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?”
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.