The book publishing industry, just like the news industry, has struggled to find an identity over the past couple decades with large box stores taking over small corner bookstores only to soon be replaced by online retailers. Now, just as it looked like the pastime of reading was experiencing a complete decline, technologies and innovations look to revive and transform the industry. ebook readers are making books cool again, independent publishing is making it irresistibly affordable and new formats— falling somewhere between a short book or a long magazine article— offer something for everyone.
Now, technology writer and educator Jeff Howe is attempting to use the art or reading a book to achieve the much loftier goal of “creating community across geographical, cultural, ethnic, economic and social boundaries.” And to get more people reading, more people talking about and appreciating the written word. Howe is doing so through his virtual book club hosted on Twitter. It’s building on the momentum of a similar endeavor launched last summer, which had 12,000 people from around the world reading and avidly discussing the same book. The 2011 book, voted on by participants, is The Blind Assassin, a historical novel by Margaret Atwood.
While it may not be the next Oprah’s Book Club— just over 5,000 people have signed up so far— it should achieve Howe’s other goal: good fun with a good book. It may also offer an interesting twist, with the participation of the author of the chosen book, 71-year old Canadian author Atwood, who is already very active on Twitter. Discussions start on June 1st, so it’s time for potential participants to start reading!