Tech

Second Life launches virtual book tours for quarantined readers

Remember Second Life? Its creators have a little virtual book club for you.

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Bookworms, it's your time to rejoice. The creator of Second Life, Linden Lab, is offering a virtual book club for anyone interested in live book readings, online meet-and-greets, and interviews with bestselling authors. As COVID-19 forces millions of people to stay home, this new book club could offer a panacea for boredom, stress, and restlessness.

A virtual book club for everyone — Dubbed the Second Life Book Club, Linden Lab has scheduled the launch for today, April 8, at 10:00 a.m. PT. To access the book club, you'll need to download the free Second Life Viewer from secondlife.com.

Over time, you can expect to see authors like Matt Ruff, Ken Liu, S.L. Huang, C.B. Lee, Tad Williams, Christopher Brown, Premee Mohamed, Chana Porter, Qiufan Chen, and more. Participants can take advantage of live Q&A sessions with writers and listen to real-time book readings. Nostalgia bonus: You can even create your own Second Life avatar.

An opportunity for a makeover — Linden Lab, which is one of the original firms to popularize and mainstream the entire concept of virtual gaming in the early aughts, is no stranger to offering alternative solutions in the digital world. You probably already know but Second Life was once a massively addictive multiplayer open-world game and even got mentioned on extremely successful comedy series like The Office, where Rainn Wilson's character, Dwight, is a nerdy Second Life addict.

Alongside praise and fame, however, the company saw its share of criticism and negative press. In 2017, the platform touted at least 800,000 active monthly users. Just two years after that, in 2019, a former information security director at Linden Lab accused the company of mishandling sensitive user data plus allegedly overlooking laundering and disturbing simulated activity in its virtual world. Linden Lab's spokesperson Brett Atwood denied the allegations, but the damage to the company's image was done. With this virtual book club, Linden Lab might have a chance to gain entry back in the public's good graces.

What Second Life creators say — Linden Lab is calling this virtual book launch and meetup solution a much-needed activity for people under stay-at-home and lockdown orders.

"Second Life offers a safe, fun retreat during a time of great anxiety, stress, and social isolation," Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg officially stated. "Through the virtual world, people can stay connected and engage in friendly conversations and fun social activities such as visiting live music performances, virtual nightclubs and deejay events and now even book readings."

"Virtual world interactions offer a much deeper connection with other human beings than for example video conferencing," Altberg added. "Through the avatar and the shared space we feel as if we are fully present together."