Can the Internet Be Your New Bookshelf?
Matt Yglesias loves his Kindle for reading. But it's not so good, he says, for showing other people how much he loves reading. "It deprives me of the signaling fun that comes along with reading traditional books," he writes. "I’m going through Infinite Jest, as are a lot of people this summer, but I can’t visibly display the book on the Metro or around my house."
This is one of those spots where I imagine social networking really will save us. Back when I was using Facebook more, I was a big fan of Visual Bookshelf, which let you display what you were reading and, when you finished, let you rate and review the books. As a matter of signaling, it's quite a bit more efficient. Your friends don't have to catch you in a literary moment on the Metro. And being able to browse the collections of all my friends was a delight, and offered occasional surprises that helped me known them better: former football teammates who were now reading John Kenneth Galbraith, for instance, and libertarian friends who listed "The Grapes of Wrath" as one of their favorite books of all time.
I also found that displaying the contents of my bedside table helped counteract my tendency to get distracted 90 pages in and start something else. Now that the books were hanging out on my profile, I felt more pressure to finish them. Somehow, simply leaving books around my room didn't carry the same silent reproach. In fact, I sort of miss that pressure. Which is why I've added a little Amazon widget that does much the same thing to the right sidebar. Technology!
Photo credit: Getty Images Photo.
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