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Is an online book club worth your time? The pros and cons of virtual book chat

One of the best things to come out of our pandemic year is the popularization of virtual events and meetings, like online book clubs. These virtual meetings have been a lifeline for literature lovers during this difficult year. Coronavirus or no, the internet makes discussion groups more accessible to a wider audience and easier to attend for people with busy schedules. But virtual book clubs have their drawbacks too. If you are thinking about joining or creating an online book discussion group, read on to discover if it’s right for you.

Person on a video call with four others
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The pros of a virtual book club

Being a part of an online book club has so many advantages; here are a few reasons to consider joining a group.

Socializing with others who share your passion

The best part of being in a book club is getting to meet other like-minded book lovers. You can make new friends and have deep conversations about topics that you’re all interested in. And with virtual meetings, the club isn’t restricted to people in a particular area. You can chat with people from all around the country (or even the world) about something you love.

Exposing yourself to new books and insights

With more members from different backgrounds in attendance, you’ll also get to hear many different perspectives on the book you’ve read. Other members may have ideas and insights that you may not have thought of independently, providing you with a deeper understanding of the literature. You’ll also become exposed to different types of books. You may discover you have a new favorite genre that you hadn’t considered reading before.

Two people reading and discussing on a couch
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Inviting authors and guest speakers

With online clubs, it’s also easier to invite guest speakers and authors to join your meeting. Much like with members, you’re not restricted to only welcoming people who live locally. And for authors, logging in to a video call and answering some questions is a lot simpler than traveling to an in-person meeting.

Staying accountable to your reading goals

Are you still trying to keep up with your New Year’s resolution to read more? Having a group of people reading with you and a deadline can help keep you accountable to meet your goals. It can help you get in the habit of including reading in your daily routine and build the discipline to stick with it. Nobody wants to be the one person in the group who didn’t do the reading.

Woman sitting on a couch and reading
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The drawbacks of online book clubs

While online book clubs have many benefits, they may not be enjoyable for everyone. Here are a few of the negatives of joining one of these groups.

Technical issues

When your group is reliant on technology to meet, there are bound to be some issues. People may have difficulty using the video conferencing software or getting their web cameras to work. Some may not even have the equipment needed to participate in meetings at all. For those who are not tech-savvy, virtual clubs are out of the question.

Group dynamics can be difficult to navigate

Interpersonal relations can be an issue with any book club as there is likely to be some discord when passionate people gather. And if you have a lot of strong personalities in the group, some voices may dominate the discussion, and others may be left out. Interrupting others, arguing, and disregarding others’ opinions can create tension in the group. Or, on the other end of the spectrum, a group made up primarily of introverts may have trouble getting the discussion flowing. With an online group, it’s essential to strike a balance and designate a moderator to ensure everyone who wants to speak has equal floor time.

Making compromises in your reading habits

Reading is often a solitary pleasure. But, when you commit to a book club, you may have to compromise on your existing habits to suit the group’s needs. You might have to read a book or genre that you know you don’t enjoy. And, when you don’t like the book, it can be harder to finish reading within the set timeframe. For some, needing to finish a novel — especially one you don’t like — by a specific date can take the fun out of it, turning a fun activity into work.

Should you join an online book club? The choice is up to you. For some, virtual book clubs offer an opportunity to widen their horizons, make new friends, and create space for reading in their everyday lives. For others, online groups can be nothing but a headache, with technical difficulties, unpleasant group dynamics, and compromise. There are many different types of readers. But if you are the kind who enjoys discussing novels, no matter the type of book or the personalities involved, give it a try! The benefits of having a reason to read will outweigh any negatives you may experience.

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Shannon Cooper
Freelance writer
Shannon Cooper has written about everything from pet care and travel to finance and plumbing in her seven years as a writer…
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