Reading books is usually a solitary experience, but it triggers social activity as well, as the ongoing success of real-life book clubs shows. BookSprouts is a fairly new online community dedicated to book readers who love discussing books over a nice cup of virtual coffee. The social network is designed to make it easy to start an online book club, discuss books with other individuals, organize meetings and write up reviews.
First of all: the website looks and feels great. Signing up was quick and easy, and the lay-out of the website as well as the copy all make it very clear what to do after you’ve registered. There’s a powerful search behind the community layer so it’s very easy to add books you’ve read, or books you haven’t read yet but would like to. Creating and joining a book club on BookSprouts is done in a heartbeat, and you can look for book clubs by book (surprise!), subject, author, or geographic location. Based on the search results, the social network currently counts about 275 virtual book clubs, but some of them are invite-only.
BookSprouts faces the same hurdle most online community websites do when they launch: the inevitable ‘chicken and egg’ problem. I added a couple of books I read to my virtual bookshelf, but none were being discussed in any book clubs, nor were there any reviews. That means there’s not much social about this particular network for me so far. I could start my own book club of course and recruit members from the site or my own friends, and start writing reviews like crazy, but we all know only a small percentage of users actually gets around to being an active creator on these types of services, so only time will tell if BookSprouts can turn enough visitors into online book club ‘leaders’.
I also don’t see the business model behind BookSprouts. You have to dig very hard to find ads on the site and users don’t get charged for anything. What I see are affiliate links for buying books you’ve added to your profile on Amazon or AbeBooks (which recently became part of the Amazon family), but that seems rather pointless as I’m likely to already own books I’m declaring myself a fan of.
(Found via MoMB)