I didn’t get the opportunity to post my response to last week’s Weekly Geeks query, but since there wasn’t a new one for this week – WG took the week off to observe Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon this past Saturday – I’m squeezing it in before the next theme goes up this coming weekend!
I’d never been successful at keeping manual records of my books or journaling my reading – and oddly enough, despite the fact that I’m an accountant and work with spreadsheets all the time, it had never occurred to me to use them in connection with my reading habits! Starting a blog turned out to be a great version of a “reading journal” for me, but it didn’t really help much with keeping track of the books themselves.
One of the advantages of my Amazon Kindle e-book reader is that it essentially provides built-in cataloging for the items I read on it, and those items are starting to change my reading habits. The Kindle has already led me to purchase newly published “must-read” books without waiting the months until they’re released in paperback, and I don’t think I’ll ever travel without it. But it’s never going to break me from buying trade paperbacks, unless it actually forces them out of production…and for those “traditional” books, I still swear by Levenger’s Book Bungees, which keep my place without any danger of falling out of the book.
I also swear by LibraryThing for keeping track of those “hard copy” books, and I visit the site almost daily to update my tags, edit my books, and add new titles to my “To Read” or “Wishlist” collections. Book bloggers are usually the original source for those additions these days, so I think it’s totally appropriate to consider LibraryThing a “blogging tool” as well as “reading” tool. (GoodReads seems to be better for social networking, but if your interest is primarily in cataloging your books online, I think LibraryThing is the better choice.)
My blog has a custom domain hosted on Blogger; the domain registration costs me $10 a year (and I make slightly more than that in ad revenue from BlogHerAds, so it’s worth it), and I really haven’t had many complaints about Blogger itself. However, I find it a lot easier to compose my posts outside of it and just paste them in when they’re ready, and I love Google Documents for that; I draft almost everything except for short, spur-of-the-moment posts there first. It’s even easy to work with images in Google Docs; I’ve recently started using the online photo-editing app Picnik to play with the pictures I post, and even create buttons and banners. Once my posts are done, I can schedule when I want Blogger to publish them, and I’m usually able to have posts ready at least a few days ahead (assuming I can make the time to write them – does anyone know a tool or trick to help with that?)
A few other Geeks mentioned Google Reader as a blogging tool, and I absolutely agree! So much of my blogging inspiration comes from what I read on other blogs, and having their feeds come into GReader is so much more convenient than visiting bookmarked sites all the time. My feeds are organized into folders, and I’ll skim the contents of each folder in “list view.” I’ll be honest; I don’t necessarily open all the posts and read them in full, but if the title and snippet grab me, or it’s a post from a favorite blog (yes, we all have them!), I’ll expand it to read the whole thing. One thing that helps with this is the Better GReader extension for Firefox; using the “Colorful List View” option makes scanning much easier on my eyes.
I’ve had an account on Twitter for a year and a half, and it’s helped new readers find my blog. It’s also helped me connect with other bloggers outside the comments section, and I’ve joined in on some very interesting discussions there (and watched even more without jumping in). I like using Twitter for interaction more than broadcasting, but it takes up a lot more time that way, which is the main reason I’m not a very consistent presence over there. I like it too much to give it up, though.
Do you have any other suggestions for things – software, apps, even habits – that can make blogging and reading just a little easier and more fun? I’m always open to trying out something new!