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Talking About Books: Online Book Clubs, Forums and Real Life

So, for those of you that know me from the forum, you won’t be surprised to hear that I am a fan (addict) of online book clubs. Just to give you an idea how much of an addict, within the past 9 months, I have participated in 22 book club reads on at least some level. Now, I don’t expect anyone else to be quite that neurotic (insane), but I am often surprised that more people don’t participate (for the record, this is not just a sales pitch for our book clubs. I have participated in book clubs elsewhere and have found the same thing, more on that to come). For some, I think people just either don’t know about the book clubs, or they prefer to choose their own books each month.

Book-iPad-wallpaper-Tree-of-Books-526x394I also suppose it comes down to different people looking for different things with their reading. For me, I think it comes from a desire to feel a part of something, to be able to discuss the books I spend so much time reading. Many fans of the genre seem to be surrounded by other fans of the genre within their real life. Or perhaps if not surrounded, at least have access to some. I suppose if I looked harder, maybe I could find people in real life, but I haven’t yet. And that’s likely outside my “comfort zone”. Computers are not outside that zone, and so I have found the ability to seek out a social outlet for these thoughts I have on books as I read them.

The book clubs not only give me a book that I know I will get to chat with people about, it also presents the opportunity to read things I would normally overlook, or place so far down my TBR pile that I may as well not even bother putting it on in the first place. I’ve found some wonderful books this year because of book clubs. Fevre DreamI Am Legend, are two of my favorites from this year that I know I would not have read otherwise.

Then there are books like K. J. Parker’s The Folding Knife. I was planning on reading this one whether the book club did or not, but being able to have discussions on it really added to the experience. This is a book that is even better when you look at the details, and every reader can find something that you might have missed on your own. Reading along with a group of people, you get the benefit of someone pointing out things you may have missed. And of course, it is fun to share your own finding/theories on a book like that as well. To read The Folding Knife and then just set it down and start another book without anyone to discuss it with would be a shame.

Author interaction is another great benefit of online book club reads. Getting an author lined up to do a Q&A with a book club read is an excellent and unique experience. Being able to go to the source of the story and ask whatever questions come to mind and get an answer (as long as it is not a spoiler for future books) is just something you don’t get outside of online book clubs.

ComputerReadingAnyway, I am curious how the online access to genre communities has impacted the genre as a whole. It seems like it would strengthen it, broaden its reaches to more readers, maybe pull readers like myself in more than I may have otherwise been. Being able to not only enjoy the books I read, but also enjoy discussions on them has really solidified my love of the genre. So, I thank everyone who has helped me reach this point. To all those that share their thoughts/ideas/recommendations, to those of you who take the time to read and discuss our book club, thanks for creating a community that fosters fantasy fans new and old.

And for those that don’t participate in forums and online book clubs, where do you find an outlet for discussion? Or do you just read and move on and treat the books as a purely solitary experience?

In an effort to answer these questions I decided to run a poll. I can’t say the results surprised me. (For the record, I know these results would not hold up to any scientific scrutiny. For one, the people filling it out are obviously readers who are online. The results are going to be skewed because it immediately excludes readers that are not on forums or Twitter. Most of my respondents came from r/Fantasy on Reddit, so the results are going to be skewed in favor of that demographic). Anyway, to the data I have.

Readers were given a number of options and could check all that applied. What was the option chosen most often? Discussing the book with people in real life. *sigh* I have to admit to being a tad jealous. Being able to discuss books with someone in my real life would be wonderful, but unfortunately, I don’t know anyone with similar taste in books.

Discussing books on online forums and message boards was a very close second place. For this, I was thinking places like the forums here and also r/Fantasy. These are great places to get recommendations and discuss some of the things you are reading. I never envisioned how useful I would find the forum to be once I became an active participant. I could probably write another whole post speculating on how much online forums, discussions and author accessibility has spread the genre’s footprint. I really don’t know if this is true, but I think it really helped pull me in. Certainly I am not the only one.

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An accidental omission on my part was Twitter. I think this would have scored quite high as it had a good number of write-ins. I discuss books there, as do most of the people I follow. Twitter has some major limitations though. Beyond the obvious 140 character limit, there is also the fact that many people can see what you tweet, so really, spoiler free is the friendlier way to discuss. It is great for finding new books as people leave a few words about their latest read. For me, Twitter is more a place for recommendations than for real discussions.

Twice as many people just don’t discuss the books they read at all than participate in online book clubs. This used to be me until I started to seek out online book clubs. I actually only joined the forum to participate in the book clubs.

So, what was the bottom line? Online book clubs was not a popular option. People were about 4 times more likely to discuss with people in real life than participate in an online book club. Seeing participation in books clubs, I wasn’t terribly surprised. I realize there are some sacrifices made when you do book clubs. The most obvious is that you are at the mercy of the group to select the book. Also, taking the time to come up with comments on the book every week. It takes a bit more time than just having a conversation in a forum thread.

But, there are benefits. For me, knowing I get to chat about my latest book that I love or hate (and trust me, I have really hated a couple of the book club reads *eyes Foundling and Spring Heeled Jack*), that makes it worth it. For me, the benefit of sharing thoughts with other readers far outweighs the sacrifice.

This article was originally posted on Fantasy Faction

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2 comments on “Talking About Books: Online Book Clubs, Forums and Real Life

  1. I think another outlet for me is the reviews I write about the books I’ve read. That way I’ve left my opinion out there for people to see, and others can comment if they want. Doesn’t happen often, but then I am a very solitary person anyway, so it doesn’t bother me too much.

    • True! I have started writing more reviews than I used to for that reason as well. I also find it helps me remember the book much better than if I just move on to the next one.

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