Update on Social Reading

Many months ago, I promised to return to the topic of social reading. So today, I’ve looked around the Internet for ideas on what’s new or new takes on the subject.

Michael Harris gives us The Rise of Social Reading: Goodbye to Virginia Woolf’s Solitary, Egoless Reader. A few bits stood out for me.

Apparently, Woolf wrote to a friend suggesting that “the state of reading consists in the complete elimination of the ego.” And York University’s Raymond Mar has studied the effect of reading using MRI scans, concluding that “When we read, we rehearse the lives of others. We are, in other words, exercising our empathy.” Contrast that to much of today’s reading on mobile devices with their “steady streams of interruption” such that “reading on a digital device shifts someone’s focus toward concrete details and away from abstract inferences and higher-level interpretations.”

Suggesting that social reading is going mainstream in the teaching community, TLC – part of the City University of New York – offered a course on the subject titled Social Reading and Writing with Online Annotation Tools. The course looks at social annotation tools enabling students and instructors to “to move away from reading and writing as one-dimensional, solitary activities by instead sharing observations, questions, and (multimedia) contextual information in the margins of an online text.” What will that mean for the next generation of readers?

Mark Watkins, a tech entrepreneur, has created a new app called Bookship. According to Justine Hofherr, a writer for BuiltInBoston, the “social reading app is like a virtual book club where people can invite their friends, family and coworkers via email to start reading together … share thoughts, quotes, photos and links related to whichever title they’ve selected over Bookship’s chat platform.”

If you want to dig a little deeper into the concept of social reading, Karen of Booker Talk explores the concept in more detail in her article Is Social Reading the Future? She concentrates of what academics mean when they use the phrase social reading – “deeply immersive group–based collaborative process that happens on-line” – and explains that this involves “a synchronous reading where people are reading and commenting on the same text simultaneously.”

Of course, other tools are emerging. For example, Annotation Studio is “a suite of collaborative web-based annotation tools currently under development at MIT.” Lacuna is “an open-source, online learning tool based on Drupal [whatever that might be!] and designed to create new possibilities for reading and learning collaboratively.”

And how about this … a book on the topic! Social Reading: Platforms, Applications, Clouds and Tags by four professors at the University of Salamanca.

By now means an exhaustive look but hopefully a few tidbits for those who are interested. One big question looms – what will this mean for authors?

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M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

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5 Responses

  1. Thanks for the mention. I have to admit that I until I took the MOOC course I had no real idea what the term social reading meant. I’m still thinking that its more likely to grow in academic circles first

    1. I think you’re right, BookerTalk! Although I believe the definition of social reading is quite broad. One of the surveys I did shows how frequently readers use social media to enhance their reading. Best, Mary

  2. Thank you so much for mentioning Bookship, somehow I missed this when you wrote it! And thank you for the pointer to Karen’s post on BookTalker, very interesting!

    We were very fortunate we were just shortlisted for The Bookseller’s BookTech company of the year, so hopefully Social Reading is starting to gain more attention outside just formal book clubs, with apps like WattPad and similar approaches!

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