Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Plugging into online book clubs

6/20/2017

Reading a good book? People are talking about it over at Goodreads.

While the book chatter can be lively at Barnes & Noble's website and a few others, none of them can match the action at Goodreads. It's a book-lover's playground that boasts 25 million members, 29 million reviews and 20,000 book clubs.

With more of us reading books on Kindles, Nooks and computer tablets, we're making fewer visits to bookstores and libraries. But that's no reason to stop sharing opinions about the our favorite books and our latest reads. In fact, the Internet makes it easier to join a book club, meet other book lovers and even borrow books from people we don't know.

Online book clubs are blooming with dozens of discussions groups, reader guides, author information and connections to brands and celebrity sponsors.

The best-known book club is the one talk show host Oprah Winfrey launched in 1996 when the Internet was still in its infancy. Oprah selected a book each month for viewers to read and discuss and often followed with an interview with the author.

Today, the club has evolved into a section on Oprah's website where readers can read author profiles and interviews and download special ebook versions of here selections from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks and other sources. The Oprah ebooks are special editions that have Oprah's notes and comments in highlighted text.

Other clubs are hosted by The Wall Street Journal and NBC's Today Show. In the Journal's club, authors select a book by another author, then host a live discussion on Twitter and Facebook. One of the first events featured Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, talking about Hilary Mantel's historical novel Wolf Hall.

The Today Show's club puts authors online for a live chat in a Google Hangout. One of Today's first guests was Nancy Horan, who discussed her second novel, Under The Wide and Starry Sky.

Authors also make frequent appearances at the Barnes & Noble Book Club where the forums are divided among different genres such as Mystery, Romance and Fantasy. The most active areas include Teen Reads and the Harry Potter section, each with more than 50,000 posts.

While the book chatter can be lively at B&N and a few other sites, none of them can match the action at Goodreads, a book-lover's playground that boasts 25 million members, 29 million reviews and 20,000 book clubs. If you can't find one that fits your interests, you can start a new one. Someone out there shares your love of memoirs by punk rock stars from the 70s.

Goodreads connects to Facebook, so you can see what your friends are reading. It also lets you build lists of books you have read or want to read and a feature that will analyze your reading habits and offer books that you might like.

Can't afford to buy all the books on your list? Some ebook sellers, including Amazon, have a loaner program that lets you borrow or loan ebooks for a couple of weeks if their contract with the author allows it. You can pass a book around to members of a discussion group or use the website Lendl.me to connect with strangers who make their ebook library available for loans. The service only works with Kindle books and it tries to balance borrowers and lenders. The more books you make available to lend, the more you are allowed to borrow.


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Follow me on Twitter @ricmanning and read my technology columns at My Well Being.

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