The Sunday Salon: On “Reading it all,” … or not

Two weeks ago I shared my March over-commitments with you, and now that we’re halfway through the month I can say with complete certainty that I will not make it through everything I hoped to read this month.  I have three books on the go now: one for my short story project, another for a LibraryThing group read, and a third for a group read hosted by Rebecca @ Love at First Book.

From left to right: At the Owl Woman Saloon, Doctor Thorne, and In the Woods

Tess Gallagher’s stories are poetic and beautiful.  Doctor Thorne is typical Trollope and good fun, and In the Woods is a gripping crime novel.  The vast differences between these books make it somewhat easier for me to read them concurrently, but I can’t help feeling frustrated that I haven’t finished a book yet this month.  I still hope to read The Beth Book, by Sarah Grand, my pick for the Classics Spin.  But I’ll have to defer The Word Child, by Iris Murdoch and The Big Rock Candy Mountain, by Wallace Stegner.  The latter was a LibraryThing group read, but it seems like a lot of folks are slow to start.  With any kind of luck, the group read will still be going when I get to this book.

So there I was feeling frustrated about not being able to read it all, now, when suddenly my Google Reader exploded with news of Google Reader’s retirement on July 1.  I was quickly distracted from reading books, and found myself obsessing on reading about Reader!  Feelings ranged from outrage to resignation, and I pored through several articles recommending alternatives to my beloved RSS reader.  I even test drove a couple of services, ultimately deciding that “plan A” is Feedly, which I use today, and which the company claims will seamlessly adapt when Reader disappears.

But wait.  Not so fast.  Along came The New Yorker, questioning the value of RSS feeds in the first place.  And suddenly I saw myself not as a hip and hyper-connected blogger (which I surely am, LOL) but as a luddite, clinging to a cute but clumsy bit of retro tech.  In Farewell, Dear Reader, Joshua Rothman wrote:

Reader was made for absurdly ambitious readers. It’s designed for people like me—or, rather, for people like the person I used to be—that is, for people who really do intend to read everything. You might feel great when you reach Inbox Zero, but, believe me, it feels even better to reach Reader Zero: to scroll and scan until you’ve seen it all. Twitter, which has replaced Reader (and R.S.S.) for many people, works on a different principle. It’s not organized or completist. There are no illusions with Twitter. You can’t pretend, by “marking it read,” that you’ve read it all; you don’t think you’re going to cram “the world of ideas” into your Twitter stream. At the same time, you’re going to be surprised, provoked, informed. It’s a better model.

Does anyone else find this mind-blowing?  I am constantly in pursuit of “Reader Zero,” so much so that I usually find myself scanning post titles, reading one or two, starring a few more  to read later, and then marking all as read and breathing a sigh of relief.  And I do this several times a day, lest I miss something.  Then I hop over to Twitter, and find many of my fellow bloggers there, tweeting the same posts I just saw on Reader.  But they’ve also been chatting, and I’m usually too late to join in — the conversation moved on while I was busy “marking all as read.”

So I took a hard look at my Reader subscriptions and shifted the news I’m most likely to “mark read” to Twitter.  Instant relief — no pressure about keeping up with those anymore!  Now I’m considering shifting as many sources as possible to Twitter, and using Feedly only for my blogging friends who aren’t tweeting yet.

It feels kind of liberating already: no pressure to read it all, and I might even free up some time to read my books!

Do you still use RSS?  Would work Twitter for you? 

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18 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon: On “Reading it all,” … or not

  1. I still use RSS and feel pretty strongly that it has value that Twitter and other social networks can’t really provide. My feed reader (and I’m bouncing between Feedly, Bloglovin, The Old Reader, and Netvibes/Bloglines right now) is where I subscribe to blogs whose posts I never want to miss. I think RSS readers can be overwhelming if you subscribe to everything that might be interesting, but I’m pretty choosy about which blogs end up in (and stay in) my reader. I follow way more blogs on Twitter and click over if they post a link that looks interesting. But I don’t rely on Twitter for my favorites because I can’t be on Twitter all the time, and a lot of bloggers I read aren’t necessarily on at the same time I am, so I’d miss tweets to their links anyway.

  2. I confess I don’t tweet or RSS – I just subscribe by email or try to remember to go to the blogs I like! Very luddite I know, but I fear I would tend to spend too much time online if I did any more than this and then I’d never get *any* reading done! I do have feeds on live bookmarks and that’s quite useful I find (although limited to the one PC where you’ve put those live bookmarks).

  3. I ended up switching to Feedly. I’ve been tying to convince myself to get a Twitter account, but it sounds like more work than anything else. Maybe I’ll try it out just to see. BUT, I felt that the transition between Google Reader and Feedly was excellent, and I actually like Feedly better. It is easier for me to scan through just-the-basics and then I can click on and read the ones that interest me. I have NO interest in reading everything. I want to maximize the amount of interesting-to-me stuff that I read, so I have no qualms about marking-as-read. I LOVE reading the end of my Google Reader scroll, and it’s even faster to get to the bottom of my Feedly scroll. As for the idea that Twitter’s better because there’s no pretending – to me, “pretending” is efficient. Why should I need to read stuff that I’m not interested? Why is it not good to be picky about what I read? There’s only so much time in the world!

    My Sunday Salon

  4. I’ve never used Google Reader. Now that it’s demise is near I’m feeling pretty lucky. I subscribe by email to the blogs that I follow and I spend time on Twitter to see other interesting blog posts, etc. I’ve always wanted to find a better way…maybe something will pop up that will be a nice alternative? I hope so!

  5. I think you can tell by the responses that everybody has their own ideas on what is the best way, and personally that’s what I think we’re going to find. The death of Google Reader, in a way, is going to open up a new world to us of discovering blogs in different ways, not just the same way — not to say that I didn’t become comfortable with opening up my Google Reader (like I did this morning and every Sunday morning) to scroll through Sunday Salon posts and then open them up one by one each in its own tab to read one after another. I also admit that I’m a tool of Google: Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Plus and Google Reader. Alas, I will miss it, but I, like the rest of the blogging world, will adapt…and in the end, I think we’ll be better (if not happier initially) for it.

  6. I have never liked the Google Reader. First of all, I am overwhelmed when I go there…lol; and then, I enjoy visiting the actual blogs. So I subscribe by e-mail, which allows me to visit the blogs I want to see. Being there is a more visual experience for me. Although I know many enjoy the readers, I don’t; so the retirement will not affect me, unless it means that some will not visit my posts without some kind of reader….sigh.

    Thanks for sharing…


  7. I’ve had Google Reader for a long time now, but my use of it has slacked off in the last year or two. I use Twitter as well, but not for the same things – GR was always more for blog posts and Twitter was for conversations. I suppose that at some point, I’ll have to decide on some other way to follow all the pages I find interesting enough not to miss, but I figure I’ve got lots of time to figure it out.

  8. I’m a dinosaur and don’t twitter and tweet and don’t ever plan to. I’d be lost without a reader 😦 I’m trying Feedly right now which seems to be working well

  9. Thanks to all of you for your insightful comments on the Google Reader question. I think Bryan summed it up well in his comment, saying “Alas, I will miss it, but I, like the rest of the blogging world, will adapt…and in the end, I think we’ll be better (if not happier initially) for it.”

    I’m going to experiment with using Twitter more for my blog-following, but I won’t give up RSS entirely because I still follow several bloggers who aren’t on Twitter or Facebook, and I don’t want to lose out on their posts.

  10. Well, I hate Twitter even though I have an account. I almost NEVER tweet anything nor go there unless someone tags me. It feels far to superficial to me…and moves at such a fast speed I can’t even hope to keep up. I’m going with Feedly for now. If RSS feeds go away, I won’t be switching to FB or Twitter to follow blogs – at that point, maybe I’ll just go away too! LOL.

    • Wendy, I tried Twitter once before, about 3 years ago, and deleted my account for exactly the reasons you mentioned. I joined again about six months ago, around the time of BBAW, and really enjoyed connecting with the blogging community during that event. I subscribed to the same bloggers I follow on GR (if they had a Twitter account), as well as other news-y sites (Guardian Books, etc.) — again, sites I also follow on GR. So now there’s a fairly high level of duplication. The “chatty” component is pretty low, but I like it.

      I expect I’ll use both Twitter and GR/Feedly — for now I’m just tinkering with it to find the right mix.

  11. I used to have a twitter account but gave it up early this year. I was never really convinced about its value as a virtual conversation tool and that was reinforced when I tried engaging with four publishers via their accounts. Not one even responded so I concluded they were just using it to promote themselves rather than engage in discussion with potential customers. If they can’t be bothered neither can I. Sorry for the rant!

    • Karen, I haven’t tried interacting with “business” sites like publishers, so it’s interesting to read about your experience. I find a higher level of interaction with “regular folks” like book bloggers, which can be kind of fun.

  12. I feel you pain : ) I feel like I am reading slower than I usually do this month. I have been very tired and a bit stressed – due to trying to decide whether to try and sell my house and move back to a flat – I have decided now and feel better. I envy you reading Doctor Thorne, it is on my classic club list to re-read and I know I will love it when I finally get around to it. When it comes to blogging and reading of blogs I do find it hard to keep up too sometimes, though I haven’t ever been a user of google reader. I do tweet – and I love twitter for bookish interaction – much more than FB – which I keep up with but like much less really.

  13. I use Bloglovin and I separate my blogs into categories. Then I have categories of really important blogs that I read each time no matter what (even if I get way behind). But this also means that I can mark all as read for those categories that aren’t as important to me. For instance, I have a category for Active Bloggers (meaning people who support my blog) and I always read them, and then Book Bloggers (people whose blogs I like to check out but if I miss them, it’s okay too) and those are the ones I’ll mark all as read if I get behind or I’ll just open a few out of all of them.

    • Some good ideas there, Rebecca. I have my blogs categorized as well, which definitely helps. I am going to experiment with different approaches for a while. This week I’ve learned that moving news I only read occasionally to Twitter really reduces my stress about unread items in Reader. And I like Reader for blogs, because if I’m short on time I can easily skim headlines, read a snippet of the post, and then save it for later. That’s more difficult to do in Twitter.

      I am probably obsessing on this, but I also think it’s good to re-evaluate your approach and do some housekeeping once in a while (like you are doing with Bloggiesta).

      • No, it’s important. If what you’re doing in general (you meaning bloggers) is not working or could be done more effectively or with less stress, then it is time to re-evaluate and maybe make a change. It’s all about making blogging more fun for you. After all, it’s book blogging, not surgery.

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