Wanted: book reading groups

book readers

Where are the readers?

Where are the book reading groups? Readers ought to be around when authors need them, right? I am talking about communities of book readers who are just that, and nothing more.

They don’t seem very active on social media. Not on Facebook, anyway, going by my findings so far. Given the diminishing returns from a Facebook presence, are readers more sagacious than authors are?

It all started when I read this blog post. The post has lists of Facebook groups, all to do with authors, books and readers, under various classes. The first class is “General Reader Facebook Groups”. The list piqued my interest. Gee, I thought, Facebook has groups for readers?

I decided to find these readers and ingratiate myself with them. After all, they are going to help get me on the New York Times; the alternative is $200,000—a no-no for me. I haven’t even seen that kind of money in my dreams. I was looking for groups where readers dominated—the more, the better for my NYT ambitions.

I was looking for the layman kind of book readers: the folks that don’t write books but read them and make up the raison d’être for authors, agents, designers, editors, proofreaders, publishers and all those people who inhabit the world of literature.

In not one group with posts visible did I find specimens of the “purely a reader” genus. A few of the groups did not have posts visible, and I had to look up the members to see what they were all about. Some did have a majority of members who did not seem to be authors. There was no definite sign, however, that they were readers. To sum up: I did not find anything that would have conformed to a very literal definition of “book reading groups”.

Most of the groups had healthy membership numbers, reflecting the fact that everybody and her aunt is an author these days. Many groups did emphasize readers in the group descriptions, but that was about it.

What I found was author promotions in encyclopedic volumes. Some books seemed to be touted in every single group I studied. It indicates that some authors are pimping themselves in every group they can find. It is not farfetched to assume they are crowding other social media sites, too. Makes you wonder when they have the time to write things to pimp.

Any skin off my nose? No. I just brought this up against the backdrop of this question: how much are the authors and books saturating groups really benefiting?

Let’s look at some of these “reader’s” groups. Are they truly reading groups?

Disclaimer: I am not disparaging Facebook groups of any kind, even given my comments about some specific groups further on in this post. I am proud to be on some Facebook groups, and I am reasonably active on them, too (though I have no idea if my the administrators and other members appreciate my activities).

Book Giveaways: The group description says, “A group dedicated to promoting Book and Bookish giveaways.” It is a closed group of 2,200+ members. A scan of the members showed that few of them actually looked like authors. Since no posts were visible, I could not arrive at an answer to the question: if most of the members are not authors, what are they?

Books: This group is big, with over 16,000 members. The group description reads, “Books Group is a community for book lovers. Whether you love classics or popular fiction; whether you love Dickens or Dan Brown; is a place where you can find others who share your reading tastes and through them discover new books that you will love.”

Rather promising group description, but unfortunately I did not find a whiff of a book lover. I did not get to taste anything, nor did I get to discover anything. Of course, the site was crowded with book promotion lovers.

All About Books: A largish group of just over 12,000 members that I spent time over only because of the group description: “A group for all who love books for authors & readers.” Really?

Another group infested with promotional posts. Nothing to do with people who loved books for authors and readers.

We Love Books: A modest 915 members, with a group description reading, “WoodsBooksonLine (www.amazon.com/shops/WoodsBooksonLine) has set up and supports this group. Save money and time by buying on line. If you love books, please feel free to tell us about your book that you wrote, a recent book that you read or something you would like to recommend. We encourage you to buy books on line at www.amazon.com/shops/WoodsBooksonLine.” This site was full of promotions of the “that you wrote” kind, but I didn’t see much of the “that you read” or the “you would like to recommend” kind.

I clicked on the WoodBooksonLine link, and I liked the site I reached. It is on Amazon, the brainchild of a “Retired educator and lawyer. We have built our business by buying out bookstores and placing their inventory on-line. We pride ourselves in prompt shipment (NEXT DAY) and respect and fair treatments of our customers. If we make a mistake, please point it out to us and give us an opportunity to correct it. We ship many books to jails and prisons all over the US. There is no extra charge. If you have a special request, just let us know. We are big enough to offer a great inventory and small enough to give great service.”

Visiting this site made me wish that the WeLoveBooks page would promote print books from the WoodsBooksonLine inventory. Would have made that group worthwhile.

Crazy About Books: A very suggestive group name—it evoked images of readers falling over each other, forming dedicated reading groups. Rather unfortunately, the page seemed to have fallen somewhere by the roadside. I was not able to get access to it, but got this:

Message on FB page

Message on FB page

Nook and Kindle Readers: This group of almost 10,000 members describes itself with the words “Welcome! We’ve recommended thousands of books to over thousands of readers and NKR is a place people HAVE to visit when buying their next mentally stimulating piece of reading material.” I must say it was a mentally stimulating piece of description. Another closed site with no posts visible. I clicked through random member profiles and found about an equal mix of identifiable authors and others. Who these “others” are, I have no idea.

Book Place: Well populated, with about 9,900 members. The eloquent group description says it is “A group for anyone who likes books or is in any way connected with books, including readers, authors, librarians, editors, agents, publicists, illustrators, and more. This includes both print and electronic forms.” I saw about 9,900 authors earnestly hustling their books, but not a sign—print or electronic—of readers, librarians, editors, agents, publicists, illustrators, and more.

I Luv Books: This group has near about 7,000 members and a group description that reads, “This group is for people who love books, find books their best friends. Who often talk with books in silence. Who not only read books but feel their spirit.” Sad to say, all I found were near about 7,000 authors spiritedly talking about their books with no respect for silence.

Book Junkie Promotions: The description for this group of 9,300+ members says, “This is a sister group of BookJunkies (https://www.facebook.com/groups/ginnefrancesreadingroup/). You are welcome to join this group, but of course, we’d love to see you in BookJunkies as well. This group page is for all authors to be able to promote their books, blogs, radio interviews, etc. You may promote as much as you wish, whatever genre.”

I don’t need to tell you: authors are just waiting for an invitation like that. Here, they have accepted gratefully, in legions. I allowed them to submerge me for a brief instant, and then clicked over to the BookJunkies page.

A few days ago, as I was doing my preliminary research, I was able to access the BookJunkies page. It has a group description that was almost a book in itself, starting with “ANY MEMBER WHO PROMOTES ON THIS GROUP WILL BE INSTANTLY BANNED! This is a group for our young readers and authors of children’s and YA books.”

This was another closed group with no visible posts. Some snooping through the profiles of members exposed the pleasantly surprising fact that most members do not appear to be authors. Makes sense—what would authors be doing on a site that does not allow them to promote? Finally, a reading group in the true sense of the word? Your guess is as good as mine.

Unfortunately, when I revisited this site just before publishing this post, I got this:

Message on FB page

Message on FB page

Book Lovers: This group has a healthy membership of nearly 15,600. The group description puzzled me: “If you love books… this is the group for you! If you know other people who love books… Invite them! :).” Readers love books, but they read them, and authors also love (their own) books, but they write them. So who was the target?

Since what I did see was almost all 15,600 authors promoting feverishly, I presume the book lovers the description talked about were authors.

So where do we stand now? Do we conclude that there are no readers to be found on Facebook? If so, why are authors on that site at all? There are thousands of Facebook groups on books, authors and readers. Have I missed something?

I am going to dig further into this matter, and will be back soon with my next post. For the time being, the only Facebook group benefit I can think of for authors is reviews: there are many authors’ groups on Facebook where members buy, read and review each other’s works.

What do you have to say? Are you aware of any Facebook reading groups, groups that are actually full of book readers? Are you aware of any other benefits authors are gaining from Facebook? Guide us in the comments, please.

Oh, and a share or two would be most welcome.

Wanted: book reading groups

by Venkatesh Iyer time to read: 7 min