Book Club Democracy

Book club selections can be a tricky business. We want to make sure our groups are reading great books, but we also want them to feel like they have a say in the selection process.

The Country Bookshelf in Bozeman, Montana, has been blending the two selection methods for a couple of years now. “We pick a selection of books and customers can vote on what they want to read for book club,” explains Carson Evans, events coordinator for the store. “We have an in-store display with paper ballots, but we found that we could get twice as many votes cast if we made a web version.” They created a web form with checkboxes on their website with the same selection of books, so participants can vote either in the store or online.

The store uses this process for their main County Bookshelf book club, and they only have the selection process once a year, usually around March or April. “We tally the votes and then make the book club schedule for the whole next year,” says Evans.

Creating an online ballot is very simple (and free) with Google Drive. I created this quick example using titles from the Man Booker long list as my selection pool. Creating the form was as easy as logging into Google Drive and selecting “new” and then “form.” I could insert as many questions as I wanted. I chose to do four different questions: 1) a checklist of book selections, 2) participant’s name, 3) a question asking how often the participant attends book club, and 4) email address. I then added the form title and subtitle, then selected “embed,” which gave me the code to paste here.

So here’s my Google form (below), which is completely fake, but you are welcome to play around with it.

Even though I finished completing the form, I can still edit the questions, see a sample live form, and also view the spreadsheet of results, which includes a timestamp (which comes in handy during contests.) You can also choose between “accepting responses” and “not accepting responses” to turn your ballot on and off.

I’m filing this under “300 Seconds” because–from start to finish–it took less than 5 minutes to create and embed the form. (And I spent most of that time tweaking the pixel size in the embed code so the entire form would show up on my post without scrolling. A completely unnecessary step.)

If you haven’t messed with Google Forms before, I highly recommend doing so. Not only can you create a ballot like this one, you can conduct customer surveys, hold contests, or allow event sign-ups. And so much more.


Beth Golay

Beth is a reader, writer, marketer and Books & Whatnot founder. Even though she knows better, she's a sucker for a good book cover and will positively swoon if a book is set in appropriate type. @BethGolay