Reading as a Contact Sport (Fister)

Fister, B. (2005). “Reading as a contact sport”: Online book groups and the social dimensions of reading. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 44(4), 303-309.

This is an interesting article in that it addresses some of the social aspects of reading. In this case, a case study of a successful online book club for mystery fans entitled 4MA (For Mystery Addicts). It does not answer all my questions about those mysterious “genre readers” but it does present some interesting points nonetheless.

There is a true, warm community at the heart of this collection of mystery readers, to the point that they have collaboratively daydreamed and imagined a retirement community where they could all end up, a town with a particularly well stocked and useful library, bookstores and tea shops (p.309). Although they are spread out all over the world, they bond over shared habit, likes and dislikes. Some members describe their friends’ and family members’ inability to understand their voracious appetite for mystery books — clearly this community offers a real support system for its members, who in some cases feel like outsiders in they day-to-day life.

Fister describes the kind of discussion that happens on this list as a vastly different type of literary communication than the prevalent popular discourse, which she describes as publishers and chain bookstores “commodifying reading”. (Here she mentions a number of articles about Oprah’s Book Club, which I will try to seek out.)

Another interesting aspect of this article is the notion of ‘reading twins’ — partners who have similar reading tastes and help provide the other twin with reading material. In this way, this community has created its own highly dependable and personalized reading advisory system — much more reliable than depending on the masses’ choices on Del.icio.us, for example.

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One response to “Reading as a Contact Sport (Fister)

  1. It is kind of like religion. It would be so comfortable if one could believe it and enter into it in the proper spirit of faith, belief, and selflessness. However, I would suspect that reading communities have always been important, and that the internet makes such communities easier to create. It is interesting that there is a drive to create a real community based on the virtual one.

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