an updater but active users may post progress or comments while reading and, after completion, write reviews that will be public on the book’s Goodreads page. Though Amazon books have many reviews, the advantage of these pages is that, by self-selection, you know that (on the whole) Goodreads commenters are big readers and the quality of the review / standard is generally higher and interesting. This is like almost all online communities, where there is a forum for discussion.

These threads not only take place on book’s pages, but on topic or question threads as well. It is a great way to find other reader’s with similar tastes, enjoy a literary debate (as participant or observer), and get referenced to new material.

My favorite community feature is the ability to create lists of books (listopia). This can be all-time best, centered around a theme or genre, style specific — whatever the list creator desires. At one point I was very occupied with reading the classics in my free time and found “lesser-known” classics in these lists. Then these books can be easily shelved onto the “to-read” shelf. It basically serves as a book organizing, recommending, and discovering tool. Members can also join groups and get updates on those groups, essentially creating digital book-clubs that converse and engage with each other.

Implications

In the spirit of digital business, I’ll also touch upon the data implications. The trove of data is immensely valuable to Amazon because the members explicitly define their behavior and intent! This allows for fine-grain targeting and even better recommendations.

Not only that, GoodReads members are typified by being book nerds, tending to read more than average and also talk about books with their friends. Amazon gains a network of book (brand) ambassadors.

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Authors on GoodReads

The platform isn’t only great for bookworms, it’s great for authors as well. The huge member base is composed of a particular demographic of book lovers off the bat, and easily segmented according to tastes, volume, and sophistication. The author page and blog allows authors to market themselves and baked-in email allows conversation with fans. Not to mention opportunities for fan-engagement such as giveaways. Books are linked to their Amazon sites as well, facilitating easy purchase.

Some other awesome features including members being able to enter those giveaways easily, discover book quotes, play book trivia, friend people, and follow authors. Being able to shelve or follow is nice also because it avoids the frustration of forgetting a good book title or author’s name.

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On the whole, GoodReads is by far the most successful platform and largest online community for book lovers and continues to offer new ways for members to interact with books, authors, and each other. The success of the platform showcases how the internet allows the people to find like-minded others, open the world to new options, and collaborate across great distances just as books increasingly make their own transition from paper and ink to digital.

 

8 comments

  1. Great post Alexandra! I like how you related your post to class. I liked how you switched up the topic and didn’t talk about social media as we know it. Personally i have never heard about Bookreads but it sounds like a very interesting site. I like how you wrote about all of the different sections of the site from the authors to being apart of the community. I thought this post well very well done and had a lot of detail in it. Great Post Alexandra!

  2. You have inspired me to explore Good Reads this coming winter break! I received a Kindle for my birthday a few months ago and unfortunately have not had much time to explore this platform. I love how you have highlighted its various attributes and how users can define their behavior and intent, which allows for “fine grain targeting and recommendations.” Your mention of “community” reminded me of a conversation I had earlier this year with a brand manager from Barnes and Noble Nook. She mentioned Nook launched a “What is your Nook Style?” sweepstake and encouraged users to do social posts with the hashtag #NOOKReadingStyle. This campaign inspired avid readers to share their reading style on social media channels. This was very successful in creating engagement and fostering a community among Nook readers. While I am not one to participate in these types of activities, I think it shows how the industry as a whole is trying to foster a “book club community” in the digital world. As @strizak mentioned, your blog explores another side of social media, and it was a pleasure to read and learn more!

  3. Awesome unique post on a topic that does not get much attention in class. Social media can truly affect and disrupt any industry! I think you hit on every aspect and affect of this website so thank you for the very comprehensive post. I remember talking in class about people being paid to comment and review and I hope the fact that Amazon now owns goodreads is not changing the honesty of the reviews. However, I am still skeptical as I feel this is more of a widespread phenomenon than we realize. Lastly, I am wondering how much impact these reviews have on authors. Prior to this time in history, authors only had access to the feedback of close friends, while today, authors can see how people around the world view their writing.

  4. Alex,
    I have used GoodReads in the past, mainly to just get a quick description and general reviews of a book I might be thinking about reading. Your post was very informative and I learned about many features which I wasn’t aware of…I’m tempted to go on right now and make an account to fully explore. You bring up good points about the rating system that make me wonder what sort of cycle might be associated with the popularity of some books. For example, higher rated books or frequently reviewed books would gain higher popularity rankings and get more people to read them..Does this build up a sort of “hype” for certain books over others? I wonder what the rankings show between “classics” relative to more modern literature, or breaking down by genre.
    Great post, and I’m definitely much more interested in using the site!

  5. I’ve loved tracing how reading books, one of arguably the most analog experiences in our lives has dealt with digital change. I’m no goodReads user, but I’m a big reader and over the past decade of reading novels in their entirety on iPads, nooks, kindles and paper, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how the experience for me has remained reatively constant. As you’ve mentioned, social is definitely another great place for readers to share experiences and gather when they can’t always do so physically. I can only assume that traditional book clubs are on the decline, but finding networks of people with similar reading interests online through the sites you mention or paces like Reddit can be incredibly valuable.

  6. Alexandra — this was a fantastic roundup of the state of the online literary bubble. Having worked in marketing in the publishing world previously, you definitely hit the nail on the head with your emphasis on the important for authors. I have not personally used Goodreads, but I can see how the gamification of reading can help folks finish books and not just place them on the shelf halfway and move on to the next (my bad habit). Thank you for sharing your insights into the community aspect of Goodreads — it sounds right up my alley. As Ryan mentioned above, I’ve found other decent reading community on sites such as Reddit in the past. The list feature on Goodreads sounds very interesting though, so I will have to check out the site again! Thanks for posting.

    A personal suggestion from me that you didn’t mention is Audible.com (owned by Amazon). If you do a lot of driving, I find that audiobooks read by the author offer a great distraction from the stress of the Mass Pike (one free a month w/ membership!).

  7. As an avid reader myself, I find that the coolest aspect of social media is that I can discuss books with others virtually and much more easily find groups of people that enjoyed a piece as much as I did. In high school, when I read Fahrenheit 451 (for school), I absolutely loved the in-class discussions we had about the book and I wanted to continue these discussions outside of class. But none of my classmates or friends felt the same way; the book club in my high school was never following books that I personally found interesting, and so I never joined. But through Amazon and even Apple’s reading services, I have entire communities that constantly give input on books, creating these virtual book clubs that are fascinating and I get to keep my interest in books active far longer than just after I close the back cover.

  8. Listopia is my go-to! I have a couple good friends that are big readers and I mostly look at what their ratings.. but if i can’t find anything there, I always look at the lists, it makes looking for a book so much easier.

    I also like to look back on books Ive read when someone is asking for a recommendation. I never write reviews..but I do read them. I’m also going to check out audible now that I have a long commute to work. I wonder since both audible and goodreads are in partnerships with (or owned by?) Amazon, they might combine or develop an app specifically for booklovers to share and discuss.

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