Thursday, April 12, 2007

connecting readers online

Read any good books lately? Goodreads provides an online platform for discussing just that. Booklovers can share recommendations for their favourite page-turners with friends, online acquaintances and other like-minded bibliophiles. Unlike the reviews found at sites like, Goodreads write-ups have a more personal touch since the site is built around a networking concept.

Users can sign up in just a few simple steps and immediately begin entering reviews. Books are rated on a five-star system, ranging from one star for “didn't like it” to five for “it was amazing.” Members can discuss what they loved or didn't love about books they've read, see right away what the consensus was among fellow reviewers and even comment on one another's reviews. Moreover, they can catalogue their collections on virtual bookshelves that can be customized to reflect their own personalities. Default shelf names are “Read,” “To-Read” and “Currently-Reading,” but it only takes a moment to add new shelves, and users can have fun with their category designations.

Members are encouraged to invite their friends to join, but many may just as easily make friends on the site as they happen upon others who share similar tastes for murder mysteries, 19th century French literature, memoirs or whatever genres appeal to them. Like any well-rounded Web 2.0 venture, Goodreads also offers a widget that can be added to a member's blog, MySpace page or website that keeps a running tally of what the person has been reading or reviewing lately.

The business model for Goodreads and its siblings is based on racking up referral fees from online book stores like and Barnes & Noble. As the websites grow, they’ll also become highly valuable tools for the publishing industry, which could lead to additional sources of revenue. Since reading books isn’t limited to English-speakers, this is definitely a concept to copy to other countries or languages that don’t yet have their own (popular) online social network for readers. For more inspiration, check out Shelfari, Bookjetty and BuchPfade, to name a few.


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