BookGlutton: Get Beyond The Page With Social Reading

bglogoMaybe I’m biased towards writing-related topics because of my background and personal projects, but I also think good writing is one of the most important cornerstones of good business, and therefore useful in any line of web work. One of the best ways to improve any kind of writing is to read as much as possible. BookGlutton is a free (ad-supported) tool that can help you not only read more, but read better, in a context that emphasizes social interaction.

Any professional who uses writing in any capacity can benefit from getting another set of eyes on their work, and from looking critically at the work of others in similar fields.

BookGlutton can simplify that process by bringing it to the web. It seems primarily designed to cater to people wanting to set up an online book club, but as users can upload their own original works for shared reading, there’s nothing stopping us from using it as a collaborative work tool as well.

picture-5The built-in library at BookGlutton leans strongly towards public domain titles for which the copyright has expired, for obvious reasons. Reading and commenting on these works with a group of peers will probably help to improve your writing skills, but I’ll concentrate on its use for gathering feedback on your own work for the purposes of this overview. As is always the case when it comes to sharing work with other professionals, there’s always the worry of revealing valuable IP, but I still recommend a peer review process whenever possible.

The only formats BookGlutton’s upload function supports currently are ePub, HTML, and HTML+ZIP (Zipped HTML files). That means to get my work on the site, I had to use Word’s “Save As Web Page” command to get my .doc file ready for editing. Once uploaded, you can edit the work’s title, author, and description, and decide who to share it with.

picture-32My file had that aggravating problem of putting little question mark icons where quotes and apostrophes were, but otherwise the formatting translated well. Once you’re in reading mode, you can highlight text and “Mark” it, leaving comments that others can see and reply to, depending on who you chose to share them with.

The ability to see threaded discussions about any given passage is where BookGlutton shows its real potential as a tool for collaborative editing. You can’t do inline text changes, but for broad, big picture editorial work, this kind of commenting works much better than, say, track changes in a word processing program.

picture-41You can also chat in real-time if more than one user who has access to the work is logged in at once. The “Talk” window on the book’s left-hand side allows you to do this, and updates automatically when each user changes pages and/or highlights a new paragraph. This could be very useful if you’re lucky enough to be able to schedule live editing sessions.

Whether you’re a writer working online, or an online worker looking to improve your writing through feedback, BookGlutton is a web app with a lot to offer. It’s also been updated within the last couple of days, so even if you had a look before and weren’t too impressed, it might be worth a second glance.

I can’t wait to upload my endless volumes of memoirs and force my friends and family to read it with me and shower me with praise. And it better be praise.

Have you used BookGlutton, or a similar app, to get feedback on your writing? Share your thoughts in the comments.