Books: Just ‘Fodder For Digital Chatter’?

by - April 28th, 2010

It seems reasonable to assume that the future of book reading is at least going to involve more social networking. The newest ebook readers make connectivity a selling point – the built-in ability to share your views or quotes from a book on Twitter or Facebook is the next logical step, if it hasn’t happened already. This will be the digital equivalent of the bookshelf; except you won’t need to invite people into your home to brag about what you’re reading. Is there a chance, however, as suggested in this article in the New York Times, that this will mean books become merely ‘fodder for digital chatter’?

In my last post I talked about the rise and risks of self-publishing, and received an interesting response from one of the commenters:

I think we’re going to see more and more titles gaining success without going through traditional publishers. With most books being bought online, access to physical outlets … will matter less and less … I think it will come down to author reputation and following. The real success stories will be people who can get their book in front of influential people who will recommend it.

In other words, the future of publishing forecast by this commenter is democratic. Readers, through the medium of Facebook newsfeed algorithms and John Mayer’s tweets, will decide what gets through to you – in just the same way you heard about that funny cat picture. While this might seem both sad and unrealistic to some people, it’s a very common view, especially on the internet. The internet, in fact, has turned us all into writers, musicians, actors and journalists. There are so many people out there creating content that the vast majority of it remains unseen – at least until a highschool student from Idaho mashes up the video/poem/blog post and turns it into a meme.

Books, for the most part, have been immune to this type of thing. This might be because they’re long and not very easy to cut up into small pieces, but it might also be that there isn’t all that much digital access just yet. As this changes, it’s likely we’re going to see more “OMG LOL did u here about Banquo? Mbeth totally pwned his ass”.

Is this a terrible thing? I’m certainly not at the point where I have to tweet every funny line of every book I’m reading, but I’ll often turn to the person next to me and share something that made me laugh. At other times I’ll be itching to tell a particular group of friends about something specific I’m reading. Is moving this behaviour onto social networking so very wrong? It certainly feels … weird. Like a transgression of some kind. But I’m not sure why. What do you think?

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Joel Naoum (113 Posts)

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No Responses to “Books: Just ‘Fodder For Digital Chatter’?”

  1. pat Says:

    I think it may seem weird but, as a 20 yr old, I’m almost connected to Facebook at a constant rate. This kind of quoting does actually happen, rereading Peter Pan recently I began quoting any out dated and hilarious lines straight onto FB by copy and pasting. And in reality its more of a benefit than anything else, because any exposure, however small, always acts as a source of advertisement.

  2. joelblacklock Says:

    Yes, I was speaking to a colleague this morning about this – I think it’s probably generational. I think the ‘iGen’ or whatever you want to call them don’t see social media as something separate from social interactions, it’s just one of the many ways you have of getting in touch with people. It seems that it does make it easier to talk about books, but I wonder if we are going to lose some of the depth from this kind of interaction.

  3. Sam Says:

    I don’t think we are going to lose some of the depth of interaction. I was at a dinner party not long ago when an older woman of my acquaintance was lamenting the rise of msn and the like, which really irked me. How is writing a post/msg on facebook any different to writing a letter? People are always moaning about the lack of letter writing nowadays adn ignoring all the new forms of communication that have emerged. The rise of written communication (again) is a great thing, in my opinion. Yes people are spelling things different -GASP- but it isn’t the end of the world. Not everyone is comfortable communicating face to face and the more platforms for communication we have, I think the more we will communicate. I love the idea of students tweeting to each other about Shakespeare. However you talk to your peers, be it online, on the phone, in person, as long as we reach out, all is well.