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Finding great new books online

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Charlie Swinbourne Charlie Swinbourne | 11:00 UK time, Friday, 24 February 2012

The internet and the rise of ebooks have opened up new horizons for bookworms everywhere. Nowadays, you can carry hundreds of titles around with you on a tablet or an ebook reader like Amazon's Kindle or Apple's iPad. We're no longer limited by what is in stock at our local library or bookshop, and we have more choice of what to read than ever before.

So if you're interested in keeping up with the latest book releases, reading reviews or even finding new ways to share your books – whether you prefer old-fashioned paper or hand held devices - there's something for every avid reader on the web. Here are just a few sites to help you explore the world of books online.

Previously, you'd have to sneakily scan your friends bookshelves to find out what they liked reading. Now you can be nosy online – with sites like Shelfari (which is owned by Amazon) that aims to introduce readers to a global community of book lovers, or BookRabbit which connects readers, authors and publishers through the books they own. Meanwhile, Goodreads aims to recommend new books for you to read based on what other members with similar tastes enjoyed.

Lovereading is a UK based internet bookshop that aims to help you choose your next book, even giving you free extracts of all their featured books. The site has been running since 2005 (an age in internet terms) and does look a bit dated, but has features, fiction and non-fiction sections, where you can browse books for teenagers, debut novels of the year and even receive daily dose of literary trivia.

The websites of national newspapers have great book sections. The Guardian is an excellent example with news and reviews of the latest books, a weekly podcast and an interesting blog. The site also has an area dedicated to ebooks. The Telegraph and The Independent also have great, if smaller, book sites.

Would you like to join a book group? Bookgroup has a monthly newsletter, directory of book groups nationwide, plus a section for advice on setting up a book group. The site also regularly interviews authors for its readers, with authors like Hilary Mantel and Cormac McCarthy.

If you believe books should be shared, the most ingenious site I've found is BookCrossing, which calls itself 'the library of the world' and enables users to pass on their books to people across the globe. You sign up and give your book a unique ID. Then you share your book either by giving it away or releasing it into the wild (maybe just by leaving it on a bench!). Afterwards, you can follow your book's adventures wherever it goes, through the book's readers logging on. As the site says: 'it's where books get a new life.'

For people who are blind or have visual impairments and struggle to read the print in books, the RNIB run a Talking Books service which enables readers to listen to books on a CD. You can borrow up to six books at a time, and it's an on-demand service which means you don't have to wait for other users to return their CDs. And if you are deaf or hard of hearing (as I am) or simply have an interest in deaf culture, Forest Books – a site dedicated to selling books and resources about sign language and deaf issues is an option.

We all have a different taste in books. My own book collection varies from sporting biographies to Paul Auster novels, though with two young daughters, more often than not, I'm reading beautifully illustrated childrens' books of an evening. No matter your taste, the websites above will help you find a new way of finding your next book, sharing your taste, or passing on a treasured read to another grateful reader.

Charlie is a journalist and scriptwriter specialising in articles and films featuring deaf culture and sign language. He has written for the Guardian online and has contributed to programmes for Radio 4, while his films have won international awards. He also works in the arts, helping to make theatre accessible for deaf people.


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