• Chicago Public Library
  • You don’t need one of these anymore.

Reading is, by nature, an antisocial experience. If a book is really good (and sometimes even if it’s not) you want to be able to immerse yourself in it completely. Paradoxically, a lot of socializing now—the kind that happens over computer networks—involves reading, which also makes it kind of antisocial.

The Chicago Public Library has decided to take advantage of this paradox by creating a virtual book club for its latest One Book, One Chicago selection, Michael Chabon’s amazing The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.

From now until May 3, any Chicagoan with a library card can log in to the One Book One Chicago website and read the book and then discuss it with his or her fellow citizens. It’ll be just like a book club, except you can log out or block the person who’s getting all slurry and ridiculous from too much booze, and you don’t have to put on pants.

Every two weeks, the library will release a new installment of the book that will be readable on a web browser on a computer, phone, or tablet. (There will be six installments in all.) Then during scheduled “reading sprints,” readers can join in a Twitter conversation about what they just read. The first reading sprint will be this Thursday, February 5.

This is the first time any library in the country has attempted anything like this. The library worked with BiblioCommons, an outside company, to design the new website to its specifications.

“At Chicago Public Library, we love finding new ways to engage our patrons virtually,” library spokeswoman Mary Beth Kraft writes in an email. “Since OBOC is already such a popular city-wide program, we wanted to take it one step further with the online reading experience so that it reaches even more Chicagoans. We are adapting to the changing ways that people are reading and interacting. Even without having to come in to the Library, we are allowing people to connect to the library, and each other, in a new way.”

In other words, you can have all the pleasures of reading without actually having to talk to anybody.