On Friday our Digital Library Services Manager, David Campbell, told me about this article by Clive Thompson on the Future of Reading in the latest issue of Wired Magazine. It's a great description of how technology is allowing reading to be transformed from a largely individual act to a social one, which in turn has the potential not to diminish the importance and value of reading but to enhance it.
I need to check out some of the websites Mr. Thompson references, but the idea that technology will unleash the sharing of annotations, commentary and opinions not just on books or written works as a whole, but on excerpts or snippets - and thereby greatly facilitate people's ability to discover things they might want to read - is intriguing.
I am also intrigued by the idea that technology could create a class of what Mr. Thompson calls "professional readers"and I would term "citizen reviewers"...people who share their views on what they read and build a followership based on the quality of their insights and the alignment of their interests with those of other readers and not because they happen to be published in the newspaper or Library Journal. Of course this is already happening already through blogs and Tweets and Facebook postings and user reviews on Amazon.com and in library catalogs...but the development of sites like BookGlutton have the potential to take it to a whole new level by enabling not only annotations and comments, but real time exhanges of ideas and opinions.
On a professional level I can see how these changes will also be another force for change in the practice of librarianship. The days when we can base decisions about what to add to the collection based on whether an item was "professionally reviewed" are clearly numbered, and our efforts to develop "social catalogs" need to be stepped up exponentially if we are to offer the same opportunities to share the experience of reading that a commercial site like BookGlutton offers.
On a personal level I just hope the BookGlutton IPhone app isn't too far away!