Why I am deleting Goodreads and maybe you should, too

From The Guardian:

I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed reading a book where my enjoyment wasn’t tied to the euphoric sense of achievement I got from finishing it. This is not because I don’t love reading, or would rather watch television. No, it’s because of a little app on my phone called Goodreads.

Home to about 90 million readers worldwide, Goodreads is a website that lets users track their reading and broadcast their tastes to the world – or, in my case, a few friends and vague acquaintances. At its core, it’s a harmless concept: an online community for bookworms, and an opportunity to discover new books your friends have loved.

It’s also extremely satisfying. Since joining Goodreads a few years ago, the annual roundup I receive tallying up the books I have finished that year has become the clinching point of my reading experience. I get a buzz from increasing my reading goal every 12 months, and from comparing how many pages I’ve turned or hours of audiobooks I’ve listened to with other people’s numbers. I feel a sense of accomplishment every time I update my “progress” with a book.

But that’s exactly what’s wrong with Goodreads: it turns reading into an achievement. Quantifying, dissecting and broadcasting our most-loved hobbies sucks the joy out of them. I find myself glancing towards the corner of the page to see how much I’ve read. I compare the thickness of the read pages I hold in my left hand to the unread ones in my right. Even when absorbed in the climax of a story, one eye is always on my proximity to the end, when I’ll be able to post it all to Goodreads.

. . . .

While some people’s qualms with Goodreads are rooted in its clunky interface, or the fact that it is owned by Amazon, mine lie in its very concept. Reading is something I do to relax, learn and enjoy. It’s not just that I don’t need a pie chart detailing my reading habits, the chart has poisoned the whole experience. Even if I were to switch to another book app without the social aspect, I know that I would remain obsessed with finishing books over enjoying them.

It’s human nature to get a sense of satisfaction from seeing something through to the end. But, without Goodreads, it won’t matter if I give up on a book I’m not bothered about halfway through, because no one will know or care – as if they did anyway. I won’t be self-conscious if I read yet another thriller bought in a supermarket deal, instead of something others would consider as smarter or better.

If Goodreads provides a sense of community, good recommendations and doesn’t make you obsess over what you’re reading or how much, then great. Maybe it’s just a few of us who aren’t compatible with it, and end up developing a toxic relationship that distracts from the magic of getting lost in a book. But right now I am reading my first book Goodreads-free since I installed the app. It feels just like it did when I was a child, with no awareness of what others think about what I’m reading, how quickly I’m reading it, or what I haven’t read. From now on, my reading habits are staying between me and my book.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

PG doesn’t have a TPV category for First-World Problems, but perhaps he should create one.

15 thoughts on “Why I am deleting Goodreads and maybe you should, too”

  1. Gamification, a deadly arrow in the quiver of any talented UX designer. When used to benefit the user in ways they appreciate, it can be powerful and helpful. When used to benefit the platform (Goodreads) by increasing engagement and other metrics that the big boss wants up this quarter, it turns into the kind of dark pattern that was explored in the Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma.

  2. I’m on there as a writer and my blog links to it but I never use it as a reader. I just don’t do competitive reading. I read a lot for research, specialist stuff usually, and a huge amount of fiction, for pleasure, the vast majority of it on my elderly Kindle Paperwhite, at night. I share favourites and recommendations with friends in real life, and on Facebook but I don’t care about lists and if I’m not hooked after several chapters, I’ll stop. I especially don’t want to be nagged about my reading although I’m happy enough to get recommendations from Amazon. I won’t join a book group for much the same reason. I do so much reading for work that I want my reading for pleasure or for interest to be just that. I sometimes challenge myself but I don’t want anyone else challenging me! On the other hand, I’ve used Duolingo every day during the pandemic and it’s the gamification that works brilliantly for me there. I’m obsessive about it. But I don’t need or want that for my reading.

  3. I use Freedom to block the net when I’m writing.

    No one makes you do anything – they can’t reach out through your internet connection and force you to… what?

    Grow up. Use the net instead of letting IT (hehe) use YOU.

    • Exactly. As my sister in law would say, it sounds like the OP has a personal problem.

      Sounds like a highly competitive personality, actually. One wonders what he will find to satisfy that urge, possibly in a less harmless endeavor.

  4. I don’t use Goodreads to compete with anyone. I just use it track my own reading and post my reviews, so a few years down the road I’d know which books I read (and what I thought about them) and which I didn’t. I also use it to read other people’s reviews when I’m contemplating a new book. Should I read it? Should I skip it? The reviews on Goodreads are helpful, and I don’t mind the spoilers. In fact, I welcome them. I want to know what I’m getting into with every new book.

  5. Sounds like a mutual admiration society. Look at me. Look at all the books I read. I encourage the counters. I really want to know.

  6. Self Determination Theory. Extrinsic motivation crowds out intrinsic. It’s a well-known, well-researched effect. In this context, it may be a “first world problem” – something to be laughed at and a cause for belittling the one who brings it up – but in others, not so much. Schools, for example, sell work to kids. They’re not very good at it. As was noted in a Gallup survey years ago, students are well aware of just how little they are asked to do. Extrinsic motivation -gold stars- can be a quick fix, but it ultimately generates the burnout described by the OP. On the other hand, you have to get kids to engage before they can experience intrinsic rewards. Something of a balancing act is required. It’s the same for us as we seek to keep balance in our lives, whether with our passions or our recreations. The OP speaks to me a bit more deeply than, perhaps, it has to others.

    • The OP speaks to me a bit more deeply than, perhaps, it has to others.

      I think Goodreads has a Deep Thought list.

    • Yes. I found a similar effect to the OP when I was setting an annual reading goal on GR, so I stopped doing that.

      I still record my reading on there, and review, because I want to, and I still look at how many books I’ve read at the end of each year and do a round-up on my blog of the best ones, but I’m not striving for any artificial metrics. I’m just recording what I would have done anyway and reflecting on my reading more than I otherwise would.

  7. Isn’t this the same Goodreads where murders of Harpies attacked writers for (GASP!) replying to reviews?

    Yeah, I remember the bloody Harpies tracking writers to their houses and threatening them on their very doorsteps.

    No thanks.

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