Library Thing devotee for several years now. Recently, though, I decided to give GoodReads another chance. I'm not abandoning LibraryThing, but there are a few things I like better about GoodReads. (Note: Florinda has written about her love of LibraryThing at The 3R's Blog, and I won't be going into the level of detail she is. Similarly, Wallace has written about how to get the most out of GoodReads at Unputdownables. It's an excellent guide if you're unfamiliar with the site.) My focus today comes down to the simple question: what works best for me to organize my books and discover new books?
LibraryThing: How I love thee...
A co-worker and I were chatting about GoodReads a few months ago, and I mentioned I'm a LibraryThing user instead. Her response: of course you are, you're a librarian, but non-librarians prefer GoodReads. I'm willing to concede part of that point, but I think most of it comes down to what level of cataloging you care about for your books. Many dedicated readers will want the robustness of LibraryThing's cataloging efforts.
LibraryThing is a cataloger's dream. You have the option of using both controlled shelves (you can add and edit them, but all books must be on a shelf) and tagging. Different people use the two options in vastly different ways. I have prizes for most of the big prizes, and I love that books can be on multiple shelves (i.e. Read, Read in 2012, Pulitzer, and Favorites) plus have tags. I use tags to both describe the book and to indicate when I read it.
...but sometimes you let me down
LibraryThing is designed with a more classical approach in mind. Adding books works best if you have a physical book and an ISBN in front of you. I read mostly e-books and ARCs, so I am usually adding books manually, then manually changing the cover to be the correct image, which inevitably prompts the alert message "this will change your books ISBN." Obviously, in a real library, it is important to know which edition of a book you have. In my world, I care more about tracking my reading and reading goals. In many cases, I'm adding books I want to read, and I don't yet know if I'll be buying it for my Kindle or getting it from my library, and I don't really care.
Aside from that, there are two other minor gripes I have with LibraryThing: duplicates and the To Read shelf. I use the social functions of LibraryThing fairly regularly, and when people recommend books to me, I usually open another tab and add the book to my library manually. Often, I discover I already have the book in my library because LibraryThing alerts me I have a duplicate book. I can then delete it, find the original record and make another note about the new source recommending it. One reason I lose track of what's on my To Read shelf is that there aren't enough meaningful ways to sort it. I didn't realize how much I would love it, but GoodReads forced TBR ranking is incredibly helpful.
GoodReads: How I love thee...
The to be read shelf is one of my favorite features. New books are automatically added to the bottom of your queue. It's pretty easy to change the numbers, once I figured it out (it's incredibly non-intuitive to type the desired number in the box, then also click in the box and select 'move to position.') I wish it were as easy as Netflix and also enabled drag and drop. Still, it's nice.
One of the other great parts about GoodReads are its social functions. It's set up very much like Facebook with a newsfeed. I was able to import my Facebook friends list and Twitters following list, so I had a nice bank of bookish people built in to follow. As my friends post book status updates on books they finish, begin, add to their to read list, or update progress, there's a lovely column that indicates if the book is in my GoodReads account. If so, it tells me where. If not, it easily allows me to add it with a single click. (Yes, my to read list has grown astronomically because of it.) It's also easier to change the edition of the book in GoodReads. A simple mouse hover over the other editions lets you see the right one and click to change. I can also comment and ask questions about their books directly in the newsfeed.
One of the biggest perks to GoodReads I just discovered: an email alerting you to new releases by authors you've previously read. It's a fantastic perk. I stay up on new releases, but there are always a few that all through the cracks. Granted, given how my reading taste have changed over the years, I'm also subjected to new releases by authors I doubt I'll read again (ahem, James Patterson), but it's still a useful email customized to each user.
...but oh how I loathe you too
My biggest pet peeve with GoodReads, and one that single-handedly assures it will never be my only online book tracker, is the lack of half-stars. I have issues with their definitions of star ratings in general (1 star=didn't like it, 2 stars=it was okay, 3 stars=liked it, 4 stars=really liked it, 5 stars=it was amazing!) I suppose I think more in terms of letter grades and percentages. Giving three stars to a book you like seems silly: that's barely better than half. Giving two stars to a book that's okay makes even less sense: it's less than half. Regardless, I love half-stars, and I won't give them up.
Another thing that irks me about GoodReads: the shelves and lack of tagging. While you can have books on multiple shelves of your choosing, you must have it on one of the three core shelves: read, currently reading, or to read. On the surface, it seems sensible, but what about those books you've started but never finished? I don't really intend to read them in most cases, but I haven't actually read them either. I want to keep track of the books and authors I abandon, but there's not a seamless way I've discovered on GoodReads yet. GoodReads does let you add as many other shelves as you want, but they're more cumbersome than on LibraryThing.
And I also still have...
a books spreadsheet in Google docs. I use it to track my reading, as well as my reviews, and there are some elements of my reading, goal-setting and tracking not everyone needs access to. Plus, it lets me color code, and none of the online options do that! For now, I'm updating three places each time I start and finish a book. It seems extreme, but it also is working for me for now.
Now tell me: how do you keep track of what you read? What pros and cons of LibraryThing and GoodReads matter most to you?
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