How to Host a Digital Book Club

by Heather Caliendo
digital book club tips - book club chat

While book clubs traditionally meet in-person, there’s so many tools you can use to take your book club online! 

So right now we’re all advised to use “social distancing.” This has an impact on so much of daily life, including book club meetings. While it’s always smart to be safe, you also don’t want to miss out on connections. So why not host your book club online for the time being?

This doesn’t have to just apply to social distancing. Say you’ve always wanted to host a book club but a majority of your family and friends live in other states—hosting a digital book club will allow you to do so with your favorite people. 

I love putting together book club questions and I’ve thought in the past about hosting a digital book club myself. So please comment below or send a note to heather@bookclubchat.com, if you would be interesting in joining my digital book club! 

Alright, so there’s a lot of different options you can go for. So here’s some key tips on how to host a digital book club:

Create a private group

First, determine who you want to be in your book club. Whereas in person, you might want to keep it to a certain number, the options are really limitless online.

Communication is key for any book club but especially if you’re meeting only online. Like I said in my post How to Start the Best Book Club Ever, I recommend starting a private group on Facebook, Instagram or WhatsApp. I would shy away from using an email chain because those can really fill up your mailbox. 

With regards to picking a book, you can put it up for a group vote or you can have each member have a turn at the selection. Determine a good day/time to meet once a month (keep in mind if people are in different time zones!). For discussion questions, be sure to check back here to see if I have them. And if you would like me to create some for your book club, reach out to me at anytime!

Now that you have your members selected and a plan, overall. Let’s take a look at the various platforms you can use to host your book club. 

Zoom

I’m starting with Zoom as it’s a very user friendly option. I use it for my day job and have never had a problem with it. You can choose to use the video conferencing (which I recommend) or you can just keep it to audio. The best part—the free option is good! It hosts up to 100 participants with an unlimited number of meetings. The only drawback is that the time is limited to 40 minutes – if you want more time, you can either sign up for the pro account, which is $14.99 a month, or just immediately create another meeting. So it’s up to you and your book club with what you are most comfortable with. For more information about Zoom, click here

Skype

Skype is another great option! It’s very popular and I would guess that a majority of people already have a Skype account. Also, many authors do say they like to Skype with book clubs – so be sure to look into that option as well! Skype allows you to make free calls online for up to 50 people for audio or video conferencing. On group video calling, Skype says: Group video calls are subject to a fair usage limit of 100 hours per month with no more than 10 hours per day and a limit of 4 hours per individual video call. Once these limits have been reached, the video will switch off and the call will convert to an audio call. Click here to learn more about Skype

Facebook Live

Facebook Live could be a good option if you communicate via Facebook group. So an option is to try out Facebook Live with your book club—I believe that the Live video can be private within your group. Unless you’ve used it before, I don’t really see Facebook Live as the most user friendly option. It doesn’t allow everyone to be on the video so you would need to designate a host and then the other members would comment throughout the meeting. Full disclosure, Facebook is one of my least favorite social media platforms so I have very little experience with it. But here’s a guide from HubSpot on how to use it. 

YouTube Live

YouTube Live is a bit similar to Facebook Live where it’s doesn’t really allow multiple participants. So again, it would need to be a designated host where the other group members can write in comments that the host reads outline. YouTube has a description of it here. While it is free, it does require a minimum of a 100 subscribers. 

Just like with an in-person book club, the key is to plan out and schedule your meetings!

Again, I’m thinking about starting my own digital book club (most likely using Zoom or Skype) so please let me know if you’re interested! 

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2 comments

Mike Lyner March 31, 2020 - 5:42 am

I’m glad I found your post this morning. Last night we hosted our first virtual book club using Google’s “Hangouts” (free), not Google’s “Meet”, as Meet is there more commercial offering. 10 out of our 16 Invited members were able to log in… and for those who got in, it worked fine. It does require participants to have Google’s app, and some (who are less techie) had difficulty doing that. others tried to download the app to their iPad or Smartphone, only to find out that their device couldn’t accept the more recent operating system (e.g. iOS). Next month we’ll experiment with Zoom, as it seems to be more prevalent, although not entirely free (at least for the host) if you exceed 40 minutes

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Heather Caliendo April 1, 2020 - 4:26 pm

Hi Mike! Yes, it seems Zoom is the most reliable. So if you do run over the 40 minute mark, you can immediately create another meeting to keep the convo going. Let me know how it works out for you all! Which book are you all reading next?

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