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Goodreads’ reign over the world of book talk might be coming to an end (newstatesman.com)
123 points by J253 10 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 77 comments



I have used goodreads since soon after launch. It’s probably the worst site that I use, but I prefer it’s benign neglect over the “improvements” made on the main amazon site.

I just use it as a list of books of I’ve read and am reading, and to see books that my friends are reading or have read.

It’s been funny to me that the search is horrible and seems to be something worse than just regexing a list of book titles. But I eventually find what I’m looking for. It’s sucked as long as I can remember.

The recommendations are also really bad, it has never recommended a book to me that I thought was interesting or I ended up reading. This is despite having over a thousand read and rated books from me. I’ve been waiting for them to be able to search all the books I don’t know and find one that I will like.

I kind of like the site as it is quaint, but functional. It’s like a library in that way.


I can’t think of a website in any domain where people don’t complain about recommendations.

People complain about goodreads, Netflix, amazon, etc.

Even things like google ads whose business is ultimately showing ads for products you might like to buy, a kind of recommendation algorithm, people constantly complain about irrelevance. And they have billions of dollars on the line for making that better, not to mention a dataset that is second to none about the internet using population.

Maybe good recommendations is actually just super hard and nobody has really solved it well.


Amazon has gone down the shitter in more ways than one, but back in the day, circa 2005, I remember being downright amazed by their recommendation engine for music. Back then I would buy music on CDs. After a while I got into the habit of simply buying random stuff I've never heard of just based on their recommendation, and I don't recall a single instance when I regretted it.


Music recommendations seem to work OK. My Spotify discover playlists are always decent.


It's hit and miss.

Sometimes it's very decent. Most of the time my discover weekly playlist contains 95% of music I find plain bad.


I mostly use reddit [0][1][2] to build my TBR list. I follow only a few on goodreads, but my twitter timeline (which is mostly catered around book reading) comes up with nice recommendations.

[0] https://www.reddit.com/r/Fantasy/

[1] https://www.reddit.com/r/booksuggestions/

[2] https://www.reddit.com/r/suggestmeabook/


Thanks, I use those subs as well.

I think it’s more of whatever you call that “programmer anxious subliminal minmaxing” feeling that I get knowing that goodreads has all that info from me, and should be able to automatically help.

I don’t have a shortage of books to read or anything and I have a system that works. But I suspect that there’s great books out there for me that I haven’t discovered yet and would like for technology to help with that.

I mainly find books through serendipitous interactions and recommendations from friends and I read more books found accidentally than when I consciously seek out new books.

It’s a problem with amazon and audible and my library too. They suck at recommending books. I think it’s just because they are happy if I just buy something, where I’m looking for five star books. So our incentives are different.

I’ve spend quite a few saturdays trying to hack something from goodreads data to just do it myself. But I can’t get a good data export.

I think if you just find people with at least 100 similar rating to me and then recommend books that they 5-star that would result in good stuff.

The main downside of amazon buying them is that I used to wish for a breach of all their customer ratings data so I could just do the analysis on the leaked data (after de identifying the customers of course). But amazon has much better security.

By the way, it seems like all the content companies are this way now. Netflix isn’t interested in me finding movies I love. Spotify is maybe the closest but I think they promote lots of stuff.

I’ve been trying to think of a business model that relies on finding awesome matches, but I think there’s more money in finding marginal matches that bring customers back again.

My current money is on getting local AI that I can train to serve me (instead of google, Microsoft, etc).


For me, recommendations got remarkably better once I used 5-10 tags ('shelves') per book for about 50 books I read - after that, the per-shelf recommendations got very good.


I never thought of that. Thanks, I’ll try it. I currently just use “read,” “want to read,” and “abandoned.”


The problem is if it's some obscure topic with a specific shelf, you can get some pretty bad books, as it seems to pull them based on other people's tags of books. Or, I can be reading academic works on Buddhism and then get recommended Alan Watts, who wasn't an academic and wasn't a Buddhist, but others tagged as 'Buddhism'. So there are still plenty of issues with it.


What does this mean?


When you finish a book you can review it, or assign shelves. The default shelves are to-read and read but you can add many custom ones too. The shelves work like tags. Once you have a decent amount of books with tags, goodreads will start recommending books based on these tags.

For example, if you have a 'non-fiction' shelf, goodreads will give you books others have rated high with the same tag at https://www.goodreads.com/recommendations/shelf/non-fiction

It's much more specific and for me works better than the 'because you read book X, you might like book Y' which is often very random.


> Instead, it has stagnated: Amazon holds on to an effective monopoly on the discussion of new books

This is the main point.

It is the same thing that Oracle purchasing MySQL. What once was a promising raising technology is nowadays stagnant. (Interest over time https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=all&geo=US&q=%...)

GoodReads could help to find better books to read. But, Amazon likes the current state where Amazon recommends the books that are good for their business and not the best for the reader.

10 years ago, I would buy anything Amazon recommended on books. Nowadays, I do not use Amazon anymore as it just promotes books that, I guess, have larger profit margins or align better with Amazon strategy. It cannot be trusted as a recommendation engine.


Amazon was pretty much forced to buy Goodreads: the original business model of Goodreads before the Amazon buyout was making money from referral links to booksellers. While links were provided to several internet booksellers besides Amazon, like Barnes & Noble, already the vast majority of internet users were hooked on Amazon and only buying through Amazon links. Consequently, Amazon was paying Goodreads a huge amount of money in referral fees each month, and it made more sense for Amazon to simply buy the site and stop that.

I agree that Amazon is nefarious and destructive, but I think any company in the same position would have bought Goodreads out.


I hate to complain, but I hate the Goodread suggestions in my iPad Kindle app. I don’t want to be the target of marketing when reading. I don’t want to see badge alerts.

Poor customer experience. I have always bought a small percentage of my eBooks on Apple Books or Google Play Books, just to avoid my whole library being tied to one company.

Since the advertising annoyances in the Kindle app, I have been buying more from other vendors.


> Consequently, Amazon was paying Goodreads a huge amount of money in referral fees each month, and it made more sense for Amazon to simply buy the site and stop that.

Does Amazon has a track record of buying major referral generators? I'd imagine someone like SlickDeals generates higher revenue with affiliate links to higher-ticket non-book items.


SlickDeals, as with most deal sites, is the equivalent of a B movie in Hollywood. They're considered trashy, low quality sites. Buying SlickDeals is close to bottom fishing if you're Amazon.

Goodreads was classy by comparison and was/is not primarily about deals or referral links. Amazon considers itself to own the book category, period. Books will always hold a special place in their heart as the origination of the company. Amazon, as with all big companies, also considers its brand when it purchases other things. (some of the tech echo chamber may laugh at that notion, however that's nothing more than ignorance as Amazon has an extraordinary brand among the general population)


It's alright if they bought it, and it is a very bad social media. You'd think that they'd improve the app right?

Facebook/Instagram should just add a books section to their main page as a challenger to goodreads, maybe that'll help?


That's one of the best jokes I've read all day. Instagram and book reading. That cracked me up.

Thank you


I have a number of friends who have posted a book they've enjoyed in their story after finishing. I've gotten a few recommendations and had a few good discussions from that.

Social media is pretty dependent on how you use it - I have non-toxic experiences because I mostly only follow people I know on twitter/IG/FB. Turn off retweets (or equiv) for those who use it to spread negative bs.


Imagine all the great pictures of yoga models holding Dune covers.

I can’t imagine a more vapid collection of reading signaling posts.


> the vast majority of internet users were hooked on Amazon and only buying through Amazon links. Consequently, Amazon was paying Goodreads a huge amount of money in referral fees

This doesn't make any sense.

If consumers were already only buying through Amazon... why would Amazon continue to pay referral fees? The referral fee is there to get people who wouldn't buy through Amazon to buy through Amazon. But they were already buying through Amazon... so what's the point?


They're saying that goodreads became an alternate front end to amazon for finding books but users used amazon (via affiliate links) to actually buy the book.

Goodreads was better at helping users find new books they wanted than amazon themselves and so it made sense for amazon to buy them.


> Goodreads was better at helping users find new books they wanted than amazon themselves and so it made sense for amazon to buy them.

I still don’t get it - people were already finding books on Goodreads and buying them on Amazon... so why did Amazon need to buy them? Why pay for it if it’s already working for you? And why pay a referral fee if people already want to ignore other options and go to Amazon to buy after finding on Goodreads?


Because they had to pay goodreads a commission each time (say 5% —> i’m completely making this number up and its probably a lot lower).

So if 70% of goodreads profit is from Amazon, amazon figured they could just buy them since the cost of running goodreads is a lot lower than the commissions it makes so amazon was basically paying them anyway. better (in their view at the time) to just pay goodreads one off and buy the company than to pay each year in perpuity. depends on the price they bought it at


> Because they had to pay goodreads a commission each time

But why were they doing that?

"the vast majority of internet users were hooked on Amazon" so they were buying through Amazon anyway.


The users were hooked on buying from Amazon. But they were following the affiliate links from Goodreads to get to Amazon.


Amazon's referral program is open to everybody to use. How could Amazon restrict GoodReads from being a part of it?


> How could Amazon restrict GoodReads from being a part of it?

By just kicking them off the programme?

You don't have a legal right to be part of a referral programme.


Amazon would be moronic to do such a thing.

Goodreads could've turned around and begun selling books direct, they had the customers buying intent, not amazon.

Other sites would've seen this move and begun to pivot away from amazon's affiliate system for fear of the rug being pulled out from underneath them.


By offering them a lot of money - i.e. buying them.


I think the book reading data was good for amazon to use to sell more books.

Goodreads’ privacy policy prevented them from selling the data to Amazon, but if Amazon pwned Goodreads then they could use the data in compliance.


> And why pay a referral fee if people already want to ignore other options and go to Amazon to buy after finding on Goodreads?

Because if Amazon stopped paying those referral fees, then the website can stop posting links to Amazon, and instead post links solely to Amazon's competitors. Yes, people are hooked on Amazon and so even in the absence of a direct link they might browse over to Amazon and search for the product there, but that introduces a lot of friction and so Amazon would lose some business.


> It is the same thing that Oracle purchasing MySQL. What once was a promising raising technology is nowadays stagnant. (Interest over time https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=all&geo=US&q=%...)

Connecting Oracle's purchase with the MySQL's market share is a long stretch. Even based on that diagram, the decline started earlier than the time Oracle came into play.

The quality and pace of development of MySQL/InnoDB hasn't meaningfully changed (although one may subtly observe that with v8, they radically changed the release philosophy - patch versions now can introduce new features or break old ones). There have been low and high quality features developed, but that happens with any software. In order to get an idea of how MySQL was around 10 years ago, notice how by that time, MyISAM was (unfortunately) still something.

A simple interpretation of the shift in market share is that PGSQL hasn't been ready for wide adoption (historically speaking, it's been considered for a long time the slow and cumbersome RDBMS), until, after a certain functional threshold, it entered a virtuous circle of improving and getting traction.

Of course, it's also possible that people is taking distance from MySQL "because Oracle", but that doesn't constitute a technical ground.


In Amazon’s early days they had human genre section buyers who managed what was promoted. When I worked for an sf publisher in the 90s we’d see them at cons. They would come to our parties and we would spend their expense account money. They’d look at the books we recommended. It was very different.


I once climbed some stairs with Jeff Bezos at a conference. We sat in the front row next to each other at a midnight Neil Gaiman reading and I got to witness the small talk between them. Bezos asked Neil if he had gotten the recent shipment of books and Neil responded that he had and that they were really thoughtful and he enjoyed them.

I thought that Bezos must have the best book recommendations. And that since he and Gaiman were friends he was able to pick perfect books that even Neil Gaiman didn’t know about.

That’s what I want. Unfortunately my plan to develop a relationship with Bezos to the extent that he buys me books has failed so far. So I look for more attainable methods.


The linked article soon goes from criticizing Goodreads to hyping The StoryGraph as a Goodreads competitor. However, all the great new features of The StoryGraph seem targeted towards only one portion of the Goodreads membership: people reading fiction or the most pop-sci-type nonfiction and who want recommendations for new stuff to read.

My own bookish, nerdy Goodreads subculture is very different: we already have more books on our to-read list than we could realistically get through, we don’t really need auto-generated recommendations for more. We review a lot of serious non-fiction, not just the mass-market stuff, and genre tags like "dark" or "edgy" don't seem relevant, while being able to add "trigger warnings" misses the point.

Yes, GR users like myself are probably a minority, but we’re a very established and recognized minority. We're the sort that keeps some independent booksellers alive, for example, so any new site that aims to maintain a culture of books and reading ought to take us into account.


I agree that "I can't find any good books to read" is not really a problem most readers I know have. Most have dozens, or hundreds, of books on their To Be Read pile. Finding new books to read doesn't really strike me as a big problem.

I've seen people looking for extremely specific books get stuck. "I'm looking for fantasy where the bad guy turns into a good guy but keeps working on the bad guy side but actively undermines it and also I want some LBGTI+ romance but no smut/explicit scenes". But I'm doubtful TheStoryGraph is going to help them either.

For almost any niche I've seen there's going to be someone somewhere on the internet who puts together a listicle of books in that niche which is going to provide months or years of reading for most normal people. And that's without even looking into the authors' back catalogues or looking at other authors from the same publishers.


I've seen people looking for extremely specific books get stuck

At least some number of writers seem to get started by wanting to read a book that doesn't exist, so they decide to write it themselves.


Ooh so the "article" is really a marketing blurb for that other service!


The author complains that it is "impossible" to find books on Goodreads. Simply adding the author's name to any query will always take you to the book you are looking for. Don't just rely on a title. Which should be common sense (if you were at a bookstore you would always tell the clerk the author's name and not just say "Do you have Holiday Heart?") but apparently isn't.

The author complains that searching for 'holiday heart' didn't show Margarita García Robayo's book in the top hits. But searching for 'holiday heart robayo' does.

As for the rest of the piece...the belief that algorithmic recommendations are going to be easy for some shoestring budget startup run by a single person in their spare time is somehow going to do a good job simply isn't credible.

People still complain about Netflix recommendations and they've spent tens of millions of dollars, possibly over a hundred million dollars, on it and are one of the most valuable companies on the planet with one of the best engineering teams on the planet.

Why do people think algorithmic recommendations are easy? Or even desirable?


> Simply adding the author's name to any query will always take you to the book you are looking for. > ... searching for 'holiday heart robayo' does

Well, this already makes Goodreads worse than any local librarian/book seller. I could go up to the counter of my local library and ask for Inferno and the person at the counter would ask "Are you looking for the one by Dante or by Dan Brown?".

> if you were at a bookstore you would always tell the clerk the author's name and not just say "Do you have Holiday Heart?"

I find this disingenuous. Bookstore clerks don't hit a dead end just because of some missing parameter in the question posted to them. If they did they're losing a lot of potential sales. Plus, any decent inventory software could aide them.

There's any number of authentic reasons why a customer might know only partial info about a book and it's a clerk/librarian's job to help them. "Do you have Narnia books?", "Do you have Lion, Witch, and Wardrobe?", "Do you have this fairy tale from C. S. Lewis" are all questions I'd expect a clerk/librarian to be able to answer adequately.

Even worse, quoting from the article:

> the first five suggestions were books that didn't even contain both words in their titles, despite the site having an entry for the book.

What kind of search system ranks books that don't even have the query that high?

(Disclaimer: I tried searching for "holiday heart" on Goodreads while logged out as a matter of due diligence; I did not get these subpar results. While Robayo's book is nowhere in sight, the search results at least have the search query in their title. Reasonable enough.)


I've complained about Goodreads a lot, but the idea that their search is bad is new to me. (Except in that I can't open each result in the dropdown in a new tab. Very annoying.)

If I type in Inferno, it drops down Dan Brown's, Sylvian Reynard's, and then Dante's. If I search for Narnia...actually it pops up as the first guess when I just type "N".

Turns out there are edge cases where it does poorly, but it's never been a problem for me, and I search Goodreads pretty often.

EDIT: I should clarify, searching by title or author works really well. Searching by additional metadata is missing, and that's very sad -- I end up just browsing lists. Openlibrary search has a much steeper learning curve, but you can search by reading level, or publisher, or anything.


> What kind of search system ranks books that don't even have the query that high?

The author is being disingenuous. The search terms aren't in the book title but they are in the name of the series the book is part of. Presumably because a lot of people search for "Jack Reacher" and expect to find something useful.

That's what they are complaining about.


If I run the google query "holiday heart" site:goodreads.com I get the Margarita García Robayo translation on the first page of 10 results.

On the other hand, when I use the search on goodreads itself, the Robayo book - with 298 ratings - is not among the first 20 results.

Ahead of it are books like:

"Home for the Holidays (Heart of the Wolf #28; Silver Town Wolf #9)" - no phrase match, pluralises holidays, splits the query between the book title and series, and has 178 ratings.

"The Pastry Queen Christmas: Big-Hearted Holiday Entertaining, Texas Style" - again no phrase match, heart becomes big-hearted, and it's a subtitle, and the book has 122 ratings

"Holiday of the Heart (Heart, #4)" - finally a book with both words in the title! But no phrase match, and this book has.... 2 ratings.

If the search doesn't support phrase matches, doesn't rank precise matches higher, and doesn't rank more popular books higher - how the hell is it ranking things?

Of course, goodreads is hardly the first site to have a shitty search that causes users to google things instead. The ranking could well be "whatever order elasticsearch produces"


While the article focused on how someone might bring a better algo webapp against goodreads, you've got to agree that Goodreads is badly maintained. The app is atrocious as is the website from the reader's PoV.

The groups are so badly implemented that it takes multiple clicks to do ANYTHING and there is just no "timeline" like thing where you can post on a group. It won't take much time/resources for a social media to act like a 21st century social media right? Especially since it is owned by the company which created AWS?

from the author side:

I have a very common name and I've got an ebook up on Goodreads(I did not add it & I've not, for the life of me figured out how to submit the book)

But because Good reads thinks that because my name is what it is, they merged my profile with someone else with my exact same first name and last name.

I've done all I could to get them to change it, but they didn't bother to respond.


I love Letterboxd's approach to movie recommendation wherein they don't provide any. Users can create arbitrary lists for all kinds of stuff based anything like genre, themes, feel, mood, cast/crew etc. There is probable a high quality list for anything you can think of. I have found some of my favorite movies on the site this way, no algorithms involved.

I wish more site would do this instead of collecting every single details about my life and still recommend be garbage sponsored content (looking at you Youtube).


I was going to say this! Letterboxd is the slickest and most fun media discovery platform I’ve seen. It’s so easy to stumble onto interesting recommendations, and the platform is straight-up fun to use. Look at these lists that Letterboxd users put together:

Insane Toni Collette dinner table cinematic universe https://boxd.it/8DO8A

Or look at this list of films directed by women, organized by poster color: https://boxd.it/lITC

Lots of fun stuff like that, but then also lists composed around incredibly specific vibes:

wlw movies that aren't period dramas and don't have sad endings https://boxd.it/8nKBc (The author of that list says “wlw = an umbrella term referring to lesbian, bi, pan, and queer women”; new to me)

Good movies with no sex scenes to watch with your parents https://boxd.it/54Pcw

The lists themselves are a sort of smart commentary.

Letterboxd gets right the one thing that so many recommendation algorithms get wrong: I'm fickle, and I like different stuff at different times, and I also want new things that I didn't even know I liked. The article about StoryGraph mentions this: too often, algorithms assume you only want more of A) what you listened to last time, or B) what's popular (looking at you, Apple Music).

On a separate topic, one thing I'll say about ratings is that while I find good ratings to be worthless – generally any media of even the most middling quality will have rabid fans somewhere, especially if it's serialized (TV shows, book series, Star Wars, etc.), bad ratings are useful to me; if something is rated badly it's generally because it's truly boring and devoid of any value whatsoever.

Anyway, thanks to the top-level poster for the link to Story Graph. I hope it becomes useful, and in the meantime I'll keep pining for someone to disrupt the rest of Amazon’s book empire as well.


Goodreads does have that. It is called lists: https://www.goodreads.com/list?ref=nav_brws_lists


Funny enough, this is another obvious feature that they get completely wrong -- lists are publicly editable, with no (apparent) way of restricting adds to the original creator. So inevitably any niche curatorial effort slides back to the lowest common denominator taste over time.


> People still complain about Netflix recommendations and they've spent tens of millions of dollars, possibly over a hundred million dollars, on it and are one of the most valuable companies on the planet with one of the best engineering teams on the planet.

This blog post talks about this exact subject: https://apenwarr.ca/log/20190201

> Why do people think algorithmic recommendations are easy? Or even desirable?

They're easier than you think, it's just most of them on major platforms are optimized to maximize your engagement with the platform, rather than your enjoyment of the content.


You can only say the algorithm works when you know the precise aim of the algorithm. Perhaps the "recommendation" engine is designed to dislodge the user from engaging too much with their own assessment abilities and instead have users respond to less guarded social cues setup elsewhere in the sales funnel.

You can push a lot more pulp on unsuspecting people once it's familiar AND seen in a socially proofed popular list.


Why is nobody asking how a recommendation engine is supposed to work if there’s nothing to recommend? Is it possible that even computers recognize 90% of media as garbage?


Recommendation systems are built on k-Nearest Neighbors (KNN) algorithms. Subjective measure of quality is not a factor. A computer can see that two people like the same thing, but also that those two people like similar things each is not aware of, and bridge that awareness gap. It works the same whether the set of options is Star Wars (original), Star Wars (prequels), and/or Star Wars (sequels).


Business opportunity here to replace this?

Start with some HN or Reddit style forum discussion code. Some income could come from affiliate links to indie booksellers. (Is there even infra for such a thing right now? Need to build that too?)

Edit, answering myself, this guy has some thoughts: https://tomcritchlow.com/2020/04/15/library-json/

Edit, as for the index corpus, the USLC does okay: https://catalog.loc.gov/vwebv/search?searchArg=0312937385&se...


Here's an attempt at making a Goodreads-like that runs on ActivityPub: https://github.com/mouse-reeve/bookwyrm


Is the USLC always updated with the latest books?

What would be the legal background of using their index?


Sure, if you only care about America. But people in other countries read books too.

Here's the best selling book in Germany:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/45006237-das-geschenk


Oh, hm, ISBN is probably better? These guys seem to have a DB, wonder how they get it? https://isbnsearch.org/

It used to be that authors needed to deposit a copy of every new book at USLC, that's probably an old thing.


This reads and feels like a 33 paragraph thinly veiled marketing advertisement for StoryGraph, using the David vs. Goliath story model.


It's bugging me enough to reply to myself - the author is also throwing shade at LibraryThing passive-agressively by using the association fallacy. AbeBooks owned 40% of LT and Amazon acquired AbeBooks - but that's all the author had to say, no critical comparison of LT on it's merits as a book website. I find this to be disingenuous.


Honestly, I checked out the storygraph after reading the article, and the first thing that came to mind when I saw the site was ‘amateur hour’ that I read earlier today in some post about Apple.

I can’t really take it seriously while it still looks like some random programmer’s side project.

That said, it’s readable and mobile friendly, so that’s a win.


Is this a hit piece? I’ve never once had a problem with goodreads. Am I alone?


There is a reason that most discussions of Goodreads here and on GR itself tend to bring up complaints. It’s not so much that Amazon hasn’t upgraded the site to a "modern" web design – plenty of people like the old-school aesthetic and we don’t want endless scrolling and an attempt to maximize the time the user spends on the site (because we’re supposed to be reading books most of the time, after all).

Rather, the problem is the long-standing bugs that Amazon has never bothered to fix, because it can’t see any financial incentive to develop Goodreads further. The book database is a mess and even those of us empowered as "Goodreads librarians" are unable to help much. For example, today many authors might have the same name, a problem only made worse with all the self-publishing going on. Yet the Goodreads librarian UI has no straightforward way to assign a new book to this or that author of the same name. Instead, you have to use a hack where for author X you have to type two spaces between the first name and surname, for author Y you have to type three spaces, etc. It is totally amateur, and when you have 20 authors all of the same name you have no reference for which author has how many spaces typed between the first name and surname.


I wouldn't say I hate goodreads, but it is probably the worst-designed website (with some tough competition) that I semi-regularly use. The book categories are nonsensical, the books that take up most real estate are either random, or selections of books so famous you've definitely read/seen them before. More minor annoyances are that the reviews smell like astroturfing, and the 'quotes' thing is totally inane, and it's cluttered while remaining information-sparse.


I've never had a problem.

It doesn't do a great job with recommendations but I don't really care. There are thousands of book recommendation blogs, lists, BookTube channels, etc.

I'm not sure why people think every site/app needs to evolve to engulf every tangential aspect of a given ecosystem.

HN can never make up its mind whether it likes distributed systems or not.

HN also loves the benign neglect of HN itself (formatting on mobile still broken after 20 years?)


This right here. I actually think adding some sort of machine learning recommendation system would be an anti-feature. I do use the site for recommendations on what to read next, But I get that from reading the reviews of other users. These reviews often say “the idea of this book is good, but was done better by ______ in _______.” That context is critically important. Just being told I might like this other book is not helpful.


I have never really been a fan. I use it mostly to discover new books and track my reading and goals, which seems to work just fine. However, the Android app, which I use the majority of the time, is pretty bad. The Home tab is blank, with only a search bar and a button to "find your friends." Seems odd for the app to start there. I guess they are trying to push the social media features of it? I'm not interested in that.

On my previous phone (iPhone 6s), the app seemed to be much better designed, though it has been a while since I have used it. Honestly, my biggest gripe is that it's owned by Amazon. I generally try to support smaller retailers when making purchases, and would love to find another service that helps me track my reading and discover new books.


Not sure but I do know that when I first found out Goodreads was owned by Amazon I was very surprised and began to look at Goodreads (perhaps unfairly?) under a very different light. I was suddenly underwhelmed with what it was.

I remember thinking surely someone like Amazon could build something better than this. Not sure what I suddenly expected it to be, exactly, but it just felt like the whole UX was something from a decade ago.

Sure it’s great for keeping track of books I’ve read and whatnot but I’ve tried to use it to dig deep and find new authors and books similar to my tastes but didn’t find a lot of success.

In the music world I’ve had a ton of success finding new artists on Spotify’s “Fans also like” section. And I can keep following one artist to another to another. Books are obviously different in that it takes quite a bit longer to learn whether or not you like a new author than it does to listen to a new artist’s top few tracks, but still...after trying a few new authors and books, I never found that magical recommendation engine I was hoping for.


I don't find it a particularly usable or appealing website, but I have been using it for a long time and I never hated it as the article implies.


Goodreads interface is terrible. I'm surprised Amazon hasn't shut Goodreads down.

All I want from Goodreads is:

    * A nice way to see all the books I've read
    * Maintain a list of "Want to read books"
    * A decent recommendation system for my next read
(If you like Goodreads I recommend Readwise, which lets you upload Kindle book highlights and helps you learn from them.)


A shameless plug here, I've been working on a web app to tackle a small part of the issue here. Showing contextual recommendations from 1300+ leaders with verified quotes https://www.readthistwice.com


I started https://MyBookList.club over a decade ago and always stayed away from recommendations. They're never going to satisfy everyone. The closest thing is "similar books".


I’m seeing this piece around widely. I agree with the premise, and am willing to give StoryGraph some time and attention.

I mostly stopped using GR because it just seemed like a noise platform — and, I guess obviously, I didn’t want to give Amazon any more data about me.


TL;DR: social book metadata site Goodreads has stagnated since being bought by Amazon.

This pattern has occurred repeatedly with metadata associated with digital media; CDDB vs. iTunes, IMDB vs. Amazon DVD listings, Goodreads vs. Amazon book listings.

Rather than assuming that Amazon is strategically hampering Goodreads functionality, I assume that Amazon is a large company that misses opportunities to delight its customers. Giggles ensue every time I come across a "We don't have any cast information" message in Amazon Prime Video.

Hanlon's Razor [1] applies: "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity".

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanlon%27s_razor


What is the main feature of Goodreads?

Is it discussing new books?

If so, what is the reason people want to discuss new books? Anybody here who does it?

If so: Why do you do it? And do you do it before or after you read it?


That intro was waaaay too long. As someone who knows Goodreads in passing, I just wanted the author to get to the point and make their recommendation.

As a TL;DR for Good read users: The StoryGraph. Check it out.




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