The era of social networking is upon us, and one area where it is now advancing in strides is ebooks. Ebooks are becoming mainstream and their potential is beginning to be discovered with the introduction of various social features, such as shared highlights, notes, conversations, and posts into various social networking sites directly from the ereader device.
Social reading for consumers
With certain devices or apps, you can already share what you read with your connections on social networking sites and engage in discussions on specific passages. However, the future applications I’m most interested in here concern private sharing within very limited groups.
Social reading within companies and research groups
Universities have libraries. Many companies have some sort of libraries. If these libraries were electronic instead of physical, and complete with social features, the reading experience and efficiency would be forever altered.
Consider the following scenarios:
- Ability to search the contents of the books and the contents of any notes and highlights, including who made them. For non-fiction, this is huge: say you need one detail of tax law or a solution to a particular engineering issue, and a colleague has needed that same detail before and left a note in the book to help find it again, perhaps even with further instructions on the particular application – the ability to search for the detail and for the comment can save a lot of time.
- Ability to share notes and highlights in real time. For an academic research group working on, say, Kant’s metaphysics, this can transform the time spent reading into a social, more interactive experience and provide a huge boost to efficiency because insights are rapidly available for use and evaluation.
- Ability to post passages and notes to social networking sites. If you can post to company’s internal social networking solution, you can easily share important findings with people who have not yet read the book, or may not even intend to read it at all.
The result of all of the above is more efficient information flow, faster spreading of new ideas, increased conversation on the contents of the books, and improved insight into the past of the company or research group: the ability to find out who found which issues relevant and why and how the ideas have evolved.
The significance of this will vary depending on the field. For literature-based fields, such as philosophy, this is a complete game-changer. It may not be as huge for some other fields, but new ideas always serve as catalysts for improvement, and increasing the number of new ideas is therefore always important.
Photo: My Kindle, taken after writing this post