How Technology Changed Reading

You’re thinking this will be a post about reading on a device?

Wrong.

It’s not about that at all. It’s about how technology, social media, and computers have changed the way we interact with the book world. Authors are everywhere. Social media, newsletters, Goodreads.

If I have a question for an author, I can post it on GR and it will get answered. Or I can Tweet to that author. Once, I Tweeted to a beloved author (Teresa Medeiros) that I was recklessly in love with one of her heroes. I don’t normally crush on fictional heroes (except Captain America), but no matter how many times I read that book or others, I just plain love him. (I said all this in 140 characters or less) and she responded that of all her heroes, she has a soft spot for him as well. Swoon! So, like any good fan, I said to her, if you had to cast him in a movie, who would play him? Not that I was interested, but even though he was described in the book, I had a picture of him in my mind and I wanted to know what he looked like to HER, his creator. Very shortly, she replied. Christian Kane! No kidding. My favorite book hero ever and she thinks my favorite celebrity should play him? Oh my. I think I may have passed out. But now that I’ve fully recovered, I view that book and that author differently. My love for them is a bit deeper having interacted with her.

Another author (Sarina Bowen) I like let me join a behind the scenes team that gets the opportunity to talk about her books in advance of their publication. That just makes me feel cool.

An author (Jeff Zentner) I recently discovered published his second novel. Before it came out he Tweeted a link to the first three chapters. I got to read a preview. When I thanked him online, he responded. It made me feel valuable. There is a connection that had never before been present and it enhances my reading life.

Let’s scoot forward to today. If you know me, you know I am a crazy emailer. Pretty quick response time. But I don’t often check email on weekends. And weekends that include my birthday? Not even a bit. So when I saw this email this morning, in the form of a newsletter from an author I enjoy, I read it.

It included a short blurb about 20 free copies of one of her books being available on iBooks. you just had to be one of the first 20 people to respond to this email. Normally I am all over this sort of thing. I am ready to be one of the first 20. But this email came out on Saturday. I didn’t see it until today. That is DAYS later. I figure there is ZERO chance that there are any free copies left.

But, never one to leave a stone unturned, I respond back, regardless. I said “bad weekend to be off email for my birthday, I’m guessing, but is there any chance I’m the 20th person to respond?” Again, I figured zero chance and didn’t even figure on a response. I cannot imagine that at least 20 people didn’t want a free book, especially if you subscribe to the author’s newsletter

Imagine my surprise, when, a couple hours later, I get a response from the author. She wrote, “the 20 were gone days ago, but I just contacted them now and got another free code, for you. Happy birthday, here’s to being the 21st!”

No kidding, she did that for me. Eve Silver is her name and I’ve been reading her books for years. I was so touched. I mean, she did not have to do that, I totally did not expect it, but by doing so, she made me a fan for life. I probably already was, but this cemented it for sure. Now I have the book and gratitude for her kindness. This is something that couldn’t have happened before technology put us in touch with people we will never meet.

Thank you, Eve Silver. I’m super excited to read your book, it was an amazing birthday gift.

(For anyone wondering the book is Sins of the Heart by Eve Silver)

Finding Books

For some reason this has come up a lot lately. I’ve been asked several times (often at work as I bring a new book daily…) how I manage to find new things to read. The answer is, it’s a lot of work. Books don’t just fall into your lap, usually. The ones that do are typically the insanely popular ones. The Twilight series, The Hunger Games, The DaVinci Code, etc. When a book is that popular, everyone reads it and tells everyone they know to read it. The thing is, I rarely like those super popular books. When they are written to please the masses, they usually aren’t that good.

So, how do I find things to read.

Well, first off, I know what I like, and that is important. Having a friend tell you they read a good SciFi novel is great, unless you don’t read Sci-Fi. I’ve learned that no matter how good someone says a book is, if it isn’t within the boundaries of what I read, I am probably not going to like it. Doesn’t mean it is always true. Sometimes a book is just good, defying genre and all the “rules”. But usually not.

I follow blogs. Several. Through trial and error I have learned who recommends books that I like and who doesn’t. It is not foolproof. One of my favorites, Bloody Bookaholic, has recommended some of my favorites, but then I read something she raved about and find it awful. It happens. I can’t stand her favorite author, Richelle Mead, but another favorite, Julie Kagawa I absolutely loved when I read her. (If you like teen paranormal/fantasy, and haven’t read The Iron Fey series….do so now. Amazing. LOVED it so much).

I subscribe to newsletters. I get emails from my favorite authors, letting me know when their new material is coming out. It helps keep me organized because there are so many and I don’t like to miss new books in a series or if a new series is started. They also, quite often, recommend other authors work, so I get suggestions that way. I also get Barnes and Noble’s weekly newsletter. They talk about the bestselling books of the week, new releases, employee recommendations, etc.

I use Goodreads. Now, I am not a fan of all these social networking sites for everything under the sun. I don’t USE Goodreads. But it is pretty comprehensive and gives great information. The thing I like best is the list feature. I can click on user related lists for just about any genre. Then I can click on interesting looking books and read a synopsis. I can also see if a book is a series or not. Then I just request them from the library.

I utilize a website called “What Should I Read Next?” where you put in a book or an author that you like and it will recommend books that are by that author and also related books. It’s generated a lot of good ideas. It isn’t perfect, since it is user-created also, but it certainly helps.

I subscribe to a library service for previewing books, called Dear Reader. I am on two lists, teen fiction and romance. Every day of the work week I get an email. On Monday the new book starts and each day I get a little more. By Friday I’ve usually excerpted the first three chapters of the book. It’s a great way to get into a book and see if you actually do like it.

I use library websites. Public libraries are all about promoting books. They often have lists and recommendations and new releases so I can get an idea of what is out there.

I talk to friends and get ideas of what they are reading. Elena and I swap books (sometimes….usually I give HER books, but once in a while she gives me stuff, too). She and I have similar reading tastes, so she is my go to.

I use Amazon. Amazon does “recommendations” based on purchases. So if you look up a book on Amazon, they will go in and see by the records who bought that book and other things those people bought. Then they recommend those other things to you thinking you might like them as well. I pay attention to these recommendations and have found some gems that way.

My favorite way to discover new books is to visit a bookstore/library. There is really no electronic substitute for walking through rows of books and picking up anything that grabs your attention. To feel the weight of it in your hands, its texture, the thickness of the page, to see what font is used, to read the back of the book and turn the first few pages to see if you get into it. This is exactly how I found Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini, my favorite book of July. And I loved that whole trilogy.

I’ve learned to not waste my time if I don’t like a book. I just put it down and move on. There are so many books that I am never going to have time to read that I won’t waste my time reading something I don’t like. This is a departure for me. I used to finish every single book I picked up. Even if it was terrible. But I’ve learned that is not conducive to reading more. It tends to burn me out more quickly. I also have learned that having my favorites at hand keeps me reading more. Sometimes, just picking up something I know I already like and reading ignites my desire to read more and then I search for new things and it’s how I end up reading as much as I do.

While I don’t do all the above things daily, I do probably do them all weekly. It takes a lot of time and energy to find good books, but if you love to read, then it is totally worth it. And if you are one of my friends who just calls ME and says “can you recommend a book?” next time you’ll know that when I do that for you, it’s because I worked really hard to have that knowledge available for us both.

But feel free to try one of these and let me know if it works. Did you actually find something new, something interesting to read? I’d love to know.

Read more. That’s my motto these days!