Reader, not.

Earlier today Trey wondered why Readernaut didn’t get more props. It happens that I’ve been working through some thoughts on said website and others.

I consider Readernaut, along with Cork’d and 97 Bottles, to fit into a category of websites that I’ll call (for want of a simple and short descriptor) “activity trackers”. These web apps represent social networks built around common consumption, be it reading books or drinking wine. Members discuss, rate, and list what they have individually consumed. There may be a few extra bells and whistles specific to each activity (a “cellar” for Cork’d, for example), but the basic structure is the same.

The three websites I’ve specified are all pretty sweet – most everything seems to work as described and there are detailed methods for sharing the specifics of your intake without overwhelming the user. The problem I have with each of them, however, is that they all seem to make clerical work out of my leisure time. If I want to make good use of these websites, I can’t simply read my book. I have to pull up Readernaut and enter the last page number when I’m finished. And when I’m done, there’s the compulsion to render an opinion, or at least remember to rate the book. And no longer can I just try a new beer at Capital Ale House (heaven help my taste buds’ memory if it’s the first of a few). I have to recall the name, taste, aroma, color, and so on. Should I whip out my Moleskine and jot down tasting notes for later? How reliable will my notes be after beer number three?

Maybe some iPhone apps would help, but then I’m still that guy pulling out my doodad to take notes or post a rating. And I still have to add routine to my leisure time.

All of this probably indicates little other than me not being the target audience of these web apps. But maybe the reason Readernaut doesn’t get much attention is because I’m in the majority. That doesn’t make these web apps bad; I’m simply suggesting that they’re likely to be relegated to a niche market.

3 thoughts on “Reader, not.

  1. It makes clerical work out of your leisure time. Well, damn. Now I want to stop using them. :)That’s a very good point. I feel the same way about the other two sites you mentioned, but entering a page number and noting a quote or two fits nicely in my routine, and it eases my mind rather than burdens me. I love being able to search for quotes or other things from books I read.But I totally get it your points. However, I think the main reason Readernaut doesn’t get more buzz is that most people don’t read.

  2. @Trey: As for people not reading much, I agree with that…and it’s a very sad thing.Of course, there’s probably always been more people drinking beer than reading 🙂

  3. See, if you were a true wine or beer enthusiast, tasting notes would make sense–they’re something you might want to keep even if you weren’t logging them to a website. For many of the users on Cork’d, I suspect that tasting notes were something they were producing before the website existed. At the very least, they were probably more cerebral about their sampling than the average schlep. For them, flavor detecting and the cataloguing of their exploits is part of the leisure time, even if it is, at its core, somewhat clerical in nature.The problem for me, with Readernaut (I confess I’ve never used it, so grain of salt and all that), seems to be the creation of constructs that the avid reader does not necessarily have in the habit chain. Plenty of readers don’t produce a written review as part of the process of enjoying a book. They may have an opinion, but a worthwhile written opinion on a book requires re-reading and more re-reading. Sure, they could give “first impressions,” but even that requires more thought and analysis (TIME) than documenting a flavor. This is not to say that wine tasting does not require thought or analysis, or even a lot of it necessarily. My point is that evaluating an entire book is more akin to evaluating an evening of themed tasting rather than one glass, and most readers are not interested in slowing the process with chapter-by-chapter note taking. This is not to say that they shouldn’t (you know my opinion there), but that they simply don’t.

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