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March 12, 2008

How the Internet Has Changed Book Clubs

Posted by carol
Jennifer Hart loves book clubs. She is in two book clubs and writes a terrific blog called We get together whenever possible to talk books, book clubs and life. We have shared time on panels and at conferences and I always find these conversations enlightening. Her comments here are spot on about how the internet enhances the book club experience.

I'm not saying anything revolutionary when I say that the internet has changed the way book groups interact with books and authors, but really, if you're in a book group, think back to the many ways your discussions have changed over the past ten years or so.

I joined my first book club about fifteen years ago. When Amazon launched in 1995 the height of our internet usage was to print the book descriptions out from their site to help us decide what book to read next. Now we rely on the internet, sites like, publishers' websites and e-newsletters and numerous book blogs to choose the books we'll read. And once we've chosen a book, we have instant access to reading group guides, author essays and interviews, reviews and excerpts online.

In addition, if, while reading the book, you want more information, with a few quick keystrokes, you can find out more about virtually any subject. Carol once told me that she dares any book group who reads Lisa See's Snow Flower and the Secret Fan not to look up Chinese foot binding online. Indeed, in my book group there were two members who did that, and brought printouts to the meeting. Seeing those pictures certainly drove home the torture that those women endured and enhanced our discussion (while making our stomachs turn).

You can also find book group discussions online, should you decide you either need more on a particular book (or you just don't want to leave the house). Witness the recent one held on the blog EverydayIWritetheBook about Lionel Shriver's The Post-Birthday World.

And now using the internet, you can take the concept of an author calling into a reading group --- a practice made popular by book group favorite Adriana Trigiani --- and broadcast it over the airwaves. Using the site BlogTalkRadio, Jamie Saul, author of the novel Light of Day, called in to a reading group in New York to discuss his book and not only did they have a wonderful discussion, but the entire conversation was streaming live on the site for others readers to listen to and it's archived on the site to be enjoyed at any time. (spoiler alert in the discussion!).

This was such a wonderful way for a group to connect directly with an author --- and let others in on the great discussion they had. I'd love to hear how others are using the internet to enhance their book groups --- both in terms of choosing books and how they talk about them.

---Jennifer Hart ,