Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
Spain’s Eldiario.es has 18,000 paying members, and its eye on the next several million
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Dec. 13, 2011, 3:30 p.m.

HuffPo launches a book club around augmented reading

Pulling together social media, real-world events, and reading tries to turn the Huffington Post’s scale into engagement.

Whether you’re a book-club type of person or not, there’s an understandable appeal to having people to talk to over those “OMG DID THAT JUST HAPPEN” moments when you’re reading something. Reading is an intimate pursuit, but it doesn’t take place in a vacuum — it’s a part of your everyday life, which means where you read, when you read, and what’s going on in your life all colors your reading experience.

That seems to be the idea The Huffington Post is getting at with the introduction of its new Book Club, set to launch Jan. 3, which wants to make massive the idea of gathering in a gaggle to talk a book. The club will largely exist through HuffPo, but also on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and Instagram. That’s because, as Andrew Losowsky, books editor for the site, writes: “We want to know where and how you read, and what you can see and hear as you do so. We want to know where the story is taking you, and where your memories are taking the story.”

“Normal” book club asks the group to gather and chat, enjoy some tapas, and a nice Chardonnay. The talk turns to the themes of a book, what it means, the author’s intent, the narrative structure and the resonance we feel between characters. HuffPo is taking that conversation and blowing it out, in, well, HuffPo style. As spokesman Mario Ruiz told me over email, “HuffPost will be the central hub for all these conversations, with designated ‘Big News Pages,’ liveblogs and more. We’re also looking forward to taking conversations offline with readings, discussion groups and other events that we’ll be hosting.”

The Huffington Post wants to be the connector here. They see their value as a facilitator of the discussion by providing the structure for readers to share their reading experience. “We’ll ask readers to tweet where they are as they read (#HPBookClub), and to solicit Facebook comments from their friends about book themes and ideas. We’re also launching a Flickr group (called HuffPost Book Club), where people can post images of where they are reading, and how that changes their reading experience,” Ruiz said.

What the site gets out of this is what it almost always gets: traffic, eyeballs. It’s also not hard to imagine partnerships with publishers and authors, to cut deals for books or chats with writers. “It’s all part of our wider goal of starting and leading conversations, and our book club also has a specific goal of inspiring and encouraging more reading,” Ruiz wrote.

The project in many ways is similar to Jeff Howe’s 1book140 club at The Atlantic, but perhaps more structured. 1book140 is more of a true crowdsourced book club, where the titles are chosen through the group. HuffPost’s book club is more of a guided experience, with a selection of books and authors, as well as planned meet-ups. (You can never stray too far from the comforts of brie en crôute and pinot.)

Still, the value of the book club may be as an experiment in a kind of augmented reading. If you are reading a book about prohibition on a dock in Maine, or Jennifer Egan’s prize winner on a beach in Revere, Mass., (just to give two random examples), how does that change the way you digest a book? What about your state of mind? Is your perspective on The Marriage Plot different if you’re about to graduate from college? Does The Art of Fielding hit home if your favorite slugger is departing for a bigger contract on a different team?

What we have now is more ways to catalogue our time with a book. We can take stock of a passage in the moment of a particular revelation, or that sad/euphoric rush that comes after reading the final sentence. What HuffPost realizes is that we’re already doing all of that. We’re snapping pics of random artifacts that remind us of characters and throwing them up on Instagram or tweeting about missing chunks of time lost racing through chapters.

All of these external forces shape the way we read a book, what parts we latch onto the most and perhaps even the way we remember it. It only makes sense the book club, the catchall for all those insights and feelings born off the page, is adapting to what it means to read a book today.

POSTED     Dec. 13, 2011, 3:30 p.m.
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
Spain’s Eldiario.es has 18,000 paying members, and its eye on the next several million
“We have a potential of six million readers. You may not convince all six million people to be your socios, but if you learn more about their interests, you can get closer.”
Chasing subscriptions over scale, The Athletic wants to turn local sports fandom into a sustainable business — starting in Chicago
“It’s very easy today to be click-driven and produce articles that don’t have a lot of substance or depth and don’t cost that much to produce, but that dynamic is disappointing for fans who want higher-quality content.”
Hot Pod: We now have new, free rankings to show how podcasts stack up against each other
Plus: Parsing the RadioPublic announcement; premium podcast subscriptions; Bill Simmons oversimplifies things.
What to read next
0
tweets
Hot Pod: As more podcasts become TV shows, can their founders retain creative control?
Plus: Podcasts as time-shifted cable TV; MTV News launches its first podcasts; Postloudness moves beyond Mailchimp.
0The Hindustan Times is working to build the definitive online source of real-time air quality in all of India
In addition to pulling in data from government stations for its map, the organization is deploying and testing its own air quality sensors across the country.
0A new growth area for foreign reporting: podcasts? With reporters in-country, GroundTruth hopes so
“There’s pretty much nothing, as far as I can tell, in terms of real, international, on-the-ground reporting in the world of podcasting.”
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Fuego is our heat-seeking Twitter bot, tracking the links the future-of-journalism crowd is talking about most on Twitter.
Here are a few of the top links Fuego’s currently watching.   Get the full Fuego ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
The Nation
San Diego News Network
Google
Hacks/Hackers
Conde Nast
Global Voices
InvestigateWest
ProPublica
Time
Wikipedia
WyoFile
PBS NewsHour