Last week eBookNewser featured an article on ten social networks for readers. It seems online communities for readers are popping up everywhere in response to the e-book boom. Online writing and reading groups are less exclusive now; increased competition and advanced features means better options for reading and developing books across the web. Meaning more opportunities to find a website that complements the books you like to read, discuss and recommend.

Here’s our guide to the best of the bunch. So now you can spend more time playing (oops, sorry, working) and less time researching.

LibraryThing: A library-quality catalog and bookshelf with a community of over 1 million book lovers. Share what you read with book lovers and find people with remarkably similar taste using catalogs from Amazon, the Library of Congress and nearly 700 other world libraries. Read early-reviewer copies of select books from publishers and authors. The “Zeitgeist” provides immense data on LibraryThing’s user statistics: top 50 authors, 50 most prolific reviewers, 50 largest libraries, top 75 tags, lowest rated authors, tag clouds, groups’ statistics, and more. Authors can create a webpage for their published titles, share their catalog of books, and connect with readers to receive feedback or suggestions for future titles. If you are apprehensive about social networking in general, LibraryThing is the best place to start. It’s Facebook, with LinkedIn’s professional airs, for people who like books

Shelfari: A community-crafted encyclopedia powered by Amazon. Shelfari is LibraryThing’s laidback, friends-with-everyone type of sibling. Members create an online bookshelf, connect with friends, discover new books, review favorite books, and more. Browse books using authoritative lists from New York Times and Amazon.com, community-subjective lists, or standard series; by author, subject, or tag; and by popularity or recent edits. Various Shelfari “Librarians” allow members to contribute and alter a books’ information, called “edits.” You can modify synopses and summaries, submit memorable quotes, change overviews and settings, add book covers, provide classifications, and much more. Shelfari profiles and author pages are similar to Facebook profiles which makes networking and sharing easy for everyone.

Kobo’s Reading Life: A community for Kobo e-reader users. Share your booklist with friends on Facebook and Twitter, highlight quotations that strike you, and track your reading statistics. For consummate readers, the statistics tool is a unique and intriguing metric. Ever wondered how long it takes you to read a book cover to cover? How many pages you read per hour? The number of pages you read per session? How about time spent reading a magazine or newspaper? Reading Life can tell you.

Wattpad: Part e-reader app, part writer’s workshop, Wattpad connects millions of readers to new shared works. Wattpad is devoted to connecting writers with readers. Writers can test out material on readers, develop a fan-base, build a platform, and exchange ideas freely with other writers. Readers get access to free content in any genre: fan fiction, romance, humor, mystery, sci-fi, you name it. Anyone can upload content and I mean anyone.  Tread cautiously.

Scribd: Called the “largest book club on the planet,” Scribd is Wattpad’s predecessor and a popular place to upload, publish and share content. Its efforts to democratize the publishing process are admirable though many trade publishers upload snippets of upcoming books to drive sales before release; a good chance to check out the competition as well as assess potential audiences.  If you seek a network for reading and discussion only, try LibraryThing or Shelfari instead. Many books featured advertisements between pages of text and it’s highly distracting to be met with an ad for Discounted Cruise Lines when trying to finish a sentence or paragraph. Thanks, but no.

Protagonize: Like Wattpad and Scribd, Protagonize is a community for writers. Anyone can upload content or participate in writing exercises. Members can collaborate with one another and develop stories chapter by chapter. Readers can browse content by genre, popularity, high ratings, or click “Surprise Me!” to reveal a chapter at random. Like Scribd, ads feature prominently throughout the website; thankfully they never intrude the page. The Protagonize groups cover many topic but the largest groups focus on brainstorming, planning, editing, and character development. Writers who don’t have time to meet up with local writing circles would appreciate the flexibility that Protagonize offers.

 We’d like to hear from you about which of these tools you find useful as an author.

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Amy Pershing / Chevese Turner
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Diane Tober
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Larry Scheckel
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