Reading is no longer a solo sport – A Reader’s Perspective from Sheena

 

You are engrossed in a book and find a piece that makes your heart race. Naturally, you highlight it and post it on your social media platform. Heck, maybe you even share it on several platforms. Then friends comment on it, share it and even go out and buy the book. They trust you and you are enjoying the book, so why not?

Welcome to social reading a trend has recently hit the lesbian fiction market in a big way.

Don’t misunderstand me, social reading has always been a thing. Since the dawn of reading there have been discussions around literature. They have taken the form of bookclubs, discussions in schoolrooms and even just casual chats at the local grocery store about the latest bestseller. I bet cave women sat around and discussed the latest cave painting – because, you know, it was so risqué.

The difference now is that the internet has allowed smaller communities of readers to come together and discuss books that matter to them. Lesbian fiction, for example, has rarely been seen as important enough to warrant the time of the average reader let alone discussions in school. But now that we have access to people all over the globe, we can find the people who it does matter to.

Why The Change?

Between 2004 and 2006 companies like Google Books, Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads came into existence and with them access, not just to books, but to the commentary of other readers who were talking about those books. Suddenly bookclubs were not just for wine guzzling housewives with nothing better to do, but any reader with a specific taste could find others who enjoyed books in that sphere and it became easy to form ‘digital bookclubs’. As a result lesbian fiction is no longer relegated to the dusty shelf in the back of the bookstore, it is now in front of you with flashing neon lights, all you need to do is look for it.

As technology advances, it becomes increasingly easy to let everyone know how you feel about a book. Enhancements in eReaders mean that you can connect your book directly to social platforms like Goodreads, Twitter and Facebook so that you don’t even have to switch on your computer to get your opinion out into the world.

The Pros And Cons

The good side of this is that it is finally easier for smaller publishers with niche markets to find the right audience. This means that the quality of books published in this field is better than ever because it is finally worth it for publishers to put in the time and effort to produce an amazing product.

I cannot tell you how happy that makes me as a reader. I struggled for years to find lesbian books and I spent my hard earned cash on shipping them to South Africa because so few actually existed here.

The bad side of this is that there are so many opinions in the world now that you need to do some research to find the ones you trust. As the sector grows, so more and more groups, review sites and media outlets will showcase books and give you spaces to talk about literature. I predict that we are only seeing the tip of social reading for lesbian fiction because I think there are still a lot of women who don’t even know that lesbian fiction exists.

How I Stumbled Upon Social Reading

Social reading is a trend that I inadvertently tapped into when I started The Lesbian Review. You see, I am not much of a social reader. I like to read a book, put my opinion out there and have a bit of feedback from readers who also enjoyed the book. I am not generally excited by discussing books and debating about author motivations. I would much rather just ask the author and have her tell me. I also feel like people will either agree or disagree with me about books and discussion seems pointless. Neither of us will suddenly have a change of heart. If she agrees with my recommendations then she will buy the books that I recommend, if not she won’t.

Then Tara and Brooklyn joined the team and suddenly the two of them were having long chats about books they were reading and why they were enjoying it. So, I thought, why not give them a podcast so that they can share it with other people? But a podcast alone wasn’t quite the same as actually having a platform where people can discuss. So, I started The Lesbian Review Book Club on Facebook, linked it to the podcast – put in place a monthly read for the Book Club and voila – I created a space for social reading.

Now it is one of my most active platforms and it is a fun place for readers to enjoy a community around lesbian books. Because, you see, what I didn’t realize about social reading when I started The Lesbian Review was that social reading is only partially about the books. Mostly, it is about connecting with people who are like you and enjoy similar things – that’s what makes it social.


Sheena is the founder of The Lesbian Review, the largest  and most awesome and most kick ass lesbian review website  (not that I am biased or anything) and The Lesbian Talk Show, a podcast channel for women by women. The Lesbian Talk Show features a new show every day (including a Women and Words Podcast on Sundays).

The Lesbian Talk Show
The Lesbian Review

 

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