Best place to friend a book.
June 30, 2010 10:53 AM   Subscribe

Shelfari vs. Good Reads vs. Library Thing. I know it's subjective, but could you tell me the benefits of one or all three?

Good Reads sees a lot of excellent reviews, and high volume + iPhone app, but the Book of Mormon is like #3 "best book of all time". Shelfari is pretty awesome, but nobody is on there? I don't know about LibraryThing, anything would be appreciated. Thank you!
posted by four panels to Writing & Language (16 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
I use shelfari because it was free and had the easiest interface to upload a bulk of isbns at a time (a shelf from one of my bookshelves). None of them has found all the books I own (many have trouble with Scholastic, all have issues with old books that just have a LOC number or not even that, for obvious reasons). I liked Book Collector (, and have bought it, but they update it regularly and incrementally, and I don't like rebuying something that I can approximate for free. It was the most robust for adding, searching and other database functions, but the version I tried was definately tied to a computer (or shared database via network/dropbox folder).

Shelfari is a little bit of form over function, but it's Web 2.0 ease of use and access-it-anywhere feature insures I update with new books when I buy them.
posted by JeremiahBritt at 11:10 AM on June 30, 2010

I've used both Good Reads and Library Thing.

Good Reads: social book cataloging. Emphasis on friends, light on stats and adding books.
Library Thing: Prioritizes cataloging over social functions - you can be private, or public, with nothing in between. Has awesome book adding support and the ability to correct errors.

I tend to use Library Thing to see what books I have, and Good Reads to see what my friends are reading.
posted by zamboni at 11:15 AM on June 30, 2010

This question has some answers which should be helpful.
posted by Fifi Firefox at 11:26 AM on June 30, 2010

Back when I compared Shelfari and LibraryThing (which was a couple years ago -- they might have changed since then), the two looked very similar. The main difference I saw? LibraryThing capped the free account at 200 books. That was unacceptable to me. I'm not going to start a project of recording what books I own only to have it arbitrarily cut off right when it's getting interesting. And I'm not going to pay money just to have a website record the books I have. Insofar as I have such money to spare on my bookish ways, I'd much rather use it to, you know, buy more books. As far as I know, Shelfari has no limit. The choice was clear.
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:32 AM on June 30, 2010

I use Good Reads, mostly to categorize and keep track of what I've checked out from the library so I can find it again five years from now. I don't use any of the social features so I can't comment on those. If a particular book isn't in their database, they have an option to search Amazon and add it from there, which I've used for a couple items. The iPhone app is great.

The one thing I've been disappointed with is the lack of recommendations -- I've gotten a couple of obviously-paid-advertising recommendations from them, but it would seem like with a list of my books and tags and ratings, they should be able to suggest things that I'm not aware of but would like. There are some static lists of recommended books by category, but I've never found them of much use.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 11:33 AM on June 30, 2010

The founder of LibraryThing discusses LT vs. Shelfari, after Shelfari was acquired by Amazon.
posted by zamboni at 11:56 AM on June 30, 2010

One feature that I've only seen on LibraryThing is the ability to track multiple reading dates. That alone made a big difference for me. I also like the ability to have precisely my edition listed.
posted by ansate at 12:22 PM on June 30, 2010

I like goodreads -- haven't tried any of the others. It's been handy for remembering "that book I read about that thing last year", plus I've gotten my blog set up to pull in my reviews via RSS.

As far as the social bits: quite a while after I started using it, I discovered that there was a local group. I've been to a few of their events, met some great people, really enjoyed myself. Plus I actually find some intriguing books through some of those folks.
posted by epersonae at 12:30 PM on June 30, 2010

I had a Shelfari account but I hadn't done anything with it in about a year. After reading the LibraryThing blog post I just deleted my Shelfari account. If I'm not using the data I don't need it sitting out there.

A couple of months ago I installed Oddbook after seeing it in a MeFi projects post. It's not social, it's not integrated with any online book store, but the data is all mine.
posted by COD at 1:07 PM on June 30, 2010

Shelfari has terrible security - someone signed up using my email address and the site spammed me forever and ever and i couldn't unsubscribe and i couldn't get them to close my account and whoever had signed up kept sending and accepting friend requests and it generally made me think that Shelfari is crap, even though i don't use it.
posted by Kololo at 1:20 PM on June 30, 2010

I use LibraryThing. I signed up before the other two even existed, as far as I know, or I might have ended up at GoodReads (I don't think I would have signed up with Shelfari - I am deeply suspicious of services that want to spam your friends). I did sign up with Goodreads once, but got frustrated and left.

One of the nicest things about LT is that the founder (and other employees) read the forums ("Talk") regularly, and respond quickly to most issues. Tim (the founder) is more than willing to discuss the thought process behind why certain design and implementation issues were made. Or why some upcoming features are being prioritized over others. I would highly recommend skimming some of the forums before making a decision (particularly Talk About LT - you can read but not post as a non-member).

LT is also the place to go if you are particular about recording exactly which books you own - if you want to specify the edition, and publisher, and correct cover. LT was created as a catalog first, and acquired social aspects afterwards. I believe the others are more focused on the social and only allow you to specify the book by title and author.

I also think that LT's tagging function is a lot more flexible than the other sites. LT also has a secondary function called collections that lets you group books into bigger, well, collections, such as Owned, Read but not Owned, Wishlist, and so forth. You can create your own - those are some of the defaults offered.

I think LT has excellent reviews available. And while they don't have an iPhone app (there are issues because Amazon won't allow apps that use their data), they do have a rudimentary mobile site and some integration with Facebook (you can post your reviews automatically).

LT also has great community-driven features like Common Knowledge, which is a "fielded wiki". It allows anyone to put in information about a work that will be available to the whole community, like what series it's a part of, or what characters are in it, or the settings, and so forth. Which leads to fun stuff like being able to see a list of every Sherlock Holmes book, whether written by Doyle or not.

OK, yes, I'm a big LT fan. But it's an awesome site.
posted by timepiece at 1:57 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

I like library thing. The lifetime membership was like$10.
I found librarything by following a link (perhaps on Metafilter) to explore "reverse recommendation" wher it speculates what books you would hate. The recommendations are especially good on librarything. I have added dozens of books to my Wishlist.
I also have a good time playing with tags, and frolicing in the Tag Cloud.
posted by ohshenandoah at 3:57 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

I love LibraryThing, especially for the recommendations and because I own relatively obscure books and it makes me feel okay about it (the median number of users who share a book with me: 85.) Right now the top 20 recommendations it has for me are books that I own but haven't had a chance to enter into the database. And Tim is a great sport about replying to the community members; someday very soon I'm quite sure he's going to restore my favorite feature (the Tag Mirror, which says what everyone else thinks of my library in its entirety;) he took it down because it was dragging site performance down and told us so. He's what I wish, say, Mark Zuckerberg could be. Plus, thanks to LT, I know that I'm not the only one had a thing for Harry Potter yet didn't bother to buy/keep the last Harry Potter book.

I know some of my friends use GoodReads, but they're not big enough users for me to bother signing up. I have friends, people I find interesting, people I watch, etc. on LT, and it gives me categories for each, yay. I'm a categorizer more than a sharer. I think I gave LT $12 or something when I joined - you get to pick how much, as I recall, it costs.

And the Book of Mornon scores very high (as, too, about twenty to thirty other books) or very low on most sites, because people either love or hate it. On LibraryThing? It's the #2 AND #3 "book people can't agree on." #1 is the translation of the Bible preferred by the Jehovah's Witnesses. On some sites, you get a swing vote of Mormons, generally because something has become very popular with Mormon bloggers or the BYU campus. Wikipedia (and, apparently, Good Reads) are two examples; it's difficult to avoid if you want to enjoy the entire internet. It looks like GR let everyone pick their own personal "best book ever" and then counted up the votes; #7 is the LDS version of the Bible, and, alas, Stephanie Meyer is heavily represented in the list. LT calculates based on star ratings, so since some people give the Book of Mormon 5 stars and the rest half a star...
posted by SMPA at 7:17 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't let the #1 book on any service be a guide to which service to choose - it's like reading the Facebook status updates of everyone with an account, instead of just your own friends and family. And voracious readers aren't always choosy :)

GoodReads does let you choose your edition/cover, contrary to what's been said above, but you might have to compile the details yourself and add them to the list if you've got something that's been reprinted a few times or by different publishers at various times.
posted by harriet vane at 4:59 AM on July 1, 2010

LibraryThing is affordable, it's constantly evolving, and it's doing neat, open things with the data. The recommendations are good, the Early Reviewers program is fantastic (I got the latest Naomi Novik book, for example), and they are actively involved with their users. They will provide CueCats (hey, shut up!) for groups volunteering to catalog a local library, they offer information about local libraries & book stores, and their communications are not annoying. They interview authors and provide a space for fans and authors to interact.

If you want to see what books are common on a service and make your judgement, then examine the popularity of Harry Potter books: yikes, everyone on LibraryThing seems to own them! But also examine the breadth and depth of the collections and then maybe reconsider.

One more thing: before I had PayPal they accepted a ten dollar bill in the mail to pay for my account, which MetFilter wouldn't do! :7)
posted by wenestvedt at 6:08 AM on July 1, 2010

I'm on Goodreads and the features I like so far:

- You can make your own shelves. Aside from the "Read", "To Read" and "Currently Reading" shelves, you can create more to suit your needs, like "Fiction" or "Poetry" or even "Books I Hate". You can even assign the shelves you create to be exclusive so that when you tag one book to that shelf it won't be placed in other shelves. I love this function because it lets me see how many books I have in a particular shelf.
- You can apply for a librarian status (after adding a lot of books) and have access to edit book information. I am pretty anal with my book cataloging so this was important to me. I own a lot of books that are old and obscure and therefore have a different cover and edition. If you think it's too tedious to do this on your own, you can also go to the Librarians thread and request for the changes. They're really helpful and friendly over there!
- Forums for different interests abound, as well as maybe a group in your area. You can meet with fellow locals who love reading.
- You can add your own review and rate it. You can see other people's review of the book as well.
- You can add the date when you have bought the book, where you bought it from, and other personal notes.
- You can also add the date when you started reading it and when you finished it. This is pretty handy to me. There is also a page where you can see how many books you have read during the year.
- When you add a book and mark it as currently reading, you can update your status every now and then and indicate what page you are on. You can also add a note to go with it, maybe a quote or a thought while reading.
- You can be a fan of your favorite author and "follow" their page. If you're lucky, the author might have claimed that account and is an active user, too! In fact, there is an ongoing project to invite authors to claim their pages in Goodreads.
- You can also favourite quotes you like and display them on your page.
- There is a never-ending book quiz that you can play if you like.
- You can leave comments on your friends' pages, reviews or send them private messages.
- All these updates can be customized so you can choose what you want to appear in your other social media accounts like Twitter, that is, if you want to do that.

Anyway, that's all I can think of for now. I've never tried the other two services, although I do like the badge I've seen on some blogs where they can display on shelves their books. I don't know yet if it can be done in Goodreads.
posted by pleasebekind at 10:39 AM on July 25, 2010

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