The Internet & Reading

Sometimes, even though it lasts 40 minutes, there are sometimes subjects that we cover on The Readers that either I feel like I need to add to or simply want to discuss on the blog in more detail. On the latest episode Thomas and I talked about the internet and how it has affected books and reading and so I thought I would bring the discussion here because the more you think about it the internet has changed the book world even more than we think both in good and bad ways. Being a bit of a cynic, only a slight one, almost every ‘pro’ has a slight ‘con’ twist to it in my view but it’s not all bad, not all bad by far.

The first way in which it has most obviously changed has got to be blogs, vlogs and podcasts. The rise of the blog across the whole of the internet has been vast. Even in the years since I started blogging, talking out into the empty ether for a few years, the amount of book blogs has more than quadrupled. It is wonderful that there are so many of us, I just can’t keep up. In a time when review pages in the broadsheets are down there are now lots of places for books to be discussed and reviewed that aren’t just book forum sites etc. That said I do wonder if it has created a small monster in terms of book blaggers, which I have discussed before, you know the blogs that appear write some reviews ask for lots of review copies and then never seem to read them. Those. That has almost created a competitive edge to blogging of who can read what first, which I think is really sad.

The second thing, and probably actually the biggest change, is the arrival of e-books and the e-reader. This has made books available anywhere at any time, even if you might not be able to log on another countries version of a certain site you can the publisher and download there. Yet as this means we can bridge the gap of books coming out at different times in different territories it also means that a whole new world of self published books, some which have become huge hits and ended up in print and some which are utter bobbins and clog up the bookish parts of the internet, everyone can be an author now!

The third and possibly most obvious change is what social media has done with books. I remember being really reluctant to join Twitter as I couldn’t see it as a bookish vehicle of any kind, who knew it would be a haven for much bookish geekery? If I want to have a chat about what I am reading, or thinking of reading where is better to pop in and have a chat? If I want to have a chat, or in some cases try and have a chat, with an author about a book where is quicker? It is marvellous. The only issues with it are when some people (authors, publishers, and bloggers) don’t know when to shut up. I don’t mean Twitterer’s diaorrhea, as I call it, which I occasionally get when I find I can’t stop binge tweeting but more a case of inflated egos or attitudes of self importance. I think sometimes people take the word ‘followers’ a little too literally and think they are some super/superior voice – always awkward to watch. Or there are the ‘controversial’ tweets begging for attention, or the misers just moaning about everything. I am a strong believer that Twitter should be a happy place, but the with fake profiles and anonymous comments sadly one of the biggest cons of the internet is how vile people can be and get away with it. Anyway, I digress; there is also the fact that if I tweeted less (and indeed the blog could fall under this category) then maybe I would read more? The distraction factor…

Let us move to the most positive parts though and for me personally there are two. The first is that a book has always been a spring board of sorts to go and discover more, initially through the power of fiction as it is what I read the most of, and then in the past I would go off and find non-fiction around any subjects the book brought up. Now of course, thanks to the internet, I can finish a book and go off and find out more from the tapping of a few buttons. For example, after I read Magda, I went off and found documentaries about the Goebbels, other books I could read, films I could watch. I had done all of this in a few minutes, which frankly is amazing and shows what a great tool it can be. Though I have yet to go as far as Thomas and actually look up somewhere the author describes to see it in the flesh, I leave the authors descriptions and the images they create or it breaks the spell. You can also find out more about the author and interviews about why have written the book, what else they have written etc. Simple Googling. In fact Thomas made me laugh and laugh as he was saying how when, in Rebecca (a book I am not sure if I have mentioned on the blog), the narrator firsts meets Maxim Thomas wondered why she didn’t Google him to check his credentials – alas she didn’t have an iPhone.

The other equally wonderful thing about the internet of course, which is all down to blogging and social media with all their pro’s and con’s, is the people I have now befriended through books and the conversations we have had, readalongs we’ve taken part in, the podcasts we have made and book groups we have started or joined. That is probably the best thing about it, be they on the internet or have they actually led to meeting in real life. They/you have made me think, made me laugh in some of the darkest times (Gran being ill and dying, me being ill, my marriage breaking down), made me think and rethink and led me to some amazing books and brilliant conversation. Reading is a lonely hobby, and sometimes the internet breaks that down whilst finding you something else fabulous to read. Can’t really fault that overall can you?


Filed under Random Savidgeness

9 responses to “The Internet & Reading

  1. A wonderful paen to the beauty of the Internet – we sometimes forget about all its benefits when we hear a never-ending list of moans, groans, trolls and conceited dolls (of either sex). But yes, when used well, it can be quite wonderful.

  2. I really try to focus on the positive parts of the internet as there are so many horrible parts. I sometimes post annoyed/sarcastic things on twitter but it’s the active bullying that upsets me. However, it’s great to follow authors and other bookish people and get recommendations for books. I have a few book blogs I read, yours being the main one, and it’s wonderful as I get so many recommendations from here (e.g. just read The Snow Child on your recommendation and LOVED it). I do enjoy the things you said – being able to follow up ideas or things of interest from books and instantly get information.
    It’s also brilliant at keeping me entertained when I’m ill, as I am in bed now with a throat infection! Much better than bad daytime TV.

  3. the net is both wonderful and awful at same time ,I find it good for talking about books but like you really hating book blaggers of late ,also love connecting over time and distance in a second which is truely amazing when you think about it ,all the best stu

  4. kaggsysbookishramblings

    Lovely post Simon. I find the Internet a double-edged sword and my OH sometimes thinks it’s like letting an open sewer into your house(!). However, there is so much good – in the form of the lovely book blogs to read, the bloggers to interact with, and the amazing ability to look up anything you might have an interest in. It can be a bit of a time-waster if you’re not careful, but used properly I think it’s a wonderful thing!

  5. Col

    Really enjoyed reading this. You hit it spot on – I never ceased to be amazed by the internets depth and instantaneous reach. Like everything in life it seems to me that it’s still open to abuse and irritation – but overall I love the transformation it gives us in so many ways. In the end, liked with everything else, the downside is some of the people who use it rather than the net itself! Plus ca change really!!!

  6. Louise Trolle

    Great post Simon 🙂

    While also worrying about the “physical book world” (bookstores, regular books ets) I’m thrilled about sms novels (so much fun), interactive novels and the way you can talk to book people all over the world 🙂

  7. Vanessa

    I enjoyed this post Simon. I find that via the internet, I’m inspired to be a more disciplined reader due to the abundance of well-informed book bloggers. Thank you for doing what you do.

  8. Simon, such a brilliant podcast. You and your co-host are such delights. Whatever will you talk about next time that will be as fun as this topic? (Seriously, what are we going to talk about?)

  9. David Nolan (David73277)

    I wonder if it was listening to you and Thomas discuss this topic that prompted Lynn Shepherd to tweet about this item from her blog archive: Ways of reading in an internet age (

    One of the down-sides that she alludes to is how the web makes us impatient. She is specifically talking about how impatience makes us reluctant to read longer items, but there are other threats associated with immediacy. One of my fears about the rise of the e-reader is the ability to be able to access just about any book we want in a matter of seconds. Brilliant as this may be in some respects, can it really be good for us as human beings to forget how to deal with waiting? Even the phrase “delayed gratification” seems to be heard less and less these days. I want it to become fashionable again – and I do not want to wait long for it to happen (joke!).

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