Maybe We Should Give Up on GoodReads

Maybe We Should Give Up on GoodReads

Hello, Readers!

As I blaze through my reading goal for this year (two books ahead, baby!), I’ve been thinking about the app/site I now use in order to keep track of my reading, and the functionality of how I’m able to interact with other readers. You see, though I still have an account, and I check in very occasionally, I all but abandoned GoodReads shortly after it was purchased by Amazon.

This wasn’t just because I have a fundamental issue with the way Amazon treats its employees, and the predatory manner in which it conducts its business, though that did play a rather large part, I have to say. It was also because GoodReads was getting quite toxic, and many features were introduced or changed in a manner that was very plainly a cash grab; hurting independent authors in particular, who didn’t have the marketing machinery or budget to be able to do the things on GoodReads they used to do. As someone who has self-published and is currently published by a small press without much of a marketing budget at all, I took it very, very personally.

Still do.

For a long, long while, I was without a platform for recording my reads and interacting with fellow readers. It also coincided with a prolonged period in my life where I felt utterly unable to read, so I suppose there was no real need for a platform like GoodReads for me. Not for a good long while.

Image by Ylanite Koppens from Pixabay

Quite recently, I realised just how much I missed reading, and talking about books, and hearing the recommendations of others and so I signed up for some GoodReads alternatives I found that looked decent. One was specifically for talking about books; basically a portal for an online book club. It’s called… BookClubs. Look, I didn’t name the thing, alright? I quite love it, but I struggle to get other people involved in the book club I created, so it’s really just a place-holder for now. Maybe if I get more people interested, I’ll re-engage there again. I’m currently only logging in to make sure I still have the book club in case I do get more people interested.

The other one I’ve mentioned many, many times. The Story Graph is the site I use the most. It serves the function of a log of all the books I’ve read, am currently reading and want to read. Its interface is great. And I can even interact with other readers by doing a Buddy Read or a Read-Along (by the by, if you’re interested in joining my Read-Alongs, we’re doing one book a month, and it’s very laid back and at-your-own-pace-y; nowhere near as formal as the BookClubs app. We’re currently reading No Land for Heroes by Cal Black).

Where it falls down is the author-reader interface that I used to like about GoodReads. GoodReads was supposed to be a place for both. It has author profiles. Having a platform to interact with readers felt great in the beginning, but it quickly turned into a whole bunch of authors trying to hawk their goods at other authors. Perhaps that was just the circles I ran in there, but I felt sold-to, rather interacted with.

I did make a couple of good friends there, but I largely felt icky about the site. There are other ways to connect with readers. Social media sites can be leveraged to scratch that itch. Leaving GoodReads behind was a blessing, really. I do miss that community of readers, however. It’s hard to explain to people who don’t read and who don’t like to read how wonderful and magical reading a good book is. I missed being able to enthuse with other readers about an amazing book.

Image by Peggy from Pixabay

GoodReads has had a lot of difficulty creating that community since Amazon bought it. It had been the site of several scandals in which badly-behaved authors have harassed other authors, stalked readers, and the good ones have been stalked and harassed by readers. Much of it has been terrifying, and made me exceptionally glad to be an absolute unknown, because my mental health is fragile as best. Desperate as I am to one day earn a living from my writing, I know full well that I could not handle the poison that emerged from that site.

There are ways to save GoodReads, sure. Many of them are outlined in this article from last year by Maris Kriezman. Unfortunately, that would require Amazon to spend some money on things like human moderation. And GoodReads is as it was when Amazon took over — little more than a cynical cash grab by a giant website that doesn’t give a damn about readers or writers (beyond what money it can bleed from them). These fixes will not be forthcoming.

So, with great alternatives out there now, I think maybe we should, perhaps, at long last say goodbye to GoodReads. Let it drown in the muck it created for itself. Amazon will not care, and there are other places now where we can build community. We don’t need it anymore.

What do you think? Let me know below.

When S.M. Carrière isn’t brutally killing your favorite characters, she spends her time teaching martial arts, live streaming video games, and cuddling her cat. In other words, she spends her time teaching others to kill, streaming her digital kills, and a cuddling furry murderer. Her most recent titles include Daughters of BritainSkylark and Human.

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I’ll admit to still liking Goodreads; it’s been easy to set up my “shelves” and it’s frankly kept me from buying the same book twice a few times. I’ve been enjoying writing reviews when I finish a book, and I’ve also enjoyed going back and revisiting what i wrote about a book when it crosses my path again. It’s kept me connected to some people that I would have lost track of (as they’ve dropped off other social media) and I’ve found out about pending works from authors i like.

Maybe I’ve been lucky: I’ve mostly avoided the toxic crap. (I do find the people who rate a book that hasn’t actually been published yet weird, though) It’s been fun, if occasionally disconcerting to have an author I read “like” one of my reviews. I try to tell myself they probably didn’t actually read anything I wrote and the whole thing is managed by someone doing social media for their publisher or something.

I don’t find it ideal, but I’ve sunk a fair amount of time into my Goodreads, and while I would probably enjoy re-creating it somewhere else…do I actually have the time?

Jason M Waltz

Good to know on that importing. I began with LibraryThing almost from the start. Even bought a lifetime membership. Then Goodreads came along and I cannot readily say why my circle and I gravitated more to it than LT, but we did. I bemoan the day Amazon bought GR too – it frankly stinks, is cumbersome, can be costly, and no longer near as convenient…but I stay cuz, well, I’m comfortable. The reason we pretty much continue to do anything, eh?

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