Once upon a time it seemed as though I had hours and hours a day in which to read. I devoured books at an impressive rate. Although I’m not a particularly fast reader, I made up for it in sheer number of hours devoted to the cause.
But that was before I started writing in the evenings, watched less TV, and there was no such thing as social media, let alone a blog.
So. Since these other things do now exist, my reading time has been slashed to negligible… unless I suddenly find myself consumed by a book to the exclusion of most other things for a few days or so.
This all means choosing what to read carries rather more weight than once it did. Particularly as there is now so much more choice.
Back in the ‘olden days’ I obtained most of my reading material from the bookshop. It was my one vice as a poor university student: I never begrudged myself spending money on novels. I judged them mainly from reading the blurb on the back of the book and to a lesser extent the cover. Plus I always flicked to random sections in the text to gain an idea of the writing style.
Short of reading reviews in the paper, that was pretty much the only option available. That and word of mouth, of course. And it was hit and miss.
The internet has changed the scene considerably. Now we can google any book we like and find a hundred reviews on various bookshop sites, newspaper portals and book blogs. These days, everyone has an opinion and is willing to share it. This behaviour is even encouraged!
Moreover, we now hear about books we might never otherwise have heard of, via Amazon recommendation algorithms and social media shares. No more the somewhat limited shelves of the local bookshop. Now the options are virtually unlimited.
So how does one choose? Aside from those books that generate buzz — such as award finalists and winners, or blatant bestsellers — it can be difficult. Invariably I tend to investigate books based on recommendations I come across in the interwebs and blogosphere. Then of course there are all the books written by my writer friends, who I try to support.
Since I’m buying a lot on Kindle, I do tend to read a few of the Amazon reviews to get a general indication of whether it sounds to be my kind of book, but it’s very difficult to gauge quality. Mind you, I’m a fairly forgiving reader if the story is gripping enough. But I don’t think I set a huge store on the number of stars, because there is so much disparity of opinion and taste. Not to mention understanding of how the star-rating system works…
The inspiration for this post was the fourth of my eleven questions: Do reviews influence your choice of reads? My bottom line answer would be yes, but not for the obvious reason. The simple fact that reviews are so prevalent means that they’re bringing books to my attention and influencing my choice by providing more information about books than I would otherwise have.
Reviews have largely replaced the bookshop shelves as the source of my information — because let’s face the very sad fact that most of the bookshops seem to be closing down. And it can still be hit and miss.
For the record: I am currently reading Dragon Haven, by Robin Hobb. I was given the audiobook of this and its predecessor, Dragon Keeper, but soon downloaded both onto my Kindle so I can read and listen in tandem. It’s kind of like playing tag. Thus, in this case, reviews had zero impact on my choice, although I have read some to see what other people thought of the books. I may even feel compelled to ‘review’ them myself here when I’m done. 😉
What about you? How do you choose books? What are you reading right now and how did you choose it?