What are the unnoticed benefits of reading

Future of publishing

Reading books is a lonely occupation. It requires leisure, rest and time, which is also shown in the metaphors that are commonly associated with reading: I can sink into a book, immerse myself in it, immerse myself in history. But the solitary reading process is increasingly being broken up by possibilities for interaction and communication, such as those provided by the Internet.

Two developments that have affected not only the book industry but all media companies culminate in this process of networked reading: the digitization of media content, in this case books, and the emergence of the social webwhich enables all internet users to content to create and to share it with others, to work together and to communicate in networks. Digital texts can be read, commented on and discussed publicly; Reading books is becoming a social process for which the term social reading prevailed. Under social reading is understood in the following: An online, intensive and permanent exchange of texts. This concise definition makes it possible to distinguish the term from similar phenomena, while it remains open to future technical innovations. [1]

Social reading in its current form has various analog and digital relatives: The two most important are book clubs and online communities. Literature is negotiated in reading circles entirely without the Internet and to the exclusion of the general public - especially in the USA book clubs an effect on the reception of texts that should not be underestimated. A certain group of people meets here to discuss a book that, in the best case scenario, all participants have read. [2] These conversations are rarely documented and disseminated; they are not part of a broader discourse - just like the casual conversations about books over dinner, on a train ride and in countless other everyday situations.

On the Internet, conversations about books take place wherever people come into contact with one another: in forums, blogs, social networks and the like. The exchange here is mostly more unstructured than in reading circles and rarely goes beyond a mere evaluation of what has been read. In contrast to these, however, it is usually open to a broader group of people who can also communicate regardless of space (i.e. not bound to a specific location) or time (there are no specific appointments and meetings). The statements of those involved are also retained; they are stored in the network, so to speak - whereby the inadequate structure largely negates this theoretical permanence or persistence.

Reading in the virtual community

Social reading In the definition mentioned above, it takes place in thematically focused forums and communities. These give users the opportunity to speak in more depth and over a longer period of time about one or more texts. Due to the specific forum or folder structure, these entries can also be traced later and are therefore available in a persistent form.

In these special reader communities, users can also document their individual reading behavior, share their markings, annotations and quotations and rate what they have read. With ten million members and 360 million cataloged books, the American site "goodreads.com" is the largest platform for social reading. In addition to the functions mentioned above, Goodreads is also used extensively for conversations about books: for example, the seventh volume of "Harry Potter" alone contains almost 350 different topics that are put up for discussion by readers, and over 2,200 topicsin which reference is made to said book. Participation is between one and 500 comments on the respective point, the range of topics includes from the exchange to the plot, the filming, the author Joanne K. Rowling, songs about Harry Potter to the sexual orientation of the magician Dumbledore and the online “Pottermore.com” portal every imaginable detail.

The German community Lovely Books also offers comparable functions and brings book lovers into conversation with one another. These services are free for the user, but of course there are sophisticated business models behind them: publishers can place advertisements to advertise their novelties, and also book campaigns that are usually connected with reading and discussing a particular book together. In so-called test reading rounds, members of the community who have been selected or drawn and who have received a free copy of the book from the publisher exchange ideas about the work and then write a review. The publisher hopes that this will generate a certain amount of media background noise, one buzz, and at best the viral dissemination of positive comments about his book. The simple copying of content enables readers to publish their opinions on various portals and to post them on Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, in their blogs and elsewhere - the publisher makes use of these network effects, the community serves as a catalyst, so to speak.

Ideally, this has advantages for everyone involved, as the reader finds like-minded people and exchanges ideas with them, the publisher opens a communicative space for the book to be advertised and the operator of the community (in the case of Lovely Books, the Georg von Holtzbrinck publishing group, which includes Rowohlt and S. Fischer Verlag) is rewarded for referring readers, providing the platform and moderating the test reading rounds by a community manager.

Other forms of monetization are conceivable: E-books can be sold with different price models - as a normal text variant, with a built-in "dedicated line" to the author who answers questions, [3] or with exclusive reading groups in which the author uses a video stream at a certain date, so to speak, from the e-book with the reader or with someone book club communicates.

The networks described transmit the analog phenomenon of reading circles and book clubs into the digital world with all its possibilities, above all independence from temporal and spatial limitations. However, they do not represent a really new way of reading and speaking about what has been read.