Online Communities for Readers: 2015 Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour

2015 Merry Go Round Blog Tour
I keep hearing how no one is reading, how there are no more readers anymore. I’m a little confused by this considering I am surrounded by readers in both my physical and online life.

The question with this month’s topic is not so much what to talk about but rather how to narrow it down. Since the topic refers to communities, I’ve decided to talk about two I participate in at least to the extent of posting my book reviews and tracking my own reading, though I’ve done more on and off in both. These are GoodReads and LibraryThing.

I had a grand plan of interviewing my sister who is a much more avid user of LibraryThing, actively participating in discussions and the like, but life happened so you’ll have to survive on my own impressions. Maybe she’ll write something in the comments (hint, hint).

Based on my experience, the main features in both online communities are the ability to track what you’re reading, a forum built around talking about what you read, and the giveaway programs.

Based on my post the other day, you might guess the giveaway programs were what drew me, and you’d be half right.

I became a LibraryThing member in an attempt to have an online database of my books to reduce the chances of duplicate purchases. It says something about certain books that I keep buying copies. Every time I come across them, I’m equally interested, but I haven’t gotten to them in my overwhelming TBR pile, or believe I read them from the library or lost my copy. Sadly, I haven’t kept up with the recording and now tend just to record what I’ve read rather than what I’ve added to that ever-growing pile. Still, it’s a great feature for those who will keep up with it, and you can use categories to track where those books are as well so if you lend something out, you know you won’t find it on your shelf for example.

This feature is hooked into a search engine drawing on Amazon, Library of Congress, and other databases so you don’t need to fill in all the information either. It’s worth doing, but does require you add the step to your process when absorbing new books into your life.

Once I was a LibraryThing member, I got enticed over to the monthly ARC (advanced reader copy) giveaway. I quickly learned posting a review of the titles you receive increases your odds of being selected, so for a while there I was getting one book a month from them. Every once in a while, the book is not delivered, but you can mark that so it doesn’t count against you.

The giveaways are what ended up getting me to join GoodReads as well. An author I like promoted a giveaway, but you had to be a member to sign up.

I have only won a couple of the GoodReads giveaways, and one of the LibraryThing giveaways ended up with me signing up for NetGalley so I get most of my ARCs from there, but the giveaways are a fun way to discover new authors. I find I’m much more likely to expand my reading horizons that way based on an interesting back cover blurb. Jumping to the author side for a moment, reading the list on LibraryThing also gives you a variety of back-cover-blurb styles to analyze.

The giveaways also were what led me to crosspost my reviews. I review the books I read as much to serve as a reminder when I’m contemplating a new book by the same author as to share the books I enjoy with others. However, by posting reviews on LibraryThing and GoodReads, I help spread the word about good authors and books, something which gives both friends and strangers an extra chance to discover some wonderful reads.

Finally, both online reading communities offer extensive forums to discuss pretty much every aspect of reading. I’ll admit I’ve barely dipped my toe into that aspect because my online time is already devoted to some of my favorite writing communities, but I know a few folks who have these forums as their primary home on the Web.

Imagine a book club with hundreds of folks who share your preferences and can point you to books you would otherwise have missed. That’s the main draw of the forums from what I understand. Sharing information with like-minded readers means you’re less likely to spend limited book money on something that doesn’t hit the markers you prefer and more likely to discover authors that otherwise would have escaped your notice when there are so many books published.

The forums also provide ways to connect readers willing to receive review copies with authors. This is where I’m dipping my foot into the forum waters, as an author rather than a reader. However, through reading the threads in that group, I can tell you many happy readers are benefiting from this engagement.

So there you have it. Two online communities for and focused around avid readers. If you haven’t checked them out, it might be worth your while. Both are free at the basic level, though you can purchase an annual or lifetime membership in LibraryThing for $10 or $25 respectively to allow you to upload a larger library along with other benefits, but mainly offers a way to support an avid reader community.

How about you? Where do you get your book recommendations and fulfill your need to chat about your favorite authors?

Today’s post was inspired by the topic “Online communities for readers” — April’s topic in Forward Motion’s Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour. Read the thoughts of nearly twenty different authors at various stages in their careers on this same topic. The next posts in the series are by Lisa Janice Cohen and Bonnie R. Schultzman.

Check out the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour to learn more. You can find links to all of the posts on the tour on the group site. Read and enjoy!

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2 Responses to Online Communities for Readers: 2015 Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour

  1. Well of COURSE I’ll comment, you’re talking about LibraryThing! I also have a GoodReads account, but…I basically don’t use it. I put in a few books (which was, I admit, a lot easier/quicker than entering books on LT). However, once the books are in, there’s not much I can do with them; I’m not particularly interested in tracking my reading there, and that’s really GR’s focus.
    LT, on the other hand, has primary focus on being a cataloging app. Entering books is a bit slower than GR, because you need to find your actual book – the correct ISBN/date/etc. And if you can’t find the precise book, you can get one that’s close and edit it afterward – everything from correcting publication data to scanning and uploading a cover (or grabbing an image off the web). It’s a lot of fun getting the data correct, and _knowing_ what you have on your shelves (or what you got from the library, or borrowed elsewhere, or…you can tag books, and put them into categories, and sort/filter in dozens of ways). It does, as you say, add an extra step to the “getting a book” process, but I’ve integrated it (books come in, and sit in piles until they’re in LT. Hours or days until I get the 2 minutes per book necessary).
    The forums – Talk – evolved rather organically. So there are groups that are primarily online book clubs; there are groups for reading challenges (which usually include posts about what else you’re doing or what you were doing while you read this book…one favorite thread is about 30% recipes, 25% reviews, and 45% discussing the thread author’s life and travels. Plus replies from everyone else discussing the same things); there are groups for gardening, politics (don’t go in there unless you enjoy arguments – but the rest of LT is _relatively_ clear of same), general nonsense (the Green Dragon Inn is full of fun), specific books or authors…. In every thread, in every group, you will get book mentions – recommendations and dis-recommendations – but it’s not obsessively focused on books, they’re just part of the life of the people who take part in these fascinating conversations.
    I also do Early Reviewers, and have gotten some very good books that way (also some that I really didn’t want to read…but I did, enough to review them accurately anyway). I’ve done Member Giveaways a couple times, but like Mar, I really don’t need more books…
    I do consider LT my primary social site. I track my reading there, and review my books – mostly for myself, so I can remember them, but also for others. I have people on there I consider friends – some I’ve met in real life (there are occasional LT meetups), some I never have, but I know them and have had long conversations with them.
    Oh, and the other thing, in Talk and on the site – a lot of LT is crowdsourced. You can help – correct author information, combine tags that mean the same thing (wwii and WWII, for instance), answer questions and suggest solutions for people that need help, report bugs and suggest improvements…LT is a very small company – I think they’re up to…6 employees? Maybe as many as 10 – and you get to know those individuals as well. The guy who started it, Tim Spalding, is active on the site, and will often solicit opinions about new features or other modifications. It’s a fun place to be.

    • Margaret McGaffey Fisk says:

      I had a feeling you knew a heck of a lot more about LibraryThing than I did :). Thanks for the insight.

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