Over the last few days I have become interested in the social networking sites that are geared around books and reading. The main two in this particular genre are Shelfari and Goodreads. Both of these sites have the same basic concept, allow people to display what books they have read, their rating for those books, and what they are reading now. But both of these sites have differences in how to get to these end results. I thought I would put down my impression of the two social networking sites in particular.
Shelfari seems to be the most popular of the two websites. They have some fairly big tech names subscribed to their site. The site is the older of the two, but not by much, just a few months. I think that it actually gets much of its popularity from the fact that it is owned by Amazon.com, thus giving it a fairly large in with book buyers, and I must admit the interface of the website is initially very appealing.
As you might expect, the website displays your collection of books on a shelf, hence the name. So you get on your profile this long artificial shelf with the book covers facing out of it. The middle of the shelf shows books you are currently reading, the left showing books that you are reading next, and the right has books that you have read as well as a rating of each. The visualness of the shelf is kind of cool. I like being able to look at all the covers of the books that I owned lined up next together. The site is also extremely AJAXified so it is really easy to navigate around.
However, the site began to get to me after a short time. While the book shelf started out to be a very compelling way to go, it quickly started to seem gaudy and a bit much. The site I think did recently update the look of the shelves to be a little less, but even so it seems to be a bit much.
Goodreads on the other hand puts on a very simplistic interface. It is extremely texty. It does have images of all the book covers, but otherwise there really isn’t much to it. You add your book, it gets added to the list. The beauty of this site is that it really isn’t flashy or complicated. And yet there seem to be more features involved with it. In addition to the standard reviewing and joining groups. You can update status of books that you are reading as well as short thoughts (kind of like tweets) on where you are with the book. They offer trivia on books and famous quotes to add to your collection of worthwhile quotes. Another nice touch is that your book updates can be tweeted so that your twitter is constantly updated with less input from you directly.
In short, I get the feeling that goodreads stays more true to the actual readers that like to read, whereas shelfari is just trying to catch the casual readers who might be more attracted to the flashy. I also think I would add that I find the newsletter that goodreads has put out to be nice. They only send it out like once a month (I don’t get any other annoying emails from them which is amazing) and some of the articles are actually good. This month’s articles featured an interview with Jodi Picoult which if you ask me is pretty cool.
For my money, I choose Goodreads. Don’t get me wrong, I think that Shelfari is pretty decent, but there is something to be said of the simplicity and the wealth of features that Goodreads has that makes it the social networking book site of choice. I kind of wish they had a similar site for movies and music, or one that kind of combined all three. But I guess these segments of the market are kind of getting filled by the likes of netflix, hulu, and iTunes even though none of these are really social networking sites.