Creating Tangible Connections in an Online World

Chaucers-2Later today I’ll be driving north up the coast to attend a book signing in Santa Barbara. The event will be held at Chaucer’s, which the LA Times has called “the little bookstore that could“. Chaucer’s has flourished and grown during a time when other local retailers, including mega-bookstores such as Borders and Barnes and Noble, have faltered and closed their doors in the wake of Amazon and the advance of online marketing.

I’m enthusiastic about the prospect of enjoying some tangible, human interaction that is centered around reading and books.  I should seek out this experience more often, I  suddenly realize. In years gone by, I used to make regular pilgrimages to bookstores, if only for a fly-by and to grab a cup of java. Nowadays, most of those bookstores have disappeared. Seldom did a month go by in the past when I didn’t find some reason for dropping by our local library. Today, I always seem to be hunched behind my laptop or iPad.

When did the reading experience become so solitary? (Let’s not even mention writing–the craft of writing has always been a lonely road.)shutterstock_62915473

So here’s my epiphany for the day (you’re probably already aware of it): when we replaced our physical reading venues with virtual ones, we also lost a quality of personal connection. Those connections may have seemed fleeting and minor in real time, but they added real value, I think. I miss them.

So tonight, I’m planning to set things back to rights. I’m going to honor and celebrate the human connection of reading, by driving two hours to attend a book reading at Chaucer’s. (Tonight’s author, by the way, will be Robin Winter. She will be signing and reading from her latest science fiction novel, WATCH THE SHADOWS. If you’re in the Santa Barbara area, I hope to see you there!)

Am I alone in feeling that something important has been lost during the gradual transition to an online reading world? Please share your experience about what has changed for you as a reader in recent years.

14 thoughts on “Creating Tangible Connections in an Online World

  1. It’s not just the reading world, Kathryn. It’s anywhere. The “texting generation” is losing the ability to relate to people face to face, to know how to argue civilly, to be more than just digital, drive-by demagogues.

    • I have retreated quite a bit from Facebook for just that reason, Jim. Any discussion becomes warped into a harangue. It’s usually the old folk doing the warping in my experience, interestingly. Probably because I so so many more of them!

  2. ‘I’m enthusiastic about the prospect of enjoying some tangible, human interaction …’

    you’ll get over it, it’s overrated.

    • You may be right, MG, lol. I’m fairly engaged in certain areas of the public sphere, but definitely feel a deficit as a reader. It’s too easy to do a quick download, I don’t make enough of an effort in that regard.

  3. Thanks for your post, Kathryn.

    I agree with your premise.

    And you’ve motivated me to visit some of the surrounding small town bookstores and libraries.

    • I’m glad to have provided a small prompt then, Steve! I know I have to have a nudge whenever I need to escape my comfort (read:lazy) zone. I’m always glad when I make the effort.

  4. Totally agree – sometimes by the end of the day my eyes feel like all they’ve done is stare at a screen. I’ve resolved to try and cut down on all the distractions online as they really don’t seem to add much but rather detract from the important things in life (including human connection!)

    • With young kids at home, I’m sure you don’t lack for human connection, Clare! Different story here, unless I count MacGregor and Bonkers, the crazy cat!

      • I agee, Kathryn. I’m getting ready to leave for a 12-day tour for CHECKED OUT, my new Dead-End Job mystery, and meeting readers.But meeting readers can be wearing. People say outrageous and hurtful things, as well as compliments. By the end of the tour, I’ll be ready to retreat to my office and shut the door for awhile.

        • I’m always amazed when people feel free to say negative things to authors–didn’t their mamas teach ’em the old saw, “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”? Not to mention what gets hurled about online–ouch! It’s enough to send me running back to my Gal Cave.

          • And have fun on your tour, Elaine! Hope you have a chance to share your experience with us here.

  5. A couple of weeks ago, I popped into my local bookstore and saw a poster for a book signing that evening by a new author. Knowing that I hoped to have a signing event of my own in the near future, I went back later to offer my support and preview the process. What a great opportunity a signing is for an author to interact with readers. I hope book signing events don’t go out of favor

    • I remember sitting alone at a table in front of a bookstore at an airport. People were rushing by, barely giving me a glance. A young woman stopped, gave me a big smile, bought my book, and said women need to support each other as artists. I’ll never forget that wonderful young lady!

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