While for countless years, people have talked about what they have read at their book clubs or in casual conversation with friends, platforms like Readmill are seeking to make reading more "social." So what does social reading even mean, and why should readers care? For those familiar with Goodreads, Readmill is similar in some ways, but it takes things further by extending into active reading territory. Readmill is more than a site; like other social readers, it's a reading platform. On Goodreads you can share what you're reading with friends, keep lists of books that you're currently reading, have read, and plan to read, as well as seeing what some of your favorite authors are reading. Like Goodreads, Readmill lets you follow other users to see what they're reading, but similar to the Kindle social highlighting (which lets you see what passages other users have highlighted in a text), you can also share passages that you've highlighted among your reading community. Interacting with this next generation of social reading is quite different than simply going to a site, logging in, and updating a book list. Like the reading communities on Kobo and Reading Life, these new social reading platforms practically gamify reading. While challenging a friend to see who can get through a book faster might be appealing to some, for others this persistent tracking and stat obsession distracts from the simplicity of reading. Social reading is not just about the community discussion after you've put down the book; it happens live, as you're reading, and this for me is where it's too much. Should you give social reading a try? If you currently read eBooks, have a device that the apps will work with, and are interested in upping your interaction with others while reading, sure. While I don't like interruptions while reading, I can definitely see the value in these platforms in a library discussion setting, particularly with younger readers. Being able to see where everyone in the group is in the book and call specific pieces to the attention of others in the circle or class would be really helpful when scaffolding emerging readers. Social reading can also be a fun way to read through a book with your best friend that's moved across the pond, and is a nice way to stay connected and discuss the book without engaging in hours long Skype sessions (who are we kidding? Those are never going away!).
What's next for these social reading platforms? An easier way to get the text into the app, or having the social reading features be something that you can turn on in your preferred reading platform of choice. I had difficulties in using Readmill because it was challenging to get the non-free books into the platform due to DRM. This is a common problem in these new social reading platforms and one that is solved by having more of these features baked into the eReaders. The big challenge will be to find ways to integrate these new features without them becoming a distraction (hello Kobo Pulse, I'm looking at you). Reading is a wonderful pleasure, and it would be a great pity if one of the things that makes reading so great, the quiet contemplation, is removed because readers are too busy tracking book comments on each page. What's your take on social reading? (Image: Joelle Alcaidinho)