On March 28, 2013, Amazon announced that it had purchased Goodreads, the popular social network for readers. Goodreads also announced the purchase on its blog, which rapidly filled up with more than 2,000 comments from members. Though some were excited, especially about the possibility of better syncing between Goodreads and Amazon’s popular Kindle e-reader, many others were worried or even angry.
Some pointed out that Amazon has owned rival book social network Shelfari for years and allowed development for that site to stagnate, expressing concerns that Goodreads might meet the same fate, or worse, that of Delicious, a once-innovative bookmarking site that was neglected for years after being purchased by Yahoo, then sold to a smaller company without some of the proprietary code necessary to make the site usable. Though Delicious has slowly recovered its usability, its traffic continues to decline.
Other members pointed out that many readers have come to rely on Goodreads as a source of independent book reviews and were concerned that Amazon might begin to censor or restrict certain types of reviews on Goodreads, as it does on Amazon.com, or that the phenomenon of paid reviews, which have become increasingly common on Amazon.com in recent years, might begin to affect Goodreads more seriously. Still others were concerned about Amazon’s growing monopolization of the book market. Among other purchases, Amazon now owns booksellers AbeBooks and The Book Depository, children’s publisher Marshall Cavendish (now Amazon Children’s Publishing), Goodreads, and Shelfari, as well as a minority stake in the popular book cataloging site Librarything.
Goodreads and Amazon have attempted to allay some of these user concerns, such as in this interview with Goodreads CEO Otis Chandler. Nevertheless, many concerned Goodreads users left the site immediately, while others (including myself) have adopted a wait-and-see approach.
Whether you’re concerned about Amazon’s purchase of Goodreads or simply want to explore your options before signing up, there are lots of interesting websites for book lovers around the web.
Update 07/31/2014 – Added Leafmarks and Numento
The Features of Goodreads
- cataloging, sorting, and tagging books
- writing book reviews
- “liking” and commenting on book reviews written by others
- the ability to “friend” or “follow” authors and other members and see their reviews and other updates
- book recommendations based on your shelves (including custom shelves)
- books discovery features, such as “Mover and Shaker” lists for each month
- user created themed lists of books, such as “Books on North Korea” and “Zombies!”
- book giveaways by authors and publishers
- games such as trivia and quizzes
- the ability to submit and “like” favorite book quotes
- user groups to discuss favorite books and other topics
- events calendar listing book signings and other book-related events
- special features for authors, including an advertising program and a giveaway program
The Best Goodreads Replacement
Though no sites duplicate the features of Goodreads exactly, the closest match is longtime Goodreads rival LibraryThing. Founded in 2005, LibraryThing is, like Goodreads, a mature site with an established community and a dedicated team of developers. LibraryThing is an especially good choice for people interested in cataloging their books, thanks to its outstanding cataloging system. For true nerds, it offers fun statistics, such the weight of your bookshelf in elephants and how close the pages in your books, laid end to end, would get to the moon. It is especially popular with librarians, and makes much of its revenue though its premium features for libraries.
LibraryThing does not place as much emphasis on social features as Goodreads, but does offer discussion groups similar to Goodreads and allows users to have friends, contacts, “interesting libraries,” and a private watch list. Though it allows user reviews of books, reviews are not as big a focus on LibraryThing as they are on Goodreads. Members can rate reviews written by others as “helpful,” but can’t comment on them. LibraryThing does offer a “Published Reviews” feature that highlights excerpts of book reviews from professional sources such as the New York Times, which some people might find useful. LibraryThing also has recommendations and a beta feature similar to Goodreads’ Listopia. It has a dedicated Goodreads importer, as well as accepting CSV and tab-delimited text files.
The primary disadvantage of LibraryThing is its clunky, outdated, and often counterintuitive user interface. It is also a paid site: users who wish to catalog more than 200 books must pay $10 per year or $25 for a lifetime account.
Those who are deeply concerned about Amazon’s purchase of Goodreads should also be aware that Amazon owns a minority share in LibraryThing, thanks to its purchase of AbeBooks. This share has widely been reported as 40%, but LibraryThing owner Tim Spalding, who owns the controlling share, says that percentage is not accurate. Spalding has more thoughts on the purchase of Goodreads and the future of LibraryThing in a post in the Site Talk group at LibraryThing. For Goodreads refugees who want to learn more about LibraryThing’s philosophy and how it sees itself, check out the blog post What Makes LibraryThing LibraryThing, a collaboration between LT staff and members.
More Goodreads Alternatives
Maybe you don’t like LibraryThing or maybe you just want to explore more options. You’re in luck, because there’s lots more to explore! The following sites are not as well established, not as feature-rich, or both as Goodreads and LibraryThing. However, each offers one or more of the features of Goodreads and has its own unique benefits for readers, authors, and other book lovers.
If you can’t beat them, join them? Amazon is in the business of selling books, and it’s very good at it. To help part you from your money more effectively, Amazon offers user reviews and ratings, and limited cataloging features, such as the ability to mark books as owned. It uses this data to improve its recommendations feature, which is excellent. If reviews and recommendations are what you’re most interested in, Amazon may actually be a good choice for you.
After Goodreads, LibraryThing, and Shelfari, Anobii is probably the best known social network for book lovers. The name is a play on the Latin name for the common bookworm, Anobium punctatum. Though aNobii does not have as many features or as large and active a community as Goodreads or LibraryThing, it does have the most attractive user interface of the three, and has the basic features familiar to fans of Goodreads and LibraryThing, including the ability to shelve, rate, review, and tag books. It also has some social features, including groups, messaging, and the ability to follow other users. aNobii does not offer CSV import, but does allow import from ISBNs and in several other formats.
All in all, a solid, established, and attractive Goodreads alternative.
BookCrossing is a unique social experiment based around sharing books. Members label books with a special code, leave them in a public place (or send them to other BookCrossing members), and track their progress around the world. The website allows members to mark books as owned (including books in your permanent collection), and has some social features.
Bookish is a fairly new site created by three of the top publishers as their answer to Goodreads. Its social features are rather limited at this point, but it is an attractive site with a solid recommendation engine. Members can shelve, rate, and review books. It also has a quote feature somewhat similar to Goodreads Quotes.
BookLamp is a book discovery engine that is often compared to Pandora, the popular music website. Like Pandora, BookLamp attempts to recommend books based on similar thematic elements, or “StoryDNA.” Update 07/31/2014 – BookLamp has been acquired by Apple and its future is at present uncertain.
If you like Tumblr, you’ll love BookLikes! When you sign up for BookLikes, you create your own Tumblog-style book blog, timeline, and shelf of books. The cataloging features are not as advanced as Goodreads or LibraryThing, but allow you to rate books and mark them as Read, Currently Reading, or Planning to Read, similar to Goodreads, with check boxes for “favorite,” “wishlist,” and “private.” You can also create custom shelves for your books. If you choose to write a review, it will be added to your blog and linked automatically from your shelf.
These features make BookLikes a great choice for people who loved writing reviews on Goodreads. If you have an affiliate account with certain booksellers (including Amazon, Powell’s, and the Book Depository), you can even add it to your BookLikes account and earn money whenever somebody buys a book after clicking a link from your shelf or blog!
BookLikes is not as convenient for people who want to read reviews to help them decide whether or not to buy a particular book, as it doesn’t currently offer any way to view all member reviews of a particular book. Update 07/31/2014 – Booklikes now offers a “book page” where you you can see all reviews for a particular book.
BookLikes is still in beta, so you can expect some bugs, but so far the developer has been very responsive to user concerns and suggestions. It supports CSV import and plans to offer Goodreads sync in the near future.
Gnooks is a unique books recommendation engine that allows you to type in the name of a favorite author and get a dynamic map of similar authors. The closer two authors are on the map, the more similar they are. Registered users can participate in discussions.
iTrackmine is a web-based collection manager that can be used to catalog a book collection. The site allows user reviews and has some social features built in, including wish and gift lists and useful features for arranging and tracking loans.
LeafMarks is one of the newest sites on this list, having opened to the public in late 2013. It was founded by two Goodreads users and boasts a very similar look and feel that will make former Goodreads users feel right at home. Because the site is still so young, it does not have as many features as Goodreads and users report that it can sometimes be slow or buggy. However, it includes most of the major features of Goodreads plus some fun extras such as reading challenges and a unique awards system, and the development team is reported to be active and responsive. Leafmarks can also import your Goodreads or Shelfari libraries.
If you’re just looking for a place to catalog your books, Libib may be worth checking out. It offers excellent cataloging features for books, movies, music, and video games, including tags and unlimited notes. Users can create up to three separate libraries holding up to 100,000 items. Libib does not have social features, although you can make your library and reviews public so others can view them. It supports CSV import and export. Update 07/31/2014: Libib now offers up to 100 separate libraries and has added some social features.
Listal is a social site that allows you to list books that you’ve read, owned, or want. You can also rate and review, tag, and create custom lists, similar to the Listopia feature on Goodreads. It offers similar features for DVDs, movies, TV, music, and games, as well as individual authors, actors, directors, and musicians.
The site has social features, including discussion forums, private messaging, and the ability to vote and comment on others’ reviews and lists. When you visit another member’s profile, it shows how compatible your ratings are, making it easy to find people with similar taste.
Riffle Books is a beta site with a focus on book discovery. It’s often described as “Pinterest for Books” due to its attractive design and focus on visuals. Its features are currently somewhat thin, but include the ability to create lists of books and ask and answer questions from other members about what to read next.
Once a serious contender in the battle between Goodreads and LibraryThing for best social network for book lovers, Shelfari has been owned by Amazon for several years and development has largely stagnated for most of that time. With the purchase of Goodreads, Shelfari’s future is uncertain.
Slice Bookshelf is heavily integrated with Facebook, so if you love Facebook, it may be the site for you! It allows members to rate, review, and shelve books and offers an attractive user interface and plenty of social features. Update 07/31/2014 – “Slice Bookshelf” is now just “Slice” and bills itself as “your smart shopping assistant.”
The Reading Room is a newer site with basic functionality similar to Goodreads. It allows members to shelve, rate, and review books, join book clubs, and more. The site is not currently as fully featured as Goodreads or LibraryThing, but is under active development, so members can expect continued improvements in the future. The Reading Room has import functionality.
ThirdScribe is an upcoming site that aims to connect readers and authors with features such as blogs, reviews, forums, and social feeds. You can sign up for early beta access or learn more at the website.
What Should I Read Next? is a book recommendation engine. Non-members can enter a book title to get a list of similar books. If you register, you can help improve the recommendations by marking favorites and creating custom lists of related books.
A service of Opening the Book, a library design, consulting, and furniture company, Whichbook is a unique book recommendation engine that recommends books based on a set of sliders that offer you choices between options such as happy & sad, conventional & unusual, short & long, and gentle & violent, or factors such as the country where the book is set, the race of the main character, or a certain plot type. Joining the site allows you to keep lists of books you have read and want to read.
If you love reviewing books, setting up a book review blog of your own might be the best option for you. The most popular blog engine is WordPress, which offers both free hosted and self-hosted options and is relatively simple even for non-technical people to set up. Another popular free option for hosted blogs is Blogger.com, while LiveJournal and Dreamwidth offer free and premium options and a community with many book lovers.
YourNextRead is an attractive book recommendation service. Registered users can save preferences, recommend books, and more.
Desktop Software To Catalog Your Books
If you just want a place to list all your books and don’t care about social features, desktop software might be a good choice for you. There are a number of different programs available, and features vary from program to program, so be sure to research carefully before purchasing any book inventory software to make sure it’s the best fit for your needs.
Here is a selection of some of the available book inventory software:
- Alexandria, Linux, open source (update 07/14/2014 – “The webpage is not available)
- AllMyBooks, Win, commercial
- BookCAT, Win, commercial (update 07/142014 – developer out of business)
- Book Label, Win, commercial
- Booknizer, Win, commercial
- BookPedia, Mac, commercial
- Booxter, Mac, commercial
- Collectorz, Win/Mac, commercial
- Data Crow, Win/Mac, open source
- Delicious Library, Mac, commercial
- GCstar, Win/Linux, open source
- Librarian Pro, Win/Mac, commercial
- MediaMan, Win, commercial
- Numento, Win/Mac, commercial
- Readerware, Win/Mac/Linux, commercial
- Tellico, Linux, open source
Whether you’re looking for a fully-featured Goodreads alternative or a replacement for a single favorite feature, there are lots of websites and software programs to choose from.
Did I miss your favorite website or software? Let me know in comments below!