Goodreads gives readers the option to share their progress through status updates either with page numbers or percentage read, which is great if you’re reading on an e-reader. I really like this feature. I think Shelfari should add it. Both sites do a great job cataloging multiple versions of books so that you can add the version you are reading to ensure the descriptions, page counts, etc. all match your particular copy.
Linked to Social Networks
Goodreads also allows users to share updates via Twitter and Facebook, which is a nice feature. Facebook can be integrated nicely with Goodreads. One of my Facebook friends told me he joined Goodreads because of seeing my updates on Facebook. My status updates show up on Twitter, and occasionally, people who follow me on Twitter ask me about what I’m reading, so the integration is a nice feature. Shelfari isn’t linked up with social networks. I think it would be a good feature for Shelfari to add.
Look and Feel
Shelfari’s site and bookshelves are beautiful. Shelfari allows users to select a material out of which to construct their shelves (wood or metal, etc.). Book covers are displayed on the shelves in a way Apple’s iBooks emulated for their app. Shelfari also makes beautiful shelf widgets for users to put on their blogs. In terms of look and feel, Shelfari scores big marks over Goodreads. I’d like to see Goodreads beautify their look and feel, too, but I suspect it would involve a major overhaul, and the site is perfectly functional as it is.
Shelfari has much better support for re-readers than Goodreads. On Goodreads, you can mark a book as “Read” or “Currently Reading,” but not both. Shelfari allows for those users who re-read to mark a book as both. It would be a simple feature for Goodreads to implement, I should think, as it would mean changing the radio buttons they currently use to check boxes that allow for multiple selections. In addition, Shelfari allows users to add new “finished” dates each time a reader finishes a book. If a user has read a book three times, he or she can add three different finished dates. Goodreads allows only one, and you need to either keep the first finished date, or change it to a new one. Again, I think this is a feature that Goodreads could easily add.
I like the community at Goodreads. They are serious readers. If you want the true skinny on a book, their reviews are often more helpful than Amazon’s. Users can also add trivia questions and join groups. I am a member of several groups on both Shelfari and Goodreads, but not too active. I think Shelfari could add some features to foster a livelier community. I think starting with social network integration would be a good idea, but further than that, I like the idea that users can add quotes and trivia to Goodreads. If Shelfari added these features, they might keep users on the site longer. Both Goodreads and Shelfari allow users to add content to book descriptions and change book information. On Goodreads, you need to apply to become a librarian. I haven’t noticed any egregious vandalism of books on the more open Shelfari, but perhaps it’s not a terrible idea to set some kind of bar. Goodreads just asks that users who want to become librarians have 50 books on their profile. It’s a good way of keeping occasional users or non-committed users from making random changes they shouldn’t.
Goodreads and Shelfari both tally your total number of books, but Shelfari has a nice feature that you see on your home page when you’re logged in: the total number of books you’ve read this year. I love this feature. I try to read more books each year, and Shelfari totals the number you’ve read and compares to your reading during the previous year. If you have not read as many, it will tell you you’re behind your pace. If you’ve read more, it tells you you’re ahead of your pace. It’s a nice little pat on the back to log in and see I’ve nearly reached the total number of books I read last year, and it’s only August. I think Goodreads could add this feature, too.
Both sites allow users to post reviews, but I like that Goodreads allows HTML in their reviews because I simply link back to my reviews here on this blog. As an English teacher, I appreciate being able to italicize titles using HTML, too. I think Shelfari should add the ability to use HTML in reviews. I don’t like leaving a blank review on Shelfari, so I usually copy and paste my reviews into their review space. But I often have links and other HTML in my posts that does not transfer. Both sites also allow you to assign starred ratings to books, but neither has 1/2 stars. The plugin I use to rate books here on this site allows for 1/2 stars, and I like that. Sometimes a book is not a 3 or 4. It’s a 3.5. It would be nice for Goodreads and Shelfari to give wishy-washy reviewers like me who can’t come down on a 3 or 4 the option of a 3.5.
The Bottom Line
Both sites have some great features, but each of them could be much better with a few simple changes. I have an account with LibraryThing, but I don’t use it. I don’t agree with their restriction of 200 books for free accounts. When Shelfari and Goodreads have excellent features for free, it seems silly to pay for LibraryThing. I don’t really understand Shelfari’s “Should I Read X?” feature. I should think users should be able to read reviews and figure out for themselves if they should read a book. It seems superfluous to me. Goodreads has a lot of authors on board, and it can be fun to interact with them. I’ve even seen Lev Grossman reply to reviews of his work.
What do you think? Do you use Goodreads, Shelfari, or even LibraryThing? If so, what features do you wish they had? Oh, and feel free to “friend” me on Goodreads or Shelfari.