Goodreads Reviewed

Goodreads

As before, I imported my library from LibraryThing to give me some data to work with. Though I’d heard about Goodreads before, I hadn’t messed with it any, and now that I’ve done so, I’d like to see what happens when I use the rubrick I established for these reviews.

Speed

Goodreads is pretty quick, both with adding and finding books. As with Shelfari, the only options you have when searching are those books already entered into Goodreads and Amazon.com, but the interface feels more clean and I had no problem finding my test books.

Unfortunately, import did not go so well. What Shelfari handled in a matter of seconds, Goodreads took over 35 minutes to import. I don’t know what took so long, and after it finished, it had left thirty-one books out. Admittedly, this is less than Shelfari left out, but Shelfari also told me which books it had dropped. Goodreads just failed without telling me which books it hadn’t been able to record.

As for editing books, it’s a bit slower than Shelfari in that I have to click a link rather than hover over the book, but I’m OK with that. What I’m not OK with is the way Goodreads handles tagging.

Rather than tags, Goodreads uses “shelves,” which are pretty much the same thing… except you can’t just type them into a list. You have to use a drop down menu, and then either add new shelves or click a check box to apply shelves/tags.

On LibraryThing, I have probably around 500 unique tags (a total of 2,663 tags used on books, but that’s with a lot of duplicates). Imagine scrolling through that in a drop down menu. I also often like to apply the same tags to books in a series, so not being able to copy and paste a line of tags/text is frustrating.

Like Shelfari, there’s no mass editing of books; I can’t apply similar changes to multiple books.

Online

Again, Goodreads is obviously online or else it would not be part of these reviews, but how does it stack up in the mobile arena?

While it doesn’t have a dedicated mobile version, their website isn’t near as bloated or poorly designed as Shelfari (measuring in at about 1/4 the size per page). It runs decently on Windows Mobile in Internet Explorer, to the extent that it is usable. It’s 300+ kb size is a bit much for non-3G phones, and it’s not optimized for mobile browsers, but it actually works pretty decently.

I could log in, access my library, and search for books, which was pretty exciting to see.

Organize

As I mentioned earlier, tagging/shelving is a failure to me on Goodreads. However, once you have shelved books, you can view just that shelf and then order them by author’s last name, the title, or the publication date, so that’s decent. You just have to resign yourself to having very few tags/shelves or else the system will become unmanageable.

I can’t imagine using Goodreads to organize a sizable library (beyond a few hundred books). But if you’re the type to only have a few tags/shelves, it’ll work just fine.

Aesthetics

It’s worth mentioning that Goodreads is just plain pretty. It’s pleasant to browse around, though I don’t feel like there’s much to browse. It’s well-designed, and I enjoyed using it for testing. Goodreads is certainly easy on the eyes.

Final Grade: B

  1. Needs to be relatively fast. | B
    1. Speed/ease of adding books. | B
    2. General site speed. | B
    3. Speed/ease of editing books. | C
  2. Must be online, but furthermore must be mobile accessible so I can access my library from the bookstore to see if I already own something. | B
  3. Should be displayable by how I organize my books on the shelf (Genre -> Author alphabetically by last name -> Publication date) so that I can better find things in my physical library. | C+

On speed/ease of editing books, not being able to edit multiple books at one time will never earn anything above a C. When handling anything beyond a dozen books, I feel this is crucial.

I gave the organization a C+ because it would allow me to see general shelf location decently, but the way it handles tagging isn’t scalable and therefore doesn’t suit me well.

Goodreads is Good

In general, Goodreads is pretty decent, and if you’re looking for a free service, I imagine it’s the best you can do. That sounds somewhat snide, but I really mean it when I say that Goodreads is good. I was pleasantly surprised by this service, and would recommend it to people who are looking for a free and easy way to organize their home library, provided they didn’t have more than a few hundred books (say, no more than 300 probably).

On Monday, I’ll talk about my personal favourite, LibraryThing, which does have a fee involved (for anything beyond 200 books), but which I feel is well worth it.

Finding the right way to organize your books

Pile o'books

A couple of years ago, I read an article on Slashdot that asked the question, “How do you solve the home library problem?” A lot of people chimed in and, while following the ensuing discussion, I became intrigued. I’d always considered organizing my home library, but had never gotten around to it, and now my lack of organization was having negative repercussions.

I’d already found one book where I owned multiple copies, having forgotten that I owned it and therefore purchased it again. And I often found myself unable to find a book, having lost it somewhere among all the different shelves and stacks of novels littered around my apartment. Though it was a mess, it was a mess that made me happy because it was a bunch of books, but it was also time consuming and causing me to waste money.

So, I read through all the comments on the Slashdot article, investigated a few options, and settled on LibraryThing. I say “settled,” though that’s not really accurate; I really like LibraryThing, and enjoy using it a great deal. But in the last two (almost three now) years, I haven’t looked at any cataloging alternatives.

This article begins a short series where I will review three online library cataloging web sites. I’m leaving out Delicious Library because one of my requirements (which I’ll discuss shortly) was that it be online and subsequently accessible from most anywhere, but I’ve heard that DL is really great. So, we’ll talk about Shelfari, Goodreads, and LibraryThing.

Requirements for my cataloging system:

  1. Needs to be relatively fast.
    1. Speed/ease of adding books.
    2. General site speed.
    3. Speed/ease of editing books.
  2. Must be online, but furthermore must be mobile accessible so I can access my library from the bookstore to see if I already own something.
  3. Should be displayable by how I organize my books on the shelf (Genre -> Author alphabetically by last name -> Publication date) so that I can better find things in my physical library.

I’ll inform you of my bias now: After using LibraryThing for more than two years, I could add a half dozen other requirements to that list of features that I’m not willing to live without anymore, but those three were really all I was looking for when I first began my search. Therefore, to be fair, I’ll limit it to those and expound on the extras in the individual posts after the review.

Once the three reviews are completed, I’ll write an article with some recommendations on how you can best build and organize your home library. I’m not a librarian, by any means, but I’ve been messing with this for a while and want to share what I’ve found. I hope you’ll return over the next week and maybe learn something as well.

Image by: lusi

An Online Society

Due to a failure of our DSL gateway at home, a lack of internet connectivity is somewhat consuming my life right now. My wife, April, and I are at a Panera Bread so we can check email and I can write, and until this time we did not realize how much we had truly come to rely on the Internet.

When I first started a webserver, it was located in my bedroom, running Mandriva Linux 10.1 and built on pretty poor hardware. Whenever it went down, my website went down, and since the entire point of having a personal site was so I could reach my work/files from anywhere, this kind of defeated the purpose. So, I now use Bluehost, who have been fantastic, and no matter what is going on at home, I can reliably get to my files from anywhere.

The result of this is that I do all of my work over the internet. I develop work in my wiki ((I have since removed the wiki from this site, so this link to the wiki was likewise removed.)) , I do all of my writing inside WordPress, and I manage our finances through Google Documents. When faced with a blank OpenOffice.org page, I’m not entirely certain what to do with myself. When I can’t research whatever I want, whenever I want, I feel cut off and lost.

Rather than writing yesterday, I spent several hours thinking, developing a fantasy world in my head for a campaign setting I am working on (for tabletop roleplaying). But I couldn’t get up the motivation to write any of it down and then copy and paste that into my wiki later. I just didn’t feel like using OOo.

Because everything is on my website, I can get to my work from anywhere in the world, but that’s only if I have Internet access. The ironic part is that, while it’s accessible from anywhere, I couldn’t get to anything from home.  Without being able to go online, I was dead in the water.

I have no real commentary on the subject other than to point you to this.