This is an updated version of a previously published post.
“Do people really want to share what they’re reading?”
My instinct says, “No.”
At the same time, the practical answer(s) to this question, the “what,” “where” and “how” people will share, is fascinating.
Twitter created a market for a certain kind of sharing. But “social reading,” though a general and widely applicable term, seems to be about sharing an experience that resists having a market.
Why? On one hand, reading is relentlessly private. For the most part, who knows what’s happening when we read, what we do with it, what’s important to us, what we remember, how it affects the way we speak and think, how it changes over time? The material to be shared is often below the level of language itself, it’s subverbal, it’s somewhere psychologically deep. (I’m thinking of something more profound than sharing Kindle highlights.)
We don’t know how to share this. We can’t conjure the words to do so. How do you create an economy out of that?
On the other hand, the public aspect of reading, you might say, isn’t about reading at all, but buying: the retail experience. This is definitely public – obesely pubilic, pumped up, overdesigned. The interpersonal aspect of reading, however, is starving, anemic. We chat through the appetizer, we gloss over, we lend without a word, we tweet, we forget what we read yesterday.
Reading requires interpretation, opining, ranting, etc. One can’t coax people to do that about what content they read, or what music they listen to, or what films they watch.
Tumblr and Pinterest are probably something else than the kind of sharing I’m thinking of. They are more like a reaction to content abundance, a kind of anti-interpretive aggregation.
What kind of new social reading desires are being created? Will the intensity remain low, dwindling, never enough for much of a market or an economy?
Or is there something significant happening, latent and evolving?