Last week Huffington Post asked the question “Social Networking For Book Lovers: Will Online Communities Work?” It seems an odd question to be asking in 2010 when several of the sites listed have been going strong for years. The piece features six social networking sites and includes brief blurbs about each of them. In the order presented in the post, they are:
- Goodreads. I’ve used Goodreads since 2008. Of the social networking sites for readers that I’ve actually used, it is the one where I actually know most of my “friends.” I’m not not sure why that is. For that reason, I still maintain my shelves, even though I find the user experience a little clunky and needlessly complicated at times. Everyone else I know seems to love it though. If you check out my shelf, you can see how far behind I am on posting my reviews here.
- LibraryThing. I joined LibraryThing in 2005 under my old nom de blog. By 2007 I quit updating my shelves and started looking for another reader site. Some folks I know swear by LibraryThing. To me it seemed sterile, all too serious, and based on a 2003 web aesthetic. My shelves look exactly the same as the day I abandoned them in 2007.
- Shelfari. When I fled LibraryThing in 2007, Shelfari is where I landed. Shelfari is still my favorite social book site. Even though I have the same number of Shelfari and Bookreads friends, I actually know fewer of my Shelfari friends. Shelfari’s user interface is so easy and intuitive that we use it to keep up with my six-year old daughter’s reading, too. My mom is also a “friend,” so three generations of my family are plugged in. I’m keeping up with my shelves here, too. I did not know that Amazon owns Shelfari until I read about it on HuffPo.
- Alikewise. I hate that Alikewise looks so cool and inviting. I cannot imagine a scenario where I would join and populate another social reading site from scratch. Can’t do it.
- You Are What You Read. This one is owned by Scholastic. I love the sentiment, but can’t join another site. Sorry.
- Spine Breakers. A teen site in the UK. Since I’m not a teen and not in the UK, I found this one easy to pass up. Spine Breakers is owned by Penguin UK.
Not included on this list is Book Army. I decided to check this one out after they had the good taste to name us #9 on their list of Best Book Blogs. The site is in the UK, and I quickly stumbled upon issues where US releases couldn’t be located for adding to my shelf. This sort of defeated the purpose. I’d love to show what my shelf (no longer updated) looks like, but I can’t find a way to do that without forcing you to join. Another drawback.
The main reason that I use these sites is too keep up with what I’ve read and to look at what my friends are reading. I don’t do much, if any, actual socializing on social book sites. For keeping up with my own reading, none of these sites comes close to my own Excel spreadsheet that I’ve maintained with alarming obsessiveness since 2005. What I like about my own system is that I can track all sorts of things that the social networking sites don’t allow me to easily do, if at all. I like to keep track of basic questions like how many books have I read so far this year? How many were works of fiction? How many were written by women? How many were not written by Americans? I like to keep up with this kind of data so that I can do data nerd stuff like graph my fiction vs. non-fiction reading. Sadly, I’m not kidding:
Social networking sites collect a huge amount of information about you. It would be great if the sites dedicated to readers would allow you to actually get at and use that data.