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.

Step 3: Organizing Your Thoughts

When I first began using WordPress, tagging wasn’t available, so I never got into the habit of using tags. And despite the rise of websites like Technorati, I’m still not sure on their value overall. I have recently feared that I am becoming stuck in my old ways, but as I began this site redesign, a light bulb clicked on for me.

As I’ve mentioned before, I hate long sidebars, and one of the contributors to this is having a long list of categories. Previously, I put everything into very specific categories, and sometimes into two or more categories, to make finding entries easier for those who prefer to use a hierarchical navigation bar rather than the search feature. Using the categories is how I often navigated my site, but it cluttered my page and annoyed me. Tags address this issue quite succinctly.

First, we must acknowledge the power of search. Hierarchical navigation bars, while best suited for displaying the breadth of everything you have to offer, can become quite cumbersome. If you categorize and tag items accordingly, you need not have such a large navigation bar. In my case, I have opted to use categories but broadly, and to leave the specifics to tags.

What this translates to is that every poem I post on my writing blog will be categorized as Poetry. Forms, such as sonnet or villanelle, will be left to the tags, as will the content of the poem. I do not need a category for dreams just like I don’t need a category for fantasy fiction. Rather, I can have Dream and Fantasy be tags, and create the broader category of Fiction.

You need to consider your organization before ever beginning or it will quickly become too late to do anything about the matter. If you decide you have erroneously left tags off the last three hundred blog entries you wrote, going back and adding those tags will be immensely time consuming and frustrating. For the aspiring blogger, it is far better to not make the mistakes I did and leap in blindly, but to spend some time considering your goals and organization, then putting those into place from the word “go.”