GoodReads versus LibraryThing versus Shelfari
Back in 2008, I started looking at ways to catalog my household’s book collection: Books and Knowledge Management. LibraryThing was the winner. That decision was largely driven by their ability to manually enter books. Back in 2008 GoodReads and Shelfari libraries were limited to books listed on Amazon.com.
Since then, I have happily been using Library Thing. I have entered over 1,200 books in my LibraryThing catalog. About 300 of those books are more than 50 years old, meaning they are not available on Amazon.com.
It’s been about two years so I decided to take another look at my options. LibraryThing has been good to me, so I am hesitant to move. I suspected that there would be a great deal of time trying to recreate my catalog on another site.
Import and Export
All three have the ability to import and export books. So I exported the lists to Shelfari and GoodReads. I ended up with 1082 in Shelfari after manually adding 100 or so books. Shelfari made me go through a painful process of adding books by matching covers, with only 20 books per page. I gave up a third of the way through. I did not manually enter any books in Goodreads and ended up with 967 books.
Back in 2008, Shelfari had the best visuals of the three. Unfortunately, it looks like time stopped for Shelfari. I did not notice any change in its visuals. The site shows the book covers sitting on a wood grain bookshelf.
LibraryThing is the least attractive of the three. But it seems to have forgone good visuals for a user interface full of information. I found it the easiest to use, but I had the most familiarity with it.
GoodReads has the best looking user interface of the three.
Tags, Shelves and Collections
One of the keys is how the sites allow you to organize the books. For me, I have two basic pieces of data. The first is the reading status: read it or planning to read it. The second is whether I own it or not. Essentially I want to track the books I’ve read and the books I own in one place.
LibraryThing uses “collections” that work well for my basic data. The collections are not exclusive, so books can be in multiple collections. My collections are currently reading, publisher provided, reviewed, read but unowned, and to read. The LibraryThing also allows for extensive use of tags.
Goodreads allows many “shelves.” I set up currently reading, to-read, borrowed, and publisher provided. For some reason, your ownership status for a book is separate from the shelves. There is no separate tagging.
Shelfari limits your “shelves” to reading status, own, favorite and wish list. Instead, they allow lots of tagging.
All three have a stripped down mobile view of their sites. Of the three, GoodReads has the most functionality squeezed onto the small iPhone screen, yet it still very readable.
All three sites about their active network of users sharing information about books. I had very few connections on the sites. Lots of connections on one of the sites would be a good reason to selection that site.
Integration with Other Applications
Goodreads has a nice tie into Twitter and Facebook allowing you update you books status to those sites. I really like this feature.
LibraryThing and Shelfari both have Facebook applications but they are far behind GoodReads.
All three sites allow you to use widgets to show part of your collection.
LibraryThing had the most widgets and an ability to customize those widgets.
All three sites are free.
LibraryThing requires you to buy a membership if you want to keep more than 25o books in your catalog. I bought the $25 lifetime membership.
GoodReads and Shelfari both display advertisements.
Going forward for the next months, I am going to use all three site and try to replicate the information. (although, I’m not going to spend much time going back to clean up my catalogs in GoodReads or Shelfari.) The stack of books next to my nightstand has gotten nearly as tall as my kids. So I have an itch to cram in a bunch of book reading this year to clear out my backlog.
I will publish a follow-up in a few months and let you know which site won the competition.
In the meantime, if you are using any of the sites let me know your thoughts and connect with me.