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Finding a replacement for Goodreads

29 September 2013

From Dear Author:

After Goodreads deleted content – both reviews and shelves – of readers as well as indicated that they would continue to do so in the future (only this time they’ll provide notice), many readers feel like Goodreads is not a safe place for them.  Ironically, many many authors hate Goodreads feeling that the place is unsafe for them as well.  Undoubtedly sites like Stop the Goodreads Bullies which has defamed and doxxed reviewers allowing them to be called at their place of business and at home bu approvingly cited by so many purported reputable journalism sources, ratchet up the tension making both sides targets.  Nonetheless, the question is where can readers go to discuss books they don’t like as well as the ones they do without interference from authors complaining about mistreatment?

. . . .

Riffle is essentially Pinterest for books.  You can search their catalog, select a book, and add it to your shelf.  This is designed for graphic oriented readers.  There is no place to leave reviews and no place for interaction (other than repinning).  Pinterest is the large social sharing network.  You have to find the book you want to add to your shelf and then “pin it”.  You can create different “boards” such as A Reads | B Reads and genre based boards.  The advantage of Riffle is the already created catalog source.  The benefit of Pinterest is that you aren’t limited to what is in the Riffle catalog (ie., a lot of indies aren’t there) but you lack the built in reading community.

. . . .

Library Thing  is a similar source on the internet to Goodreads.  It allows you to create an account, add books to your catalog, create lists, write reviews, and share those with other members. The interface isn’t as elegant as Goodreads and there is a cost.  A free membership allows you to add 200 books to your shelf. You have to pay $10 per year to have an unlimited bookshelf or $25 for life.  The social aspect isn’t as strong.

. . . .

Most of the people who I follow at Goodreads have left for Booklikes.  Booklikes has a tumblr like interface, almost blog-like. There’s a lot to like about Booklikes. You can customize the look and feel of your “shelf” by installing a new background design.  A downside is I saw a lot of promotional things on the site and that might just be who I followed accidentally or by default.  While most of the content created on Goodreads was book related, Booklikes allows you to create posts and status updates that are completely general.

Link to the rest at Dear Author

Social media leaders rely upon lots of people for their success. Once a site like Goodreads comes to dominate a social media niche, it’s hard to build a significant competitor unless a new new entry does something cool in a way that will draw large masses of people away from the category leader. You can persuade small groups to move, but large groups are much, much harder.

PG doesn’t think the vast majority of Goodreads users are terribly upset about a few offensive items being removed from the site. Most have not even noticed anything. It will take a killer new concept to pull significant numbers of Goodreads regulars to something new.

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39 Comments to “Finding a replacement for Goodreads”

  1. … and Shelfari ?

    {which Amazon bought a couple years back}

  2. Good commentary, PG.

    Quite a biased article by Dear Author, in the first paragraph.

    I’ve been following this thing pretty closely. The users who are discontented with Goodread’s policy change are hoping to create a media storm.

    However, it is quite ironic that while they are doing this, they are displaying the very behavior that caused the policy change.

    Anyone who comes onto a thread disagreeing with them is attacked personally and threatened with attacks on their books, or even their friends books (that is not hypothetical, it happened to ME a few days ago, and I’ve watched it happen to others). In addition, in civil protest of GRs change of policy they are leaving hundreds of one-star reviews on Goodreads. One person has left over 500 one-star reviews in 4 days. And they are quite open about it. They proclaim this is their only way to protest the policy change.

    I think these users may not understand that this type of behavior damages a business. It hurts the reputation of the business and drives other users away.

    So, I agree with you, PG, I think Goodreads is too strong to be hurt by the loss of a few users. But in this case, the opposite is most likely true. Losing these users will most likely help make Goodreads healthier as a business. I suspect that was part of Goodread’s motivation.

    • In addition, in civil protest of GRs change of policy they are leaving hundreds of one-star reviews on Goodreads. One person has left over 500 one-star reviews in 4 days. And they are quite open about it. They proclaim this is their only way to protest the policy change.

      Thank you for explaining that, Mira. All my books turned up with 1 star reviews from the same person this week.

      Once you lose your credibility, you’ve lost everything. I suppose that fact is lost on them.

      • @ Barbara – I’m so sorry that happened to you! 🙁

      • I’m sorry, Barbara! If it makes you feel any better, you’re not alone. Many authors are experiencing the same thing.

        It might also be worth noting that the person who 1-starred 500 books yesterday, Linda Hilton, is a Dear Author follower. She and Jane Litte have been tight for a long time.

      • In my purely personal and humble opinion I really find all of this torrent of concern about these one star reviews, and negative responses by a tiny number of GR members, wholly and completely pointless and a waste of time and effort.

        Ordinary members of GR and ordinary readers do not give a damn about one star reviews or this knockabout nonsense ! Why would they ? Where on earth do these overly concerned authors get this idea that they do ?

        Readers are well able to distinguish between nonsense reviews and nonsense stars. Readers are well able to ignore the nonsense. Readers have brains and not the naive and gullible people that some seem to think they are.

        Anyone I have discussed reviews with does the same … they look at the highest star reviews first and read a few. Then they see how many lower stars there are, just for balance, and go and check out a few. Once they see the crapology, they just ignore it.

        Authors that are getting their knickers in a twist over this need to chill, relax and get on with what matters in life – Living, loving and writing.

        • So true. One-star reviews help sell books. It’s not bs. You have more credibility with a mix of ratings than if you only have 5 stars. So who cares? Let them waste their time.

          I’ve seen books on goodreads with 95% excellent ratings, and right away I know it’s hogwash. ::giggles::

        • Overall, you are correct. Keep writing and releasing (in whichever manner you prefer) and move on. Just not worth it to obsess.

          The hit on selling comes with the available marketing opportunities. Places like Bookbub demand a certain average review rating. If enough carpet-bombers hit, and the proportion to the other legitimate reviews is not enough to offset them, then guess what? You get a rejection, even if the new average has nothing to do with the actual book.

          Two things are on the author and publisher’s side right now:

          1. So far, Amazon has not integrated Goodreads reviews and ratings into its own system. (By the way, has anyone thought of how the stars mean different things across the two sites?)

          2. Last I heard, the good promotional places I’ve considered don’t use Goodreads review averages, only Amazon’s.

          As for the average readers? Oh yeah, most of them will gloss over the drivel of these nonsense ratings.

    • Ugh, I hadn’t seen those. But it’s a huge mess of ill-moderated ill-will right now, so I’m not surprised that the trolls have come out on all sides. Playing whack-a-troll is something that mods really need to do more of…

      I sit in a middle ground of thinking that GoodReads needed to do some of this, but did it in the absolutely worst way possible. Automatically making shelves private to self-and-friends, so they don’t show on the book’s main page? Yes. Deleting reviews which are nothing but bile? Yes. Deleting them without warning? Oh, lords, no. Deleting shelves that could be construed as pertaining to author behavior? No. (Deleting hypothetical shelves that advocate harm to an author? Sure.) Doing all this on a Friday and not having anyone monitoring the situation? Dear gods, no.

      They could have gotten rid of the trolls in a way that made most people go Yay, using pretty much all of what they said they were going to do. And instead they did something that was just designed for negative press, and to make folks like me worry about the seemingly capricious and overreacting nature of the administration’s action.

      (Seriously. I don’t care if there’s a shelf named “because-of-author” and every single book on it has 1 star. It’s a review site for J-random-reader, not the Wall Street Journal of Book Reviews. Yeah, if there’s a pattern, it’s worth looking into, but when a legitimate user could have the same sort of filing system…

      Strikes me that it’d be better to just wall off shelves more. Or offer an option to only see ratings from your friends, or from people whose ratings matched yours better — so a book might be a 2-star average, but according to your friends whose tastes match yours? It’s a 4.85! )

  3. Wow. Another biased blog post by Dear Author. What. A. Surprise. Let’s break things down a little:

    “Undoubtedly sites like Stop the Goodreads Bullies which has defamed and doxxed reviewers allowing them to be called at their place of business and at home bu approvingly cited by so many purported reputable journalism sources, ratchet up the tension making both sides targets.”

    Uh, no. Haven’t seen proof of that, other than the bullies themselves screaming that it’s happened. When an article appears criticizing what is happening at Goodreads, this group descends screaming at the top of their lungs. No proof of this happening. When the authors of these articles hear the screaming they suddenly append their articles with ‘allegations’ about STGRB.

    In a perfect world, there shouldn’t be enough happening for a site like STGRB to exist and continue to have so much material to report on. It’s very much not a perfect world.

    Meanwhile, there is proof of the bullies threatening those they want to bully. In the form of actual police reports. In the form of trying to interrupt their business, of contacting those they interview and work with to try and destroy relationships.

    I look at the accounts myself, and not listen to the loudest screamers. And no, I am not one of those who own or operate the site. Just someone who insists on using their own brain.

    “Nonetheless, the question is where can readers go to discuss books they don’t like as well as the ones they do without interference from authors complaining about mistreatment?”

    Oh, you mean where bullies can be as big of bullies and vicious as they want without anyone telling them that they’ve crossed the line? Eh, they’ll find that place somewhere.

    Meanwhile, before leaving Goodreads, they are carpet-bombing books with 1-stars to protest getting their hands slapped. Proving just what kind of mentality the site is having to deal with. And what sites like Booklikes and others will soon have to deal with as these people migrate to them.

    Meanwhile, I want a place where people who love BOOKS can discuss them in a civil manner without it descending into attack-fests. That means both sides. The readers who consume and the people who produce. Goodreads is now giving indications that it wants to be this type of service, but we’ll have to wait and see if it actually is. Goodreads has proven too many times in the past that it can’t be trusted. How can a site be trusted when it doesn’t uphold their own TOS?

    Hopefully Amazon being involved will make the difference.

    “Most of the people who I follow at Goodreads have left for Booklikes.”

    Yes, I’ve been seeing that. The worst bullies out there have been gleeful about setting up shop. LOL. Does that mean Dear Author counts a lot of those people as personal friends? Considering some that regularly haunt their comment threads, the answer appears to be yes. (Not all commenters, though. But definitely some of the worse.)

    Goodreads will not be hurt by this small group leaving. I agree with PG about this. Just because they are so loud about leaving doesn’t mean they number a lot of people.

    I’m sitting back and watching to see how this all works out.

  4. Goodreads isn’t only deleting “offensive” content. They’ve deleted any review or shelf that mentions the author (which means shelves like “favorite-author” can, and recording to some reports, have been deleted). More concerning is the idea that this is decided completely at the whim of the Goodreads staff with no room for appeal if GR guesses wrong. In another example, the user had labelled her shelf “taa”. No one knows what taa meant, she never said what it meant anywhere, but the GR staff deleted it based on which books were on the shelf. That is, they noticed that these authors had participated in bad author behavior and assumed that they were being grouped on that shelf for that reason (as opposed to other reasons she might have put it there, like because she liked those books). So it’s all very arbitrary.

    You’re sure users won’t be offended by the arbitrary and irreversible deletion of their content? You’re sure book lovers won’t be annoyed by censorship designed to maximize profit? I’m not. That kind of behavior wouldn’t fly on twitter, WordPress, or any other social content site, so I seriously doubt it’s going to be considered kosher on a site dedicated to books, of all things.

    That said, do I think there’s going to be a mass exodus of users? No. Partly because a huge percentage of their users aren’t even active, as is the case for any social media site. Most haven’t even logged in while this has been happening. Further, GR has too much very useful content right now (ironically, since that’s what they’re deleting). I know many people who are annoyed about what’s happening but are going to stick around for the time being… but they’ve also acknowledged they’re not going to write in-depth reviews (why should they, when it might be deleted at whim, even if they DO follow the rules?). They’re not going to be updating book info as librarians (the very accurate book catalog GR has is entirely user-maintained…and maintained by the same very active userbase who is now pissed).

    So, GR will still be around, esp with Amz on the backend. That’s not going to change. What is going to change is the quality of reviews and information available on GR….the very thing that makes GR valuable to authors and publishers. What is going to change are more reviews that have just a snippet and then point to a blog for the full things. What’s going to change are major tastemakers, like Dear Author, not putting their reviews on GR at all anymore. It’s going to be a site with more promo and less honesty. Promo is what GR decided to prioritize so that’s exactly what they’re going to get.

    • I made a web-archive of my books’ review pages, because there were some very *nifty* reviews there that I worried might be lost for some reason — whether an arbitrary decision to delete, by a staffer, or because one of the reviewers upped stakes and left.

      And that is how this affects even teeny author-and-reader people who haven’t been part of any of the drama.

    • Yes Ms. Warren, and the reason why GR has taken such drastic measures is because of the trolls’ atrocious actions over the last three years. Now GR is desperate to clean house because of all the bad publicity. That means everyone is suffering because of 200 – 400 nasty little trolls.

      If GR would’ve taken care of this mess years ago, it wouldn’t have evolved into this all-out war.

      Those trolls caused all of this drama. Every bit of it. And these trolls are STILL causing drama by carpet-bombing! Instead of doing what they’ve been threatening to do since the policy changes, they’re hanging around GR starting s***, and whining on the policy change thread about switching over to booklikes! Their actions are bizarre.

      I think serious therapy is needed. They’re not just trolls, something else is going on there.

  5. A few inexhaustible ‘reviewers’ have also been ruining Goodreads for the majority by taking it upon themselves for punishing authors for being ‘uppity,’ even listing authors as ‘badly behaving’ or ‘harassing reviewers’ when all the author did was thank a reader for a thoughtful or favorable review. One of them gives herself away by calling herself a ‘poweruser’ of Goodreads, when in fact, it’s the unfettered abuse of power that is turning off authors who see themselves and their hard work trashed by self-appointed guardians of Goodreads for interacting with readers (something Goodreads officially encouraged.)

    I also suspect that Goodreads staff might have known what ‘taa’ stood for, because it perhaps replaced a shelf that was defamatory of authors, just as ‘ahr’ means ‘author harasses reviewers’ (but hasn’t been deleted, nor has ‘es,’ which stands for ‘author entitlement syndrome.’)

  6. I have about a thousand reviews on Amazon and maybe 300 books and 30 reviews on GR. AFAIK Amazon hasn’t deleted any of my reviews, even the really snarky ones. I’m not going to take a chance on whether GR will leave my reviews alone. But I don’t like the way the site is set up any way, which is why I almost never sign in or post.

    However, a lot of the people who are talking about moving have thousands of reviews and followers. I’m curious to see what will happen. The influencers are the thin skin on the top.

  7. Personally, I prefer sites with good moderation, but then, I also value some opinions more than others.

    I’m glad smarter people than I can make sense of the first paragraph.

    I keep intending to some day actually use GoodReads, but I never get around to those sorts of sites. I tend not to review books–I used to question whether I should, given I was an author myself, and then became a publisher and thought yeah, probably shouldn’t at all. Better moderation–and better integration into the Kindle ecosystem–might just persuade me.

    • As a moderator of a large political blog, you’re on the right track Will E. We found years ago that good moderation means far more thoughtful comments, as those who are thoughtful arent put off by having to wade through tripe and trample.

      Just a share, I review books I love, even if a few lines. Just trying to make it easier especially on young/new-older authors, remembering a time when no one reviewed my work unless one promising indenture or something for life. lol.

      otherwise, as you and others, i’d rather be writing, working to bring the work forward

      just my 02

  8. The way the DA piece talks about authors as if they’re separate species is rather frightening. Where do they think that authors come from if not from being readers? What, if you read books for years and then one day write your own, you’re no longer allowed in the “reader private space”? That’s completely absurd.

  9. I have to say I disagree. I saw a lot of people say that they felt uncomfortable that GR is now owned by Amazon, and most of them didn’t love the way GR was organized even before. I think the timing is pretty perfect for people to find alternatives. Not sure if any of these are the answer, but something will be.

  10. Hopefully GR will continue to clean the place up and do some close moderation finally. I’d love to see GR as the site it is ‘supposed’ to be (a place about books, friendly to readers and authors).

    I’m hoping Amazon does the right thing with GR. I hope they keep deleting nonsense. In fact, I’d actually love it if they would just wipe the whole review database out and start over, this time with proper moderation and oversight.

    But that’s just me. I’ll eventually go back to GR when they’ve done a better job of getting rid of trolls and other undesirables (which is of course, my opinion on what is and isn’t trollish or undesirable behavior, so a lot of others won’t agree on this).

    • Yikes! Wipe out the entire database? Talk about overkill. GR staff estimate the problem at 21 reviewers out of 20 million members. I have posted over 1340 reviews in the past 6 years I have been on GR (http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/1711431-eric-w). None would cause any offense since I *never* review a book I don’t like. Not worth my time, and I always figured no publicity is worse than bad publicity. But fear of arbitrary deletion is why I have synchronized all of them to TheLibraryThing and Booklikes. I prefer GR, but the underlying threat of deleting any review, without warning, for quite arbitrary reasons, has worried many very responsible contributors.

      Most of the drama occurred in the YA and Romance genres. Ironically, many of the so-called badly behaving authors have benefited greatly from the kerfuffle. They would have been completely unknown without the drama.

      Some of my friends who never read either YA or Romance are concerned that the new TOS have not been submitted to the entire membership, represent trying to kill a mosquito with a shotgun (ALL of the offending material could have been deleted under the old TOS – making shelves completely priavet and available to friends would have fixed 90% of the complaints), and may represent the beginning of a Comstockian trend to whitewash the database.

      As Manny has pointed out GR is ignoring (for the moment) reviews of the Quran which have offended many GR readers, not to mention reviews of the BOM and the Bible.

      “Frankly, I don’t get it. Surely the feelings of a few obscure self-published authors can’t be more important than those of the site’s hundreds of thousands of Muslim members? I’m curious to see what happens next. Meanwhile, I have just backed up my own Quran review to be on the safe side.” http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/731124208

      Conspiratorialists argue that this is evidence that some folks from STGRB are running the show. I hear lots of talk about libel worries etc. but (PG question) hasn’t it been established that open sites cannot be held responsible for the postings of their members? I.e. section 230 of the CDA: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

  11. Personally I enjoy Goodreads for what it is. However it is a weak site for discovering new book imho.

    Booklikes is a ghastly and useless site that has chosen a bizarre and useless model. I joined it at the beginning but abandoned it when it fell apart.

    In my view no one has yet implemented the most valuable too for readers who want to find new reads.

  12. Bamazon didnt buy goodreads to perpetuate it, but to snuff it. Watch.

    Regarding goodreads, Amazon has to watch for libel by ‘trolls’ in order to avoid being named a party in a legal law suit. Amazon has never taken the cow-google-ard’s approach, oh, we’re just the carrier grease, we’re not responsible, creep creep away hoping no one will bring up that ethics is higher than the law often.

    AMZ also wont just say the juvenile trope– ‘oh it’s the wild west, anything goes dont ya know.’ Those who claim ‘wild west’ defense for all manner of ill behavior on the internet — forget… in the wild west people shot innocent and defenseless people dead just because. And the kin of those murdered, killed the killers without a howdy-do. And no fat cats rode into town on their strataloungers with a full refrig full of beer and too lazy to wear their pajama bottoms to the grocery store lol, thinking no one would notice they’re wearing their cowboy jammies during awake time.

    Some may want to live as online gonifs and bearing false witness. Most dont. Including AMZ

    Just my .02

  13. I think the opportunity to create a site that does what Google did for search engines is ripe. Simplify. The one complaint about GR I’ve always heard is how hard it is to navigate and find what you need.

    In essence, we need a site that takes Amazon’s approach: customer focused. Or in this case, user focused, Any site that accomplishes that could pull the users from GR in time.

    • “I think the opportunity to create a site that does what Google did for search engines is ripe.”

      +10

    • I have longed for a tag site that works like archiveofourown.org, where you could find books by searchable tags with warnings, tropes, genres, and situations there in the tags. But it would take a lot of work to start that, so I haven’t.

  14. I would be very wary of anything that comes from Jane Litte at Dear Author. All of the well-known trolls from Goodreads are going to BookLikes, that’s why Jane says:
    “Most of the people who I follow at Goodreads have left for Booklikes.”
    She’s the queen bee of the trolls.

  15. I found this statement odd:

    “Nonetheless, the question is where can readers go to discuss books they don’t like…”

    Discussing books they don’t like is not typically a reader’s first thought. Most (balanced) people don’t waste their time running over to a site to ‘discuss’ (and I think she means trash) books they don’t like. They leave a low star review and move on.

    And yes, the carpetbomber thing just proves that Amazon needs to better moderate the site and reinforces that there are indeed trolls who enjoy tearing down authors for sport.

  16. So… what would a Goodreads replacement look like, if Booklikes or LibraryThing isn’t up to par?

  17. I’ve been a reader on Goodreads since 2008, and an author since 2011, and I honestly don’t feel safe reviewing books in YA genre anymore, since this new policy. I’ve never left a single review that mentions author behavior, but I think that under the new policy, someone could argue that my YA reviews ARE about the author, since they are competing with me.

    The problem for me is that the old policy was so clear-cut, this one is more vague, they’ve basically come out and said that “the intent” of the reviewer is what is taken into consideration. Well, how do you KNOW the intent of someone else? It isn’t always obvious.

    Do I want feuding on Goodreads? No! I just want to talk about the books I read with my friends and make myself available to my fans. I miss the good old days.

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