Are E-Books and Accidental Discovery Mutually Exclusive?

I read this quote today on Jeff O’Neal’s blog Critical Linking:

Accidental Discovery

There’s an aspect to traditional books which is lost in even the best electronic reader, which is Accidental Discovery: I’m reading this or that, and leave it laying about the house, and you visit and see it, or you’re perusing my book-shelves to see what i’m up to, and find something which interests you. I’m a technologist, and i worry that this casual, accidental, and as you mention, social means of discovering by talking about books is threatened by devices which need to be explicitly searched in order to find out what they hold.”

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This got me thinking about how I discover books, and I realize there is some truth in this statement. I had company last weekend; the woman was reading a print copy of Gone Girl, so of course we began discussing it, and she offered to leave it for me when she finished. Our conversation led to a discussion about various authors and written dialogue;  when she said she’d never read anything by Jodi Picoult, I encouraged her to help herself to one of several books by Picoult that I have on my bookshelf.

So here are two cases of accidental discovery: we both now have the opportunity to read books we might not have “discovered” on our own.

The question is, would we have discovered these books if they had only been on our e-readers, cell phones, or tablets? I have to agree with the opening quote, that explicitly searching for something on an electronic device is a very different activity. Personally, I often ask people what they are reading on their Nooks, Kindles, or other e-readers, but I’ve never followed up with “What else do you have on your reader?”

What about you? I’d love to know how you discover books in this electronic age. And if you are an e-book reader, have you ever been queried about the books you have on it?

Happy Reading!


(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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8 thoughts on “Are E-Books and Accidental Discovery Mutually Exclusive?”

  1. Very few of the people I know in “real life” are readers, so for me, it doesn’t matter at all. I’d say 85-90% of what I read are physical books, and yet most of my accidental discovery is digital, via various social media. I will occasionally browse the stacks in the library or a bookstore, but more often I go in looking for specific titles that I stumbled across online.

    1. I think it’s interesting that you discover books mostly through social media (I do, too, since I’m online most of every day), which shows the power of social media marketing. And now you’ve given us a site dedicated to thrillers–bravo! Thanks for stopping by and I hope you’ll visit again.

  2. I discover a lot of ebooks and traditional print books using social media channels. I have accidentally discovered digital books in my husband’s Kindle account before, but I typically would accidentally discover a book on a shelf in someone’s home or office.

    1. Social media seems to be winning in this discussion, which is not surprising given how much time we all seem to spend on our computers. And I wonder if that’s one of the reasons why more self-published books are read now than a few years ago? Many of those indie authors are marketing machines! Thanks for visiting, Jill, it’s always good to hear your thoughts.

  3. It’s definitely changed things a little bit. It may be different for the younger generation, though. Nearly everything is electronic for them, so they’re probably better at sharing information that way. (Playlists and all that)

    1. Ah, the younger generation! Yes, they are all digital all the time, aren’t they? I suspect you’re right–I’d guess they don’t often browse their friends’ bookshelves . . . but perhaps they do. Any under-30s care to chime in? Thanks for visiting, Phillip, and hope you’ll come back often.

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