Again about reading

This isn’t really a continuation of the Caleb Crain post, more like something you might find on the shelf nearby.

Going through my feeds this morning I came across a couple of different things that got me thinking about reading, reading online, and reading in new ways —

First there’s this project, kind of like social reading — Book Glutton. They are operating on the premise that the time when you want to take notes about a book, or talk about a book, is while you are actually reading it. So it’s part online book reading thingy, part book-related social networking site.

You can read public domain books about Sherlock Holmes or Jeeves and Wooster, online — here’s what the reader looks like when you first launch it:

Book Glutton reader (closed)

But there’s more to the reader than that. Picking up on the “you want to annotate while you’re reading” idea – if you click on that little blue strip to the right of the text, an annotation panel opens up:

Book Glutton reader (annotation panel)

You can read alone, or you can join a group reading a book together. What I find kind of interesting though, is that they’re taking “reading together” a lot more seriously than “join a group of people reading the same thing.” Which anyone already can do in a lot of places online.

Within the reader, if you click on the blue strip to the left, there’s also a chat panel:

Book Glutton reader (chat)

And that’s what I actually find interesting about this site – that the basic premise is that people would rather read books together. I think this goes against a lot of our notions about curling up with a good book, in solitude and silence except for the rain drumming on the roof. Or the idea of “losing yourself” in a book – that doesn’t seem to have a lot of room for other people in it. But maybe that kind of reading only appeals to some, or only appeals in the abstract.

As the Stumbing Funsters, currently reading Alice in Wonderland, say — Rock on. We read, bub. We read. Mostly in the evenings, when we’re feeling social, btw.

So maybe there are a lot of people who would rather do their reading like this? On laptops, in coffeehouses, together? Or maybe this is a different kind of reading?

Then there’s this project, which is very different. Really, there’s nothing tying these together except in my head.

Where Book Glutton is largely replicating the physical act of book-reading, the “digital art publisher” tontonium goes somewhere else. The digital fiction, The Reprover was mentioned on the if:book blog today, and it looks like a fascinating re-visioning of one thing “reading online” might mean.

It’s something that you have to buy, and I haven’t yet. But I’m thinking that if I can convince myself that it will help me with my French, I might be able to justify the purchase.

Meanwhile, you can get a sense of what it is like on this page here, with one exception. if:book says that the fiction includes:

a witty text in French and elaborate English which expands and contracts – the same sentence blooming different additional clauses each time you pass a mouse across it. This is a deeply disconcerting effect at first, but once you’ve got used to it, a whole new kind of three dimensional reading emerges. It’s a fascinating idea which could only work on the web.

I think I’m going to have to justify buying it, just to see that.