I created my Goodreads profile in 2008. At the time it was a small site, having just launched in 2007, yet it would quickly change how I tracked my reading. The idea was brilliant in its simplicity — to give readers a way to log the books they owned, had read or wanted to read, and interact with a wider community of book-lovers via reviews and message boards. For me, the site offered an easy way to track the books I had read but didn’t own — which was many, given that I frequently used the library or borrowed from friends, and rarely had money to build out my shelves. Unfortunately, what was once a simple pleasure would turn into an unwieldy and often frustrating force in the book world.
Acquired by Amazon in 2013, the site now has over 90 million users and is many readers’ go-to source for tracking their reading, browsing user-generated book reviews, finding recommendations and entering giveaways. And while a strong presence on Goodreads can spell success for a new book, a few bad early reviews can break it. While the site gives readers a platform to easily share their opinion on a book, the unstructured nature of the Goodreads review system makes it easy for users to post reviews — oftentimes petty — before a book has even come out.
If you’ve abandoned Goodreads, a good alternative can be hard to find, especially if a robust community is important to you. Whether you’re looking for a simpler review platform, a smaller user-base, want to avoid feeding Amazon, or just yearn for the simpler days of tracking your books without the pressure, here are a few suggestions.
The Storygraph puts a fun twist on the social media aspect of virtual book tracking. You can follow others and be followed, but there are no friend/follow stats involved and no one will know when you follow them. That takes the pressure off if you’re less interested in a reader’s clout — including your own — and more interested in finding likeminded readers. You can take a survey to allow the site to get to know you and recommend books, and books you add to your list can also be assigned customisable tags. The more The Storygraph gets to know you, the better it’ll be at recommending books that fit your tastes.
BookSloth is a fast-growing alternative that operates most similarly to Goodreads. There’s the normal tracking, rating and reviewing, but also monthly challenges and achievements to help gamify your reading. As far as I can tell, its aesthetic is like Bookstagram meets Goodreads, and focused primarily on recommendations and what’s coming soon to bookstores. I don’t have an account yet, but that’s going to change soon — seems like a great option for those readers who want to stay up on the latest and are happy to grow a massive TBR pile.
Launched in 2013, Riffle believes “the greatest recommenders of books are people, not computer algorithms.” Their focus on community gives them the feel of an indie bookstore equivalent to Goodreads (there is even a feature to connect you to your local indie to source recommendations). It’s a reading tracker with a more personal touch, with genre editors, community managers, and site admins who respond to your questions and help guide your experience.
For those who want a heavy-duty tracker, Libib might be the option for you to catalogue your books, music, movies and video games all in one place. It comes in a free standard version and a pro version that runs $US9 ($13)/month or $US99 ($138)/year and is robust enough to cover everything a school or small organisation might need, from multi-user management to barcode recognition. Expect a lot of data options and cloud syncs, and less of a social media feel.
LibraryThing is an option for those who might also like to track movies and music along with their books. It used to come with a few fees — $US10 ($14) per year, or $US25 ($35) for a lifetime — but announced this year in a blog post that it’s going completely free. They also created TinyCat, which you can operate as an online catalogue service for your classroom, church, community centre or other small libraries. In 2018, they acquired Litsy, a photo-based social media app seeking to create a community of readers who love to share shelfies, illustrated quotes and book culture photos.
A spreadsheet — or old-fashioned pen and paper
To completely free yourself of the pressure that comes with combining social media and your reading life, consider going old school. There’s no reason you can’t track your reading in a simple spreadsheet. You can share with your friends if needed, but you might choose to keep it to yourself as a personal journal of what you read, how you were feeling and what was going on in your life at the time. If you’re worried about losing your data, use a cloud-based service like Google Docs. And if you’d prefer a more personal chronicle of what you’re reading and your accompanying thoughts, maybe a web platform isn’t right for you at all. Sometimes there’s nothing better than a pen and a notebook.