Goodreads recently found itself embroiled in controversy after it removed reviews in which some users attacked authors. The founder of this reading-based social network, Otis Chandler, believes that reviews should focus on content, character development, plot or any other number of elements of nonfiction and fiction books. But not authors.
And that’s a good thing.
Goodreads seems so mainstream now but back in 2007, this mammoth site was just an idea. The following quote from Chandler on the Goodreads website explains the network’s genesis:
One afternoon while I was scanning a friend’s bookshelf for ideas, it struck me: when I want to know what books to read, I’d rather turn to a friend than any random person or bestseller list.
So I decided to build a website – a place where I could see my friends’ bookshelves and learn about what they thought of all their books. Elizabeth, my co-founder (and now my wife) wrote the site copy and I wrote the code. We started in my living room, motivated by the belief that there was a better way to discover and discuss good books, and that we could build it.
In just seven years, the site has grown to 20 million users who love to read. Authors have flocked to the site as well because in subtle ways they can use it as part of their marketing platform by offering giveaways, starting discussion groups, and generally being a reader who builds bookshelves and writes honest and thorough reviews.
But “the bullies,” as some writers refer to reviewers who denigrate authors, have caused a stir and a number of authors have chosen to leave Goodreads for newer platforms. In this post, I review three alternatives for Goodreads that writers have: Riffle, LibraryThing, and BookLikes.
Publishers Weekly asked this question, “Could Riffle be the Pinterest of Book Discovery?” It’s an excellent query. Riffle, which doesn’t have the depth or versatility of Goodreads, is a venue where you can create visual bookshelves of books you’ve read and want to read.
To get started, navigate to www.rifflebooks.com. It’s home page displays a series of large images and has a fresh appeal. Click “Go to Riffle now” and sign up by entering your email and a password or by using your Twitter or Facebook accounts.
Next, you will be directed to select the categories of books you like to read. You can also select a category that best describes you. You also have the option to define yourself as an expert within your niche.
Once that’s done, start to add the titles of three books you’re reading. Riffle will search through Amazon to match your title with its corresponding cover.
Similar to the previous question, now tell Riffle about three books that you enjoyed reading.
Based on the categories you chose above and the books you’ve read, Riffle will find 15 people for you to follow. Note: You can unfollow them at any time.
You’re now an official member of Riffle. Here is the coding system the site uses to help its users distinguish books you’ve liked from books you have yet to read.
Next, type the title of a book you’d like to read and Riffle will populate the cover and description.
To complete your profile, add a biographical description that is 140 characters or shorter, upload a picture of yourself, and review your settings. Voila! Your profile is complete.
When you click on the inverted arrow next to the word Riffle, a drop-down menu appears. When you click on Questions, you will navigate to a page of questions designed to learn more about your reading history and the types of books you prefer.
- Which books would you hope your soul mate has read?
- What books have changed the course of your life?
- What have you read recently?
The same Web page will provide you with answers to these questions (and more) provided by people you follow. Once you’ve finished replying to the questions, click the inverted arrow again. When you select “People,” you’ll see Riffle’s recommendations of people they think you would enjoy following.
You’re now a Riffle user!
LibraryThing describes itself as a “home for your books.” It’s both a cataloguing system and social network for its 1.7 million users and 82 million books. The platform allows users to contribute tags, reviews and ratings for books as well as participate in forums. It also has an Early Reviewers program.
Here, you are the librarian of your own personal library. You enter books to your collections, sort your books, edit book information (on Goodreads you can do this only if you are granted librarian status), and write reviews.
LibraryThing gets its book data from Amazon.com and over 700 libraries around the world, including the Library of Congress. On your profile, you can write about yourself, your library, or be private.
What I love about this site is its local information. Once you type in your zip code, LibraryThing will list author readings, signings, discussions and other book-related events in your region.
LibraryThing isn’t free but it is cheap to join. You can pay $10 per year or a $25 lifetime fee. Here are some interesting statistics about Library Thing:
- Members: 1,735,742
- Books cataloged: 85,149,486
- Reviews: 1,979,018
- Works reviewed 740,547
- Ratings: 14,138,830
- Author photos: 42,548
- Groups: 9,644
Sign up on the home page and decide whether you wan to connect your social media profiles to the site.
Similar to Goodreads, you can join and participate in groups.
As an example, this is a group called Literary Snobs.
Maybe you don’t want to commit to a group but you’d like to join discussions. You can do that too.
Are you wondering what literary events are happening in your area? Just enter your zip code to find out.
Check out all the resources available on LibraryThing. Similar to Goodreads, you can add a widget to your blog so that your readers will know what you’re reading.
BookLikes has a fresh feel to it. When you arrive at the home page, sign up.
You’ll notice that similar to Tumblr, Booklikes allows its users to customize the look of your bookshelves by installing any background design you like. In addition, if you want to share information that isn’t strictly bookish, you can do that on this site.
Here are some of its features:
- You can create the types of shelves that you like.
- Interact with other readers about books and book-related topics.
- Follow and unfollow people without having to accept a friend request.
- “Reblog” something you like on another bookshelf.
- Comment on another readers’ post.
Once you’ve signed up, select blogs you’re interested in following.
Now, click Start to proceed.
Spend some time completing your your bio.
Riffle, Library Thing or BookLikes?
If you are tired of reading blocks of text about books, would simply like to see your friends’ bookshelves as you would at their homes, and you love the ease of moving through Pinterest, then you should try Riffle.
If you like the idea of becoming a librarian without getting a Master’s degree, would like edit your book information, and want to have access to all of the book data on Amazon, 700 libraries and the Library of Congress, you will enjoy LibraryThing. Yes, there is a fee but it’s not expensive by any means.
If you are a Tumblr aficionado, you write YA fiction, or you’re more interested in joining a book-blogging platform, then BookLikes may appeal to you.
In some ways the question is similar to this one: Should I join Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest or Tumblr? The answer is, yes, join as many as you can handle and be active on the platforms where you’ll find your readers. You never know where you’ll find your next reader, which is why it’s a good idea to be diversified in your social media portfolio.
I think it’s too early to leave Goodreads (and its 20 million readers) behind. If you’re not happy with Goodreads right now, I suggest you begin a profile on at least one additional book review platform and test it for a few months. If it’s not a good fit, try another until you find the fit that feels that most natural.
Which platform will you try next?