If you like books and reading but haven’t heard of Goodreads.com then you are in for a treat. It is the best website on the internet for books, period, and it is completely free. That’s not to say there aren’t other good books sites out there, but Goodreads is so big and covers so much!
What is Goodreads?
I am going to start with what it isn’t. It isn’t a shop. You can’t buy books on it (though it does provide links to places where you can buy books). A couple of years ago it was bought by Amazon, but for the most part Amazon have not interfered with the site except to add a couple of useful features to link to Amazon/Kindle if you want to.
So what is it? Goodreads is all of the following:
- · A social networking site for book lovers
- · A book cataloguing system
- · A huge book club (or thousands of different book clubs to be precise)
- · A book discovery engine
- · A place to get free books
Catalog Your Books
I’ve been using the site for a few years now, and used a couple of similar, smaller book sites before that. A lot of people can’t remember what books they’ve read a few years ago, or remember anything about them. I don’t have that problem. Whenever I read a book, I add it to one of my virtual shelves. Everyone has a currently reading shelf, a digital equivalent of the stack of books on their bedside table perhaps. When you finish a book, you can mark it as complete, give it a rating and write a review if you want to. This way, you can keep track of what books you’ve read and what you thought of them. Other people can see what you’ve read too, and what you thought.
Unlike Facebook, this is Social Networking with purpose! You can add friends like you do on Facebook, but rather than inane updates about your social life they will be able to see what you are reading, read reviews you have posted and compare how you are doing on challenges. They can also suggest books to you that they think you will like, and you can do the same for them. For the most part, friends on Goodreads are only there when you want them though, and their updates are not in your face like they are on Facebook et al.
Groups is one of Goodreads best features. They are part book club, part forum for discussing books. There are hundreds if not thousands of groups on Goodreads, quite a few with many thousands of members. Most groups are thematic based on a particular genre, or based on country or region, and you can be a member of as many groups as you like. I’m a member of the UK Book Group, Sci-fi and Heroic Fantasy, Non Fiction Book Club and Around the World in 80 Books to name but a few. Being a member of a group doesn’t actually come with any obligations, it just allows you to read and post in all the forum discussions. Some people are very involved in one or two groups, posting regularly and even making friends on there, others just post occasionally or even just read the discussions without ever posting. Most groups have one or several books of the month, it is up to you whether the read the book and take part in the discussions.
Discovering New Books
In the days before the internet, people tended to choose the books they read based on browsing the shelves of their local bookshop or library, getting recommendations from friends or maybe reading reviews in the newspaper. Today though, the internet opens up much more opportunity for discovering new books, particularly lesser known gems. Along with Amazon, Goodreads is the best place on the internet for finding new books to read. There’s the discussion groups, book reviews, newsletters, recommendations and Goodreads suggestions, based on books you’ve read recently. Just by using the site, you will find your To Be Read pile growing larger and larger, and the books on them will probably be more to your tastes, with less chance of ending up with books you don’t like.
Get Free Books
Authors and book publishers offer free books all the time to bloggers and journalists to help them get publicity for their books. Goodreads democratizes this, by running loads of giveaways. At any one time there are lots of draws you can enter for free books, just by clicking a button. The site is really up front about how many copies of each book are on offer, and how many have requested them so far, so you have a good idea what your chances are. So if you want to be in with a chance of free books, join Goodreads and get entering the giveaways!
This is just a flavour of some of what Goodreads offers, but there’s lots more besides. The best thing to do is join and then just start exploring the site. You won’t regret it! In the coming weeks I'm intending to write some more articles about Goodreads and how to get the most out of it - so watch this space!