Thursday, June 01, 2017

How Computers Have Changed the Way We Find Books

In recent years, a lot of people have written about the way our reading habits have changed thanks to technology. I am so behind the times...I didn't get a e-reader until last year, following my cancer diagnosis...that I'm not sure I've done enough e-book reading to really weigh in on that conversation. I do appreciate e-books, though I still say it's no contest between digital and physical reading for me...I just love the feel and smell of actual pages!

One thing I have noticed, however, is how different my approach to discovering and finding books has changed in recent years.

I guess I am thinking about that because it's the season for "summer reading lists..." you know, the lists where well-known people, or people you've never heard of who nevertheless have great blogs, post their list of recommended reading for the upcoming season. Summer reading generally means more fun, fluffy reading, the kind of reading people want to take to the beach, or books they imagine would be good at the beach even if they can't get there. Or in the event of kids' summer reading lists (which lots of homeschool bloggers like to post) books your kids will enjoy getting lost in during vacation time following the academic rigors of the school year.

I was just looking at a summer list that a friend posted on Faceboook, and I realized that, without really being conscious of it, I have developed a way of gathering new books when I read lists like that. I look for authors I know or genres that interest me, I skim what the recommendations have to say, and then there are a couple of directions I might go.

If I'm still not sure the book sounds like something I want to read, I pursue reviews...often on sites like Amazon or Good Reads. Having written reviews for a lot of years, I'm pretty good at skimming those quickly to get to the heart of the what the review writer is saying. If the book author mentioned is the author of a series (I'm often interested in mystery series) then I look up the author's website or  find them on Wikipedia and go to their full bibliography so I can find a list of their books in order and discover the first one.

That's always an eye-opening moment, when you discover the author is either the writer of three books that started appearing five years ago or a veteran with twenty-five books that started showing up twenty-five or thirty years ago. In any event, if it's a series, I usually start at the very beginning ("a very good place to start...") note the title (and keep the window open in case I forget it) then log into my account on my library's home page. I am hugely blessed to be connected to an excellent library system which has dozens of libraries with great collections.

I can usually find the book I want and put it on hold so it will get sent to my local library for pick-up. If I can't find it in the system, as will occasionally happen with older, out of print titles, or very new titles that none of the local libraries has happened to purchase, then I put a request through the library's inter library loan. The book usually takes longer to arrive on the hold shelf, but it can definitely be worth the wait. I've been able to read some very good books thanks to ILL.

I've worked this way so long now that it's almost hard for me to believe there was ever a time...before book bloggers, before library hold systems you could access easily with a few clicks of the keyboard or your phone (even in the middle of the night)! I don't get too nostalgic for the old days when you just wandered into a bookstore or a library and browsed the shelves and hoped you'd hit something wonderful...because I still do that kind of book gathering too. Though I'm still more likely to put a book on hold at the library after finding it at the bookstore, unless it's something I know for sure I want or need to own for a certain project or learning season.

However we find them, books are beautiful. They add so much richness to our lives, something I've always felt and known, but am feeling more conscious of than ever as I go through my long season of illness and healing.

With all this said...will I make a list of recommended reading for this summer? Hmm....I'm not sure, but I have a feeling I might. Stay tuned!

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