If you’ve ever wondered what your peers are reading or sought a book recommendation from a friend, you might be interested in “social cataloging.” Goodreads is a website/application started by Otis Chandler in December 2006 to allow readers to connect with their friends over books.

The site allows you to catalog your collection, construct a personalized organizational system via tags, and create reading lists. Every time you add a book, your rating and review appear in “updates,” allowing your friends to keep up with what you’re reading. Chandler explains that the idea came to him while browsing a friend’s bookshelf for his next great read. Built on the same premise as sites like Bing, Goodreads assumes that people prefer recommendations and advice from friends as opposed to generalized bestseller lists and strangers’ opinions.

Why Goodreads?

I’ve been a Goodreads member since 2010. I primarily use the site to keep track of what I’ve read. I consider myself a pretty voracious reader, so I often find that I pick up a book that sounds awesome, but vaguely familiar. That’s where Goodreads come in.

I can search my catalog of books for the title and see if I’ve already read it. I can also mark books as “to read,” so the next time I’m at the library or the bookstore, I have a ready-made list of titles to check out. Goodreads also allows me to connect with my friends, browse their bookshelves, and see what they thought about a book. My favorite features of the site include:

  •  The Recommendations tab, a reader’s advisory service that suggests titles you might like, based on the books on a given bookshelf you’ve created (similar to Amazon’s recommendation service).
  • The Explore tab which lets you browse popular books in a given category, and Listopia feature which allows you to vote to influence rankings in a certain list, like “Best School Assigned Books.” (I’ve also found some great titles through this feature, which lists similar books together, so you can get an idea of what other books you might like in that category and what other people thought of them, based on the ranking.)
  • The Quotes feature, where you can search (and add) quotes from your favorite books. This is the perfect way to keep track of all your favorite literary witticisms, in one place.

Goodreads seems more popular than ever, perhaps due to its recent partnership with Facebook. Now, you can sign into your account via Facebook’s App Center to enable Goodreads to post updates to your timeline, allowing you to share the books you’re currently reading with your existing network of friends.

This feature has more than tripled the amount of friend requests I receive on Goodreads. This new level of visibility may make Goodreads the dominant player in this service, but some of its competitors are still worth mentioning.

What Else is Out There?

Book Crawler provides a similar “book database service.” It is not a free service, but the $1.99 price tag isn’t outrageous. Some users prefer this service because the cataloging system is more customizable. Notable features include the “Loan” list, which allows you to keep track of who’s borrowed what. Book Crawler also offers a “distant past” option for date read, which I found pretty useful.

For example, if I’m attempting to catalog my entire library, I might not remember the last time I read Nancy Drew and the Spider Sapphire Mystery; was I eleven or twelve? On Goodreads I’d have to pick and enter a specific date, or leave the field blank. There is also a “community” section where you  can connect with your friends. (Interestingly, this service is run through Goodreads.)

Do you use a social cataloging service or book database? Which one? And what are your favorite features? Feel free to share in the comments section. 

Contact Stephanie at scprato@syr.edu or on Twitter @scprato.