Cross-Posted from the Crowdsourcing Blog
I have a dream. An idea. A maybe great notion. Actually, as Auggie March might say, "I got a scheme." What if everyone on Twitter read the same book at the same time and we formed one massive, international book club? Usually such programs are organized by big city libraries. Seattle started the trend for collective reading in 1998 when zillions of Seattlites all read Russell Banks' book, Sweet Hereafter. Chicago followed suit with To Kill a Mockingbird a few years later, and then other cities started jumping on the bandwagon. When the program works—and it doesn't always—it gets more people reading, more people talking, and more people generally appreciating the written word. What's not to like?
A few weeks ago I was reading about the Chicago's read-along for a grad seminar on social capital I'm taking with Robert Putnam this semester. My strong suspicion (and I'm hardly alone) is that networks like Twitter are rife with social capital, especially the so-called "bridging" social capital that connects communities of people who have little else in common. The thought struck me that Twitter would provide a much better platform for a book club than the mere accident of physical proximity. Just think, we could supplant #howyouathug with #chapterfourexegesis in trending topics! Actually, no, we probably couldn't, and that's not the goal anyway. I love books. So do you. Let's love one book together, our actual geographical location be damned.
Here's how it'd go:
• Now: We collect nominations for what book we want to read.
• Soon: We pick a winner out of the top selections. Why not just pick the one with the most votes? Because it's not too hard to game the system. The final selection needs to be of general interest. It needs to be translated into many, many languages, and ideally it should be freely available.
• Soon After That: We start reading, and tweeting, and reading, and tweeting.
In the meantime, the hashtag for One Book, One Twitter is #1b1t. If you want to keep up to date, follow me, @crowdsourcing.
A few quick notes: This is not a book club, per se. There are some wonderful book clubs on Twitter, including #thebookclub and the Twitter Book Club (#tbc). The aim with One Book, One Twitter is—like the one city, one book program which inspired it—is to get a zillion people all reading and talking about a single book. It is not, for instance, an attempt to gather a more selective crew of book lovers to read a series of books and meet at established times to discuss. The point of this—to the extent it has a point beyond good fun with a good book—is to create community across geographical, cultural, ethnic, economic, and social boundaries.
At best we start an annual summer Twitter tradition, and bring a bunch of people from all over the world to read together. At worst a handful of us pick a book in an ad hoc fashion and we'll simply have started another Twitter book club, and—if you're a word nerd—how bad could that be?