In a recent article Sarah Manavis for the New Statesman wrote about Goodreads and the way it has been dominating the whole book community ever since it was launched back in 2007. She also rightfully criticizes it for it not having evolved since then and also for its quite bad recommendation aspects which were originally one of the primary selling points to new users.
Personally, I’ve been on Goodreads since 2008 mostly for keeping track of all the books I’ve read and, even more so, for remembering interesting books I’ve come across and that I wanted to read in the future. Only a couple of years in with some friends joining I even considered it for its recommendation features. That being said, I’m pretty sure that I’ve never purchased a book based on it, though.
Another aspect for Goodreads that’s primarily useful for book clubs etc. are its forums. Let’s put it this way: Even in the early 2000s there were more usable and visually attractive message boards out there. Additionally, I’ve had the bad luck of primarily stumbling upon communities there that were I simply didn’t feel welcome. Judging by this comment by Rob Beschizza I’m probably not the only one with this opinion. Reddit simply works better for me here eventhough I’m not that active there either.
But the title of this point also indicates that I like at least something about Goodreads: The data available and the quality of the good reviews. And with good I don’t mean those rating a book with 4 stars or more but those that go into a lot of detail to describe how they’ve come to the rating they’ve given. Data is a technical issue, something that in my opinion should be solved involving the WikiData project while reviews are something that completely depend upon the community. If your community is welcoming and the whole system is attractive then chances are at least there that good reviewers will come.
Both articles also mention a “new” service called The Story Graph which I haven’t heard of before but I’m going to give it a try over the next weeks 😀 At the same time, I also keep track of books I want to read within my paper journal. From time to time I even update the list here on my website but my journal has worked well enough for me over the last months. Given that I barely use any of Goodreads’ community features anyway, it’s been easy to scale down my usage of it.
Would I return if they finally started to clean up the mess they have their? Probably. I’d still prefer a decent competitor to finally arise in order to actually force some feature innovation on all fronts!