By August 26, 2011 0 Comments Read More →

Online Book Discussions: Pros and Cons

At a recent workshop on leading book discussions that I presented to graduate students at Dominican University, the talk turned to online book discussions, and participants enumerated some of the strengths and weaknesses of this form of sharing ideas about books.

Here are the “pros” of this format, as defined by the group:

1.  Gives you the opportunity to say things of a more personal nature that you might be reluctant to express “in person”

2.  Provides a comfortable setting for extremely shy people who would like to join the discussion

3.  Offers convenience by allowing you to participate at any hour of the day or night

4.  Opens up participation to a seemingly unlimited number of people

5.  Gives you the opportunity to participate in a discussion when nothing of a similar nature is being offered locally

Conversely, here are some of the “cons” identified during our discussion:

1.  Allows participants to be rude (if they choose to be) because there is no leader to control the discussion

2.  Can lead to misunderstanding of comments because of the inability to see a participant’s face or hear their tone of voice

3.  Suffers from having no leader to keep participants from rambling off on unrelated tangents

4.  May be harder to get a direct response to a particular comment

5.  Anonymity of  participants inhibits understanding of where an individual may be coming from with their comments

This is a fascinating topic that deserves further exploration.  Few of the members of our group of 19 had actually participated in an online book discussion.  BGB readers who are veterans of this type of book group may wish to weigh in on the subject.  And please, let us know if you really enjoy discussing books in this manner, or if you feel the drawbacks outnumber the benefits!



About the Author:

Ted Balcom lives in Arlington Heights, IL and conducts workshops on leading book discussions, about which he has also published a book: Book Discussions for Adults: A Leader’s Guide (American Library Association, 1992).

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