Saturday, December 8, 2012

Have Sites Like Goodreads and Amazon Changed How We Read Books?

Once upon a time I read a book. Okay, I read LOTS of books. Some I didn't finish, most I did. Many I loved, and some I didn't. Back then I didn't have anyone to discuss books with, so my likes and dislikes were all my own. I read for enjoyment and to escape my ordinary life. I read to learn of far away places, cultures different from my own, the famous and the infamous. Book after book I devoured, with little care for genre, or without even pausing to consider if I even had a favorite type of book. An epic sci-fi might lead to a tome on Norse gods, followed by an historical. Occasionally I'd obsess and read all I could on a single topic, but the beauty of it all was that I read what I wanted to, for enjoyment and enlightenment. End of story.

Now, with the advent of Goodreads, Amazon, and other such sites, I find myself subconsiously reviewing a book while reading. Sometimes, I'm so caught up in "Did I like that? How did it make me feel? Did it make me squirm half a star's worth, or a whole star?" that I have to reread the passage.

I mean, if I really enjoy a book, I want my friends to read it too if I think they'll like it, so I recommend it. I also want to help the author get the word out about the book, so I leave a review. The books I don't feel strongly about I simply read, file, and go on my merry way. One day I may pick one up again and find I love it, so I don't review books that didn't quite do it for me, for they may later.

Then I began writing, and learning more about the craft through betas, editors, and proofers. I beta others' work, helping them to find weak points and grammatical errors (though I can't seem to see my own). This provides an added burden that the proofreading has become ingrained, and I'm actively looking for weaknesses while I read, even while reading for pleasure, which isn't fair to me, the author, or the story.

Then, as though that's not enough of a worry, reading others' reviews prior to buying a book causes preconceived notions. Am I liking the book because reviewers said it was awesome, or am I judging it harshly because reviewers said it contained massive plot holes? Heaven forbid! I've caught myself taking mental notes while reading!!

Can this newly learned instinct be unlearned? Will I ever again curl up on a lazy Sunday with a cup of hot cocoa and a good book and simply lose myself in the pages, for however long it takes me to absorb the world an author painstakingly created? While I dearly love Amazon, Goodreads, and the other sites, how I miss those carefree days of simply reading for the pure joy of the written word.

I shudder in horror, fearing the day the simple act of reading turns into a scavenger hunt for typos and grammatical errors, and pray that time never comes.

What do you think? Have sites that encourage reader feedback changed how you read? If so, how?


  1. Not too much for me. I tend to just read and then think about how I am going to write the review after. And most small typos I tend to gloss over, but as I did a post about continuity errors last week, those make me crazy, but they always have. Do not have him leave the house in a red shirt and come home in a black shirt.

    I think those sites have changed how I buy books though. I used to blithely buy whatever seemed to appeal, and I still do for shorts usually, but for longer books I find myself going to GR and see what people I know have to say and if someone pointed out something that I know makes me crazy that may not be evident in the blurb. Sometimes I'm not sure that's really a good thing because I know there are people who can blow something up to seem like it's more of an issue because of their own personal feelings on it, that I may not feel the same way about, but I've passed on the book anyway. *shrug* But there are so many books it's not like I am running out of books to buy if I pass on one. LOL

  2. I know! So many books, so little time! Thanks for stopping by, Tam. Your reviews (and stories) have added many works to my collection.