I love books. As Elizabeth Scott said, “I like that the moment you open one and sink into it you can escape from the world, into a story that’s way more interesting than yours will ever be”. Books are my best friends; they don’t lie to my face, for one thing. They keep me entertained and encouraged. Whenever I feel depressed or need a shoulder to lean on, I turn back to a book, be it Jonathan Livingston Seagull or Goblet of Fire.
But not all the books are worth your time. We often rely on critics like NYTimes, who heavily rely on sales numbers to measure a book’s quality, to find our next book. But, more often than not, we walk away disappointed. Wouldn’t it be a better idea to listen to your like-minded friends rather than a complete stranger? That’s what GoodReads is all about.
What is GoodReads?
GoodReads is a thriving web-based Social network for books. It uses an engine that analyzes you and your friends’ reading patterns to recommend books that you are most likely to enjoy. It is the 10th largest Social network today with 7.7 million users. Simply put, what Netflix does for movies, GoodReads does for books, without actually letting you read all of the books they recommend. With their recently acquired book recommendation engine, GoodReads promises to help you discover your next book. Let’s find out if they live up to their word.
How does it work?
Imagine yourself wandering around a huge Library on your own without any idea on which book to read. It you’re anything like me, you’ll probably find the Librarian and have him pick a good book for you from your favorite category. If you’re lucky enough, you might strike up a conversation about books you like, and discover more books that you’d like to read. Likewise, once you login to GoodReads, you specify your favorite genre. You can then see the books your friends love, based on your interests, and even join the book discussion. With a closely coupled Facebook integration, you can now follow what your other friends are reading anytime. You’ll have to rate 20 books before you start getting recommendations, but it shouldn’t be too hard to think of 20 books you like if you’re a heavy reader.
Bookshelves and Rating
As the name suggests, a bookshelf is a personalized book shelf where you can add the books you’ve read, reading and planning to read. This is a pretty cool feature and helps you track the books you’ve read over the years. Once you add a book to your shelf, you can simply rate the book with just a mouse click. Another important thing to note is, every book has a personalized discussion thread where you can connect with fellow readers. One cool feature which took me by surprise was when you rate a book which is not in your shelf, it is automatically marked as read and placed in your shelf.
Any Social Network would be a mess without a proper recommendation system and GoodReads does a great job at that. All you need to do is rate at least 20 books you’ve already read, preferrable across genres, and Voila! your personalized recommendation is ready. Simple isn’t it? Let’s delve a little deeper.
The way GoodReads works is, it analyzes your bookshelf for books you actually liked, and finds similar books from your friends shelves and present it to you. Is this more credible than the conventional 5 point system? Before answering that, I’d point you to this post.
Any system is as good as its users. Please put your knives away. I’ve a point, I swear. the 5 point scale is easily corruptible. If I like a movie, I’ll give it a golden 5 and on the other hand if I don’t like it I’ll give it a 1. When done on a large-scale, the results are doomed to fail. Plus, opinions differ. What works for me might not work for you (I know people who like Attack of the Clones, seriously). So, the answer in short is Yes. I’d rather take my friend’s word than a million strangers.
Overall, GoodReads has a pretty solid recommendation engine. Another feature worth taking a look it their Request for Recommendation. This works well if you’re in a wild adventure.
GoodReads offers a wonderful service. I discovered many awesome books and connected with a lot of other like-minded people. But as with any other social network, it’s not without its limitations.
If a person likes a specific book in a Series, let’s say Lord Of the Rings -Fellowship of the Ring, it’s only fair to recommend its sequel. Surprisingly, GoodReads doesn’t seem to be doing that, instead recommend other fantasy books. Another bug that caught my attention is duplication of books. It treats books separately based on their editions. There was another minor issue while setting date of completion. You’ve to reload the page, for the changes to reflect. But all these are minor irritants and shouldn’t spoil your experience.
That’s a wrap
GoodReads is an awesome service that makes your reading experience much better. It’s even easy to keep track of the stuff you’ve read and is really exciting to discuss your favorite books. I’d strongly recommend you to try this one out.
How was your experience with GoodReads? Have you tried any other Social Reader apps?
GoodReads is a webapp which will help you discover your next book.9
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