With the emergence of digital literature and the vast access we have to social networking and online communities, I do agree that readers are as described by James Kennedy, vocal and social, intent on actively celebrating what they have read (Valenza & Stephens, 2012). Reading is often a solitary activity, but what you are reading, your thoughts and opinions are ideas that are often shared (Juergen, 2011). In this day and age however, that sharing looks a little different to how it may have in the past. Today, people thrive on opportunities to interact with each other, whether that be in a face to face experience or driven by digital technologies and social media. Understanding this is a priority when creating social reading experiences for students (Ferriter, 2010). With this justification, it is fair to assume that the ‘reading experience’ and the book itself are evolving (Valenza & Stephens, 2012).
The idea of ‘social reading’ is nothing new, this is pointed out by Dredang and Kortla (2009), explaining that social ‘reading’ goes back as far as before print technologies even existed. Now, we have social media that allows us to converse and communicate more openly with a wider range of people, authors included, not bound by geography. Within my own online networks, specifically Twitter and Facebook, I often see people discussing what they are reading and have been known to Tweet and blog about my own reading and thoughts at times. However with sites like Goodreads, LibraryThing and Shelfari becoming more and more popular, it seems the ‘traditional’ idea of reading as a solitary act is moving to a social, community driven practice (Ferriter, 2010).
I signed up to Goodreads for the first time AGES ago but honestly never really got into it until creating a new account for this subject, I am sure I will become hooked! Goodreads is described as ‘the Facebook for books’, giving users a chance to share updates throughout the reading process, quotes and thoughts and engage with others reading the same book (Nelson, 2013). With millions of users comparing, recommending, reviewing books and joining ‘reading groups’ (Juergen, 2011), it is easy to how and why readers today are becoming more vocal and social.
Interestingly, many devoted readers are taking their thoughts and continuing their experience of reading to ‘fan fiction’. Sites like FanFiction.Net offers fan-authored stories inspired by many popular, iconic and classic titles (Skaines, 2010). Sites like these sometimes include forums and discussion pages which provide online, social, reader to reader communication and relationships. Valenza and Stephens (2012) describe the buzz created by fans in the world of series fiction to be ‘tremendous,’ with fans voicing their thoughts through Twitter, Facebook and online ‘fan’ communities- specifically created for books and authors. This again evidences the idea that readers are stepping beyond the individual experience of reading and joining social, group experiences (Skaines, 2010) and communities.
I have also read about Subtext, which I would really like to try out in a classroom, but unfortunately is not available in Australia yet. I would be interested to hear thoughts from others who have tried it. Subtext is a way to bring this digital discussion and sense of social community to classroom reading experiences.
It is without a doubt that I agree that readers are becoming social and vocal in this digital reading age…and why not? What a great way to discuss and share with others about a common experience!