Ways of encountering books - what changes have you seen?

In this week’s Antilibraries Analects newsletter I talk about new types of book encounters — how the landscape of browsing and borrowing, reading and recommending, is changing in more ways than ever.

My list of interesting emerging book encounters, so far:

(including various experimental, communal, post-bookstore, post-website, hybrid models…)

  • An Ocean of Books, browsing authors as islands, literature as map

  • Books that are websites, an Are.na collection of just that

  • Readwise creating new ways to collect and revisit book notes and highlights; library experiments built with Roam Research

  • Bookshelf as a space for creating and exploring book mixtapes

  • New academic publishing platforms like Manifold (“reading, annotation, and community…”)

  • Virtual shelves and browsing experiences, some drawing on earlier affordances, like Library Explorer from Open Library, and the incredible Library Stack project for exploring art and design publications

  • Fascinating and controversial: the “National Emergency Library” from the Internet Archive, pushing the limits of law and libraries

  • Interesting recommendation experiences like Recommend Me A Book, where you can read the first page without seeing the cover

  • Ideas for mapping book influences (who blurbs books? who do authors thank? seeking “ways to explore the network of influence and gratitude”)

  • A proliferation of remote reading groups: from virtual Silent Book Clubs to short story reading groups to Emergence Magazine’s community events

  • New ways of buying books: Bookshop.org taking off this past year as indie book-buying alternative; many more bookstores fulfilling online orders or even delivering; small presses (e.g. Archipelago, Haymarket, Verso) offering free ebooks

  • And even radical co-operative online bookstores like Massive Bookshop and their awesome “Book Hook-Up”

  • I’ve hosted a few Antilibraries show and tell events as well, both pre-pandemic and more recent remote ones, small groups sharing unread books

And some questions for you—

What changes have you seen in how you browse, discover, or otherwise experience books?

How do these changes make you feel? Confused? Nostalgic? Excited?

What do you wish to see more of?

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Wow just read this weeks newsletter and am overwhelmed by this list of book encounters. I want to explore them all at once haha. I love the idea of books that are websites and one of my favorite sites is just that:

It’s interesting that we can engage with a book in a variety of ways and often times this means we can have a continuous learning experience on a subject by jumping from platform/experience to other platform/experiences. This is what I think is the beauty of learning. Our learning of a subject is reinforced by repeatedly encountering the piece of information in a variety of contexts. So I welcome all these various forms of book encounters!

Still though I feel overwhelmed and I think that’s another issue that emerges from the vast and growing amount of resources we have access to. How do we filter out quality content from content that we find a waste of our time? I think It’s a personal journey of finding platforms that one loves and finds the most fruitful.

Thanks again for this list. :slight_smile:

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Love this collection, Brendan! (curious how you bookmarked them all… mnemonics alone?)

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Ohh this website looks amazing!! Reminds me of this piece on what a website can be but like internet scale; amazing design and multi-format publication. (And if it starts with a Perec quote…haha I’m in.) Thanks for sharing :slight_smile:

Yeah definitely can be a challenge! I agree having a few favorites (sites, tools, books, etc.) to return to can be nice; sometimes better to have the depth and regularity with a smaller number of things — and then create space to kind of casually surf and embrace serendipity w/ the larger multiverse.

Thanks Max! Not super carefully organized, mostly based on a couple plaintext lists I’ve been keeping for a while. I have one big one w/ all sorts of cool projects and websites that feel antilibrary-related, and also started keeping another list for book/literary stuff that seemed to emerge w/ the pandemic (online book clubs, bookstore / distribution innovations, etc.)

So for this I just scanned those lists and picked some favorites. I may have some others in Pinboard too, didn’t think to check those bookmarks! But long term I want to build a collection of favorite projects and resources on https://www.antilibrari.es/, I think would be fun to better organize and play with collections (for books, too!)