Should Books Be Social?


Should Books Be Social?

I've recently started keeping track of what I read at a site called Goodreads, which bills itself as a sort of facebook for actual books. It's reading becoming social, a place where you can post what you're currently reading, what you've just read, what you thought about it, and what you think about your reading buddies' books. There are a number of other sites out there that attempt to monopolize on our social networking age, turning bibliophilia into a connected, modern hobby. The other one I know is booklamp.org, which has a recommendation service supposedly like Netflix for books; it analyzes your favorite books' "DNA" and gives you similar results.

The main reason that I'm on Goodreads is to have a record of what I've read. I'm enjoying it so far; it allows me to be a little voyeuristic and spy on what my friends are reading, as well as broadcast what books I'd recommend. And it lets me discover new books that I wouldn't have heard of. But it does have me wondering whether it's the right direction for books to become such a highly social matter.

The problem is that book snobs (and I know I'm one) will inevitably do one thing: they will judge what you're reading. Sometimes they'll take it too far and judge you for what you're reading. At the same time, they're often anxiously showing off what they're reading. So Goodreads could become like facebook in that it could be all about the anxious, self-conscious performance of it all. It's easy to say you're reading War & Peace when you're really going through some paperback beach read. Will the social networking world of books be one more arena for us to project an artificial self-image?

On the other hand, as I mentioned, book snobs have always been book snobs, with our without the internet. Perhaps, as is often the case, the internet is just one more tool or conduit for human behavior, rather than the cause of new human behavior. What do you think?