So I took part in the GoodReads Reading Challenge last year and without thinking I signed up again this year. It is only now, five months into it, that I realise exactly why I didn’t like it:
- I already read quite a lot. I don’t need some pseudo pressure to read more
- Gamification works for some things, such as study, exercise, things that aren’t traditionally fun (or at least things I don’t find fun). However, when I turn something I already enjoy into a game it sucks all the fun out of it. Instead of just enjoying what I’m reading I keep thinking ‘I must update my status now’ or ‘I’d better read quicker to catch up.’
- It’s not an accurate measurement of how much you read. I could breeze through comic books at the rate of knots (or whatever the measurement is for speed of page turning) and add a few books a week. Or I could sit down to a behemoth like Ulysses or Atlas Shrugged and it would take forever and a day but still only count as one book.
- I tend to read a lot of unpublished stuff. I read a lot of stuff for writer friends such as novels, poems and stories. These take up a lot of time because not only am I reading them because they’re awesome but I am also trying to help improve them in any way I can so I have to read slower, pay more attention. These cannot be added to the challenge because they are unpublished therefore do not have ISBNs.
- I read a lot of other things that don’t count. I read poetry online, but it may only be one or two poems rather than an entire collection. I read lots of essays and journals, none of which count either.
- In the process of editing my class’s anthology I read it in its entirety about seven times and I read lots of sections more often than that. This took up a lot of time and I don’t feel like spending more time on it adding it to the challenge seven separate times.
I didn’t make the target of 100 books I set myself last year because I was reading so many essays and journals for my finals. Today I saw I was 14 books behind the challenge this year (already) and I know I’ve been reading plenty. It annoyed me. I thought of all the books I had to read to catch up and it felt like a chore. And the day reading becomes a chore is the day I’m doing something radically wrong. So I quit.
Don’t get me wrong, gamification can be great technique if you’re trying to develop a new habit but it’s been a habit for me since I was old enough to read. So I’m going to continue reading for pure pleasure (over 90% of the time) and occasionally for research (which can also be fun, because I’m that boring). And, if I get really desperate I’ll divert my gamification efforts towards exercise instead.