Since joining WF as BlondeAverageReader my angel has been very active as a beta reader and consequently we discuss the subject regularly. Our tastes in genres differ considerably, so between us we cover a fair range. Also, being computer technology savvy, I can deal with most formats in which writers might provide their work. In the past I have also checked E-books for technical problems on our Sony and Kobo E-readers, which involves scanning rapidly through all the pages without consciously reading the text, something which seems to be second nature to me. Having carried out many conversions to E-book format myself I am aware of at least some of the quirks that can arise in the process and am always gaining experience in spotting them. In fact I convert all books sent to us to E-book format just for our own convenience, E-readers needing recharging far less often compared to other devices. We don't have a Kindle, so that service is incomplete, but so many people use those that it is relatively easy for a writer to get their Kindle files checked. E-reader simulation and compatibility checking software is also available, but as a past tester of computer systems I consider using the actual devices to be the acid test.
While my angel reads strictly from the viewpoint of an average reader I have had a brief excursion (or from WF's viewpoint, incursion) into writing, so am reasonably acquainted with the terminology and issues. In fact sometimes I have to explain the comments from submitting writers to her if they indulge in writer-speak, but hopefully she won't allow this to corrupt her viewpoint as purely a reader.
So, with all this I get the feeling that we are moving towards being a regular beta reading workshop, especially since we can make time to indulge in it when required, so turnaround is relatively fast, especially at the speed that I read. I have also pretty much given up my own writing, so that does not take up my time, unlike the more active writers in WF. I thought it was worth mentioning this so that WF members are aware that we operate very much as a team although we accept and read works separately, so any comments we make have been discussed between us before being passed on. So, come one come all, there's a fair chance that one of us may be willing to read anything doing the rounds and provide a little useful feedback.
That apart, I have had a thought recently about showing and telling when sending work to beta readers. Sometimes a beta reader can actually serve a better purpose if they are told what the story is supposed to convey in its showing. However, unlike a publisher a beta reader doesn't really want a synopsis as that constitutes a spoiler and destroys the natural reading experience, but they do need to understand what the writer is trying to achieve in order to assess how successful they have been. The fact that a reader has found a story entertaining doesn't indicate whether it was for the reasons that the writer intended. Some writers, myself included, may be quite happy for a reader's thoughts to wander far from what the writer himself had in mind, but if he is consulting a number of readers he may make revisions that destroy the very value that some readers saw in the work previously.
Some writers tend to leave working notes in beta copies of their writing and this may well not be a bad thing. While a separate synopsis is of little use and actually detrimental, inline notes from the writer about what they intended to achieve with the section that the reader has just read, for example notes at the end of chapters, would enable a reader to verify whether they were still on the same track as the writer and make comments relevant to that. If the writer had any concerns about achieving particular objectives then mentioning that soon after the reader has read the relevant text could prompt more objective remarks from the reader. So, perhaps writers should consider putting not quite a questionnaire but certainly relevant questions to the reader at intervals throughout their story after the relevant passages so that the impact of the text itself is not spoilt. To some extent the writer's notes to self can achieve this by accident, but notes explicitly aimed at the beta readers could achieve more.
Like I said, between us we're becoming a regular beta reading workshop here.