Facilitating communication about books through an online community

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Journal Article
Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, 2011, 15 (2), pp. 197 - 217
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Reading books can serve as a means of gathering information, relaxing and escaping daily stress. Although reading is often primarily an individual activity, many readers also enjoy sharing reading experiences with friends, relatives, colleagues and, through the internet, even with strangers. Apart from valuing these individual and collective book activities, books as physical artifacts are also valued, for example because of the memories associated with them. This paper investigates how books can be enhanced with a new product, system or service. In a qualitative interview study, the main reasons for valuing books were found to be related to the self (individual activities and feelings), experiences (e.g., enjoyment or release) and personal values (e.g., embodiment of ideals or personification). As a result, it was decided for the remainder of this study to focus on communication about books, because in addition to individual book-related activities and feelings, users indicated to communicate about books a lot. A book community Web site, called Shelf, was developed to investigate whether book communication could be increased by facilitating an online community and whether users would appreciate the Web site functionality. Shelf was used in a 14-day user evaluation, and it was concluded that the Web site increased the extent to which readers communicated about books. We expect that such an online book community would be a valuable enhancement of current book customs, in particular in combination with the current e-book trend, for various types of readers who would like to share their experiences. © 2010 The Author(s).
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