Goodreads is a social reading site that’s easily pushing 20 million unique visitors per month. It’s not talked about in the same way as the über-addictive social networking darling du jour, Pinterest, where users come, pin and leave. There are other, far more intriguing reasons why Goodreads is quietly building and growing a smart, devoted host of members.
According to data from Quantcast, Goodreads began adding more users about mid-2009. In late 2009, Goodread user reviews started popping up in the Google eBooks store. Only a few months later, in 2010, Amazon announced that Kindle e-book sales had surpassed hardcover sales for the month of July.
How Goodreads Connects to Self-Publishing
Goodreads saw an opportunity, and began offering e-books directly from the site. Now authors could sell 13,000 books to their fans. With the rise of the self-publishing industry, which many writers have taken to nowadays – and with the likes of imprints like Chicago’s own Tortoise Books and Featherproof popping up all over the place – it’s not surprising that 35,000 self-promoting, social-networking authors have taken to Goodreads. The site currently has 8 million registered members who have written more than 13 million reviews and added more than 280 million books to their virtual shelves.
“Many of our early adopters were book bloggers, librarians and book club members,” says Goodreads CEO and co-founder Otis Chandler. “In fact, we have 20,000 groups on our site, such as The Sword and Laser (part of the new Geek & Sundry YouTube channel), The Next Best Book Club and small, private, meet-in-real-life groups like the Boston Book Club.”
To help readers find new books, Goodreads works with an algorithm much like Facebook’s news feed. It is what powers the site’s book recommendation engine, which is based around ratings, what’s on a reader’s virtual bookshelf and what readers with similar tastes have recommended.
However, not everyone is thrilled with Goodreads. Some liken it to the self-promotional focus and narcissism of Facebook users.
“The mix of Goodreads users is a discordant blend of true fans, self-promoting, gaming-the-system e-book authors, and people who want to turn the site into Farmville,” says Sarah Browne, managing editor at TrendistSF. “As a hyphenated-user myself, (TrueFan/Author) I was initially deeply interested in meeting my tribe. I think plenty of writers and fans have found a home on Goodreads.Â But for all the real value I was starting to find, there were the countless forum notifications with post after post of various word games.”
The Goodreads Power User
For those whose work centers around social media and writing, Goodreads can function as a universe all its own, and a place to quietly cultivate community. As with all types of social networks, those who engage more frequently generally tend to get more value out of the site itself.
This is the case with power user Letizia Sechi, who also happens to be the editor and social media manager at 40K, a digital publishing house based in Italy that has a wide selection of multilanguage titles.
“What I may suggest is to discover the tons of tools that it has: the various forms of recommendations (that you can use to ask directly for what you’re looking for), lists, polls or groups, according on how much time you’d like to spend in there or how much you like having conversations with other readers.”
What Goodreads offers moreso than the nerdy marginalia is the community. It’s a place to stop by, chat with others and stay awhile.
“Living in a community of readers creates habits and affection to a place – think about readers’ reaction each time that the site changes interface, even if it’s technically better than the older one!” Sechi says. “I think this is the hardest part with new community: Convince people that there’s a new place they can feel like home.”
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