By Darin L. Hammond
Updated September 25, 2012.
I was shocked earlier this year, by the power and popularity of ebooks. In fact, they surpassed print book sales for the first time this month (June 2012). I have been in love with paper books for almost 30 years now--I'm not that young, but discovered reading late in high school, with George Orwell, Ray Bradbury, Albert Camus, and Will Shakespeare. I guess I am a reluctant ebook reader. However, I'm certainly not an opponent, and the marketplace for reading and writing is now more wide open than ever. The first thing I would need is a great ebook reader which have become quite affordable and versatile in recent months.
In fact, this is good news--people are reading books! Whatever the format or medium, writing and reading promotes cultural exchanges and life long learning. I don't suggest that all writing is equally good or beneficial. There are some books that I consider downright dangerous or harmful. Whether it's an ebook or print novel, one should be selective and read the best available. I recommend finding topic niches, books, subjects, and authors that you love to read. I personally refuse to invest a lot of time in a book that I'm not pretty sure I will like. But, how do you know beforehand if you will enjoy a book? Here are a few effective resources that I use develop my reading list (works for both print and ebooks):
1. Online book reviews, discussions, and ratings--NPR Books, NYT Bestsellers, Magazines and periodical with online reviews like NYT--Books, Washington Post--Books, LA Times--Books, The Atlantic--Entertainment (Books), and Time--Entertainment are extremely helpful. Don't forget to take a look at aggregators such as Lulus and Smashwords.
2. Book clubs--Oprah's picks, online clubs (Google search "book clubs"), organizations at public and university libraries (visit the online sites close to you), community organizations (Google search the name of your community and "books,") and churches (Google search the church's name and "books") are all good places to look.
3. Reading lists from educators. Just do a quick Google search with topic areas of interest to you combined with the words "reading list" "syllabus," "course outline," or "college course." The results will include useful resources that are not necessarily universities, like the Guttenberg Project and instructors from all grade levels. You can also type in the search the names of specific universities local/famous (Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, etc.).
4. Recommendations from family and friends are perhaps your best resources.
5. Picks from your followers, friends, and circles. If you can't find their recommendations already online, ask them for favorite books, authors, and current readings. Send an email, call, find them online (text, Twitter, Facebook, etc.), and get back in touch with friends and family.
6. Ask your local university or or public librarian for picks--a brilliant resource because most librarians are true scholars.
7. My current favorite resource--Goodreads which provides a user friendly interface, easy friend connections, and other methods for finding books and readers in your interest area (visit my booklist). You can find and add friends, rate readings, comment on novels, and explore new books. They also have a quote tool that allows you to explore quotes from favorite authors, books, and topics.
8. Online free resources that offer books, book reviews, and recommendations such as Amazon. You can easily build up a reading library using this method, and for free!
9. Of course, websites that sell and offer free ebooks. I've already mentioned and provided links for a few above, but There are some great resources on this list.
10. Online lists of prizes for authors and books. Some examples are Pulitzer, National Book Award, Nobel, Booker, Newberry, and many others. Do a Google search for "book lists and prizes."
11. Many bloggers review books using great writing of their own (Google search for "blogs," "book reviews," and "recommendations").
12. Book stores and libraries near you. Support your community by browsing the resources available to you.
In general, I recommend using resources and tools instead picking books randomly, especially if you are not widely read or used to reading. Finding and sharing books is fun and easy, and the addition of ebooks to our lists only lessens our challenge. Keep in mind the many genres of books and readings as you search (poetry, fiction, non-fiction, biography, science fiction, literary, romance, western, classic, etc.).
The quantity of ebook readers suprised me, and the Pew Research Center surprised me further today as I was writing, revealing that most people are unaware of the fact that public libraries usually have vast lending libraries of ebooks. If you love ebooks, you exploit this valuable and free resource. By the way, Pew Research is a tremendous resource for valuable, credible, and objective research.
For you authors out there, according to "Free Ebooks Correlated with Increased Print-books Sales," offering free material is a positive gesture to readers, and also promotes both ebook and print-book sales. While giving away your precious labor may seem discouraging or pointless, you might consider it free publicity for your book and your name. Oftentimes, books move from the preliminary free distribution to payed ebook and print formats. Many authors are already doing this online, and their free ebooks are a tremendous resource for discovering new authors and exploring both recent and classic books. I have found that many of the authors I interact with on Twitter, Google +, and Facebook use this as a tool, altruistically gifting us their words and work. Be sure to give them feedback and thank them for their work. The best thing you can do towards this end is to spread the name of the author and book as you share with people you know. I hope that some of these authors will comment below and that you can access their work in the comments. I have found their books incredible.
Good luck to you authors. And to you readers, I hope this helps in finding and reading books that you love expand your learning. Life long learning is an essential skill for staying young, boosting intelligence, keeping informed, increasing vocabulary, and advancing critical thinking skills. In addition, sharing with others makes life worth experiencing.