Online Book Clubs

What Are Online Book Clubs?

Posted by Tobi Oguntola on January 24, 2024

You would think that, in my late 20s, I would have a concrete idea of what online book clubs are, especially since I've been a member of one for four years and another for three years.

But then, regardless of what he knows, even the things he is sure of, a good writer always does his research before he puts pen to paper. Now, imagine what a great writer, of which I'm one, would do!

When I set out to write this article, I asked Google for the definition of a book club. The search engine returned several definitions, but I especially liked this one by Collins Dictionary, "A book club is a group of people who meet to talk about a book or books that they have all read."

Thus, we can define an online book club as "a group of people who meet virtually to talk about a book or books that they have all read." The two book clubs I happen to be a part of, Book Buddies Nigeria and Bookhub Nigeria, do exactly this: bring people together virtually to talk about books many of us have read.

What Is the Purpose of Online Book Clubs?

Online book clubs are communities for people who like to read where they can share their interests with others like them.
Online book clubs are communities for people who like to read where they can share their interests with others like them.

The primary purpose of virtually every book club, whether online or otherwise, is to develop its members and, by extension, improve their lives.

Book Buddies is a fiction-focused book club, although we read and discuss the odd non-fiction title. Every month, we vote for a Book of the Month based on nominations by members of the community and in line with a predetermined genre. Then, we discuss the book toward the end of the month and, to motivate people to participate, host a quiz that sees the winner go home with a prize, usually cash.

Bookhub, on the other hand, is a non-fiction-focused book club, although we read and discuss the odd fiction title. Much like the primary genre is different, so is the model. Most months, the convener nominates a book, and over the course of that month, we have multiple discussions, with each focused on several chapters and handled by a different moderator.

While both book clubs have different aims and models, one is committed to sharing its "members' love for books and to socialize" while the other is committed to "Building a community of readers, leaders, and doers," suffice it to say that they are both looking to improve the lives of their members by way of the written word.

What Other Purposes Do Online Book Clubs Serve?

Beyond their primary purpose, online book clubs can serve a variety of other purposes all of them fulfilling.
Beyond their primary purpose, online book clubs can serve various other purposes, all of them fulfilling.

I have discussed the primary purpose of an online book club based on my experience. However, it also serves other purposes, which are equally as important as what I've outlined. Below, I will try my best to do justice to them.

Win Prizes and Enrich Yourself

Depending on the particular club, online book clubs also provide an avenue to win prizes and enrich yourself. I am living proof of that, having turned Book Buddies into something of a cash-generating club for myself.

In December, I won the sum of 50,000 naira for participating in a quiz, and a few months before that, the sum of 20,000 naira. I've won numerous other prizes that I can't even remember, and I am absolutely sure there will be more.

Come to think of it, maybe I should turn this into a side hustle of sorts and find other book clubs with a similar reward model. Hmmm.

In case you are wondering, registration for Book Buddies has closed, so don't ask me how to join. I have no need for competitors for my monthly bread.

Meet new people and make lifelong friends.

Despite their virtual status, online book clubs are great avenues to meet new people and make lifelong friends and acquaintances. Because of Book Buddies, I have made fulfilling friendships, many of which will last a lifetime. The same is true of Bookhub, as it has brought me in contact with several unique humans who I'm sure will be in my life for as long as I have it.

Meet New People and Make Lifelong Friends

Online book clubs also allow people to discover new books and interests. When I joined Book Buddies, there were authors I had never heard about, and genres I didn't even know existed. I would also ordinarily not touch romance novels with a 10-foot pole and now read them at least once a year.

The same is true of Bookhub. I've never been much of a fan of non-fiction, although I acknowledge it has its uses. By joining Bookhub, I signed up to step out of my comfort zone and read non-fiction by fire and by force. It's been several years, and while it's not easy, it has undoubtedly impacted me positively.

Argue About the Merits and Demerits of Book Piracy

Recently, the Book Buddies community erupted into an argument when one of its members campaigned that others should stop pirating novels, citing its negative impact on authors. Another member countered that the onus is not on readers to stop piracy but on law enforcement to ensure whatever deterrent exists sticks.

The argument and counterargument led to a wider one, resulting in name-calling and insults being thrown left, right, and center. It also resulted in one of the parties exiting the group because they felt they didn't have "shared values" with the other members.

I found the conversation enlightening, especially since it strengthened my thoughts that book piracy is a nuanced subject requiring a multidimensional approach. An approach that is more diverse than simply retorting that "book pirates are evil people."

By the way, this thinkpiece on book piracy arose from that conversation. Although it appears skewed for people who pirate, I think it lays out some viable points for both sides of the divide.

Organize Physical Meetups, Including Trips to Tourist Attraction Sites

Much like every other community-oriented activity, online book clubs also offer members the opportunity to make friends.
Like every other community-oriented activity, online book clubs also offer members the opportunity to make friends.

Both Book Buddies and Bookhub have organized physical meetups that I've been lucky enough to attend. These meetups have happened in locations ranging from Lekki, Lagos, and discussions on mental health to Orogun, Ibadan, where the conversation bordered on the mundane with alcohol thrown into the mix.

Both book clubs have also organized tourist-y trips. In November 2021, I visited the city of Abeokuta for the first time ever, courtesy of Bookhub, despite being my hometown. I wrote about my experience in this article I published on Medium. That same year, I visited Badagry for the first time, including the Point of No Return and other historical sites, courtesy of Book Buddies, but unfortunately, I didn't write about that experience.

Meet Business Partners

Online book clubs also allow people to meet future business partners, whether connecting an author to an agent or tech bros to their co-founders. I know of at least one such case where two people who met on Book Buddies went on to co-found a crypto token – They didn't meet on Book Buddies, but what kind of storyteller would I be if I didn't at least embellish one tale?

Honestly, though, people meet people they end up setting up profitable ventures with. They also meet people who finance and invest in their ventures – I'm proof of that, believe me.

Conclusion

If you love reading, winning prizes, making friends, and getting in fights – or simply observing them, I highly recommend joining an online book club.

Yes, you might get involved in a couple of controversies and have a few heated exchanges – fortunately, you won't get punched in the face since it's online – but they will mainly improve your quality of life. (Don't take my word for it; do your own research, though.)

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