Readersforum's Blog

December 28, 2011

Socially networked reading: Hey, take a look at this

With reading moving to e-readers, apps are being developed to enable users to share thoughts via iPhone, iPad and other electronic readers. (Martin Bureau / AFP / Getty Images)

Reading doesn’t have to be a solitary activity. Increasingly, apps are being developed to enable users to electronically share thoughts.

By Carolyn Kellogg

Look ahead: The presents have been opened, wrapping thrown away, and for a few quiet hours you’ve been curled up reading the new Steve Jobs biography, a gift from your dad. You find a surprising detail and call to your significant other, “Honey, did you know …?” but because he is busy making dinner, the idea fizzles away as you turn the page.

Or maybe when you get to that passage, with the swipe of a finger you highlight it and email it to your dad, adding a thanks for his gift. Or you click to add your thoughts to a chorus of readers who found that same passage interesting; or you check to see if there’s a link to a video clip; or you find an annotation from the author; or you post it to Twitter or Facebook or Google+, where others can comment on it too.

That’s called “social reading,” and it’s coming to an e-reading app or device near you.

“Increasingly, the devices we use to read — the Kindle, your iPad, various types of phones and other devices — they’re connected,” says James Bridle, a British writer and publisher who’s been at the forefront of ebook development. “They have a whole bunch of capabilities that the paper book didn’t have.”

Put those connected, capable devices together with books and add the best aspects of social networking — sharing, conversation — and the result is social reading. It is a logical step that’s still taking shape; it’s in its Wild West days, mapping out boundaries, players staking out sometimes overlapping territory.

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