Promoting reading…by spoiling books?

Promoting reading…by spoiling books?

Part of my routine in the morning is to go through

Flipboard (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

and “flip” articles into my free Flipboard magazines, including the

ILMK magazine at Flipboard

I have flipped literally over 40,000 stories into the ILMK magazine (41,486 at time of writing).

Sometimes, I flip something into it…and then delete it. That can happen if I flip one into ILMK that I intended for one of my other Flipboard magazines…their position in the interface can change, and so sometimes positional habits get the best of me. That happened this morning (I fixed it quickly).

The other thing is that I tend to flip them before I read them…I can usually see the headline and the first paragraph or two, which is enough to get the sense of it. I read most of the articles…and sometimes, when I do, I may see some reason I want to delete it. I really debate it if the post contains an “obscene word”…something that seems like it’s making a good, reasoned argument, may include the “f word”, for example. That gives me pause, since I don’t warn people ahead of time. I debate some posts over whether or not they are too “racy”…I will report on porn if the issue seems to me to be about censorship, for instance, but if it has a picture that could get you in trouble at most offices, I’ll skip it. I like to try to be inclusive, but I follow the principle of “when in doubt, leave it out”. I figure it’s better to omit something which may have some interest than to include something which offends (although everything may offend somebody).

There is an area of omission where I don’t have much debate: spoilers.

Let me clear what I mean by that. A “spoiler” reveals a plot element to someone who hasn’t already read a book (or watched a movie or TV show, and so on) without warning.

It’s quite different from analysis, which I love. I’ve looked intently at works, talking about every tiny point…but with a warning first.

My favorite thing in media is to be surprised, and as I’ve said before here, that’s not that easy. It’s not that I’m always right about what is going to happen, but I’ve typically considered it as a possibility (I’ve just thought about a lot of possibilities).

I also say there isn’t a statute of limitations on spoilers…I’m not perfect on this, but I try not to give away the Wizard of Oz or Shakespeare, for that matter. An eight-year old encountering the Wizard of Oz for the first time today has just as much right to enjoy it as an eight-year old who read it in 1900, in my opinion.

Why do people spoil books?

I have some speculation…

Some people appear to actually do it maliciously. I’ve seen it happen where that appears to be the case, and more than once. “Rosebud is <snip>, people!” That might come out of nowhere, in a forum. It’s a form of intellectual or emotional bullying…using superior power (knowledge of what happens…and knowledge is power) to force that superiority on somewhat less powerful.

In some cases, there is an assumption: “Everybody knows that.” Shared knowledge is a great bonding agent. It cements a group…we are part of the same group because we know and understand the same things the same way. Geeks like me do that all the time: we’ll reference some relatively obscure character or story. However, that’s different from spoiling…saying, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this” and looking for recognition is very different from revealing the big shocker from that same universe. Saying, “If I only had a brain…” is different from revealing the twist there.

In today’s society, it’s always possible that your public words will reach an audience who doesn’t know what you and your friends know…it might be a child, or someone from outside your culture, or a reading newbie in the case of books.

All of this is also different from accidental disclosure. If you are eating lunch after seeing a movie and discussing with your friend who saw it with you, you aren’t consciously trying to spoil it for the people in the next booth. If we do that, I tend to talk in low voices, and I usually hold the details for the car or for home…but that sort of thing isn’t what I was seeing this morning that made me delete this

Adweek post by Angela Natividad

from the ILMK Flipboard magazine.

It’s called

“This Bookstore’s Clickbait Headlines on Facebook Are Actually the Plots of Classic Novels
Finally, a noble use of an iffy strategy”

I saw that, and the first headline wasn’t a spoiler. So, I flipped it.

Then, when I read it, there were a couple that were really classic spoilers.

I stopped my exercise (I can flip articles while I do some of my exercise routine), and got on the computer so I could efficiently delete it.

Now, the idea of this is pretty clever. It makes sense that Adweek is writing about “clickbait”. Clickbait is a term referring to an internet headline intended to make you want to click a link to get to something else. “You’ll never believe what this celebrity did in public!” “The five secrets you need to get rich…and one thing you must never do!” “Jane Austen’s mystery death – was she poisoned by arsenic?” (that last one is a real one this week, from the Telegraph). Some websites are paid per page view…so they just need to get you there (it’s also why they may make you click through a whole bunch of pictures to get to some sort of punchline, like a quiz score or an offer…they could put all those questions on the same page, of course).

It’s also entirely possible that the people who see those clickbait (which they call “litbait”) headlines really are part of the “literati”…after all, it is a bookstore doing it, and perhaps only well-read people frequent their Facebook page.

It wasn’t specifically the practice of the independent Dallas bookstore

The Wild Detectives

that concerned me about the post, or I wouldn’t have flipped it in the first place. 🙂 It was that the Adweek post itself contained the spoilers.

I actually really like the idea that people go from a single enticing headline to getting the entire public domain book for free! It’s clever and fun to modernize the concepts of the books to make them more relatable (without changing the original book). Looking at the website a bit, it seems like a great bookstore (and I speak as a former brick-and-mortar bookstore manager), with extensive engagement by bookloving employees.

I’m happy to publicize The Wild Detectives in this post…without taking away the wonder that is Romeo & Juliet or The Picture of Dorian Gray from somebody.

What do you think? When is it okay to reveal a twist in a book in public? My adult kid doesn’t care about spoilers…do you? Do you warn people before you discuss a plot? Does a bookstore having a clever website with original writing encourage you to actually shop there? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

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This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

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