I may not be a full-on bibliophile in the sense that I am not a book collector, but I am definitely a reader and have been as long as I can remember. Recently, I started to feel nostalgic about reading as a child.
Do you remember library sign-out cards? Checking out books from the library used to mean handwriting your name on a little card that fit neatly in a pouch Located inside of the front cover was a little card similar to an index card that fit in a pouch (see image). If you wanted to check the book out, you brought it to the front counter, wrote your name on the next available line, and gave the card to the librarian. If you were using a school library, you would also have to list your homeroom number so the library thugs could find you if you forgot to return it. In return, the librarian would stamp the due date on the card next to your name and on a little slip of brightly colored paper which was placed in the little pouch to remind you when the book was due.
Was the system effective? Mostly.
Efficient? Probably not.
The library experience has changed. Once upon a time, you would go to the library and browse around or, using the card catalog (pre-00s) or a computer (mid-90s), locate a title by call location. You can still do this. The Dewey Decimal system is used today if you are trying locate a book yourself.
Everything else, however, has changed.
Nowadays books and library cards have bar codes and are tracked through a sophisticated database connected to the internet. Instead of going to the library and spending time trying to find a book I want to read, I can just “order” it from the internet. From the “library network” site, I can put a hold on any book that I want and the system will automatically locate the nearest one, have it delivered to the library of my choosing, and notify me by email when the book arrives. I’ll have 10 days to pick it up. It’s not the instant gratification of a Kindle e-book, but it certainly saves time, effort, and gas money.
Even though you’ll get the due date on your receipt, you still receive an email 2 days before your materials are due back. If you forget or are just too lazy to return a book, you can just log on to the site and renew with a click. Easy.
If you read my previous post Take a Look, it’s in E-Book, you know that I do the majority of my reading on my phone or tablet. The convenience and benefits are many and I still recommend using them. But lately something has been missing and I realized that there was one quirky thing that I missed about the old-school library experience:
The sign-out cards.
I thought it was just so fun that right inside the book you could see a little history of all the other people who had checked the book out before you. Occasionally, especially in school, you would get the fun surprise of seeing the name of one or more friends on that card.
Reading a book is an experience; and nothing bonds people like a shared experience.
If you read the latest NY Times Bestseller, you might know that a few friends read it. You might also have talked about it and know what they thought. But wouldn’t it be cool if you knew all of your friends that read it and what each one thought about it?
There is a social network for readers and it’s awesome. It’s called GoodReads.
GoodReads let’s you do 3 really cool things:
1) Track your reading.
Pretty self-explanatory. The best thing is being able to keep a list of all those cool books you want to read in the future. The database is huge and you can even look up books by using your phone to scan their ISBN bar code.
2) Rate and review books.
As easy as Netflix, just give every book you read 1 to 5 stars. If you’re feeling more expressive, you can write a review of any length for your friends and the general public to read. Of course, you can see other peoples reviews and GoodReads also has a recommendation engine (just like Netflix) in case you want to discover new book ideas.
3) See your friends’ activity.
This is about the closest thing to the old-school library check out card that I’ve missed so dearly. You can see what books your friends are reading and if they’ve already left a rating/review on a book you have in common. If you go to their profile, you can see all of their books arranged on “bookshelves”: read, reading, to-read, or any custom bookshelves (I have one called “Favorites”).
Here’s an example of a review I wrote recently of the Steve Jobs biography. It’s short and sweet, but if you were interested in reading this book, you would see it on the book’s page and know that I’ve already read it.
If you’re a reader like me, I’d encourage you to sign-up for GoodReads and start using it to track all of your reading activity. The more you use it, the more you’ll enjoy it. I hope to see your names pop-up as a fun surprise like they might have back in the day!
If you sign-up, don’t forget to add me! Here’s My Profile.