Thursday, May 21, 2009

Facebook’s Book Clubs Gets Kids Excited About Reading

From School Library Journal, 5/21/2009

What better way to get kids talking about books than on one of their favorite pastimes—Facebook.

Book Clubs is a new application on the hugely popular social networking site, offering students a free and convenient place to share ideas about books, authors, and related interests. Facebook members can instantly create or join a reading group devoted to any category, region, interest, or author.

"If you want to connect with people who share your passion for books, this is the place to be," says Rusty Weston, cofounder of Book Clubs. “Online book clubs aren't intended to replace face-to-face meetings, but many book lovers can't make monthly gatherings or don't want to wait that long to discuss what they're reading."

Launched in 2008, Book Clubs has 6,200 members. And although it missed out on the Harry Potter craze, mid-to-late teenage girls are talking about Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series quite a bit on the site.

Users can post comments about a book or author, rate or review books, build or search a library of titles, entirely at their convenience. They can arrange meetings in person and use book clubs as a place to chat or post club news between meetings. It’s also a place where you can build a personal library drawn from a vast, searchable database of book titles.

Weston says some of the club’s earliest users were teachers who encouraged their students to use the platform—but the company urges kids to protect their privacy by creating private reading groups that are by invitation only.

“For many of our members it is the first time they have belonged to a reading group,” Weston says. “We want to get them off to a good start.”

Weston, a journalist with a deep passion for literature and a social media maven, came up with the idea because he realized that other book applications on Facebook “were all about building bookshelves rather than putting together readers who share a common interest,” he explains. “It also occurred to me that the friends with whom I share similar taste in literature don’t live in my community.”

So far, the response has been positive. “We view this as a journey and we’re building an enthusiastic community that we think will be around for many years to come,” Weston adds. “While students are most familiar with Facebook and immediately ‘get’ how to use an online reading group, Book Clubs is proving to be an app that all ages can enjoy.”

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