Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tweeting books - 1book140

If book clubs make you think of a bunch of middle-aged ladies sitting around gossiping, drinking wine and perhaps tossing out a few comments on a book like The Help, then try this one on for size - a very small size, but on a global scale.

1book140 is a monthly book club whose defining characteristic is that it takes place exclusively on Twitter (hashtag #1book140).

This virtual book club is the follow-up to a 2010 project called ‘One Book, One Twitter’ – an initiative of Jeff Howe, author and journalism prof. In 2010 project, reportedly 12,000 people from around the world elected and then read Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. Though obviously anglo-centric, apparently countries such as India and Malaysia were quite well represented in the discussion.

This year, again through a democratic twitter process, Canada’s own Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin will be the first book discussed on 1book140. To avoid spoilers, tweets will be divided into discussion by chapter – i.e. #1b140_1, #1b140_2, etc.

Now, I was an undergrad English major at university, and I know that there can be a lot more that 140-character’s worth to say about a good novel, or even a bad novel for that matter. But apparently Howe intends this to be more of a conversation than a sophomore essay. Think haiku, not epic.

So I’m curious enough about this already 4000-member twitter book club to follow along next month. I have a bit of an advantage in having already read The Blind Assassin, although it’s been awhile. From what I recall, I didn’t particularly enjoy it. Perhaps it'll improve with a second read. And it could be interesting to follow the discussion – although the English major in me will likely feel confined by the 140 character limit should I choose to join the fray.

I’ve had a few experiences of using/viewing twitter simultaneously with real-life events. Nothing on the scale of the Arab Spring, but I had twitter open as the last election results came in and it certainly added a whole new dimension, especially for someone sitting at home on a basement couch. So now to see what Twitter and 1book140 will add to the experience of reading.

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