The Social Life of Books

Okay, so I’ve been playing around recently with a couple of those social networking sites geared toward readers. I’m a little hesitant to jump into yet another online thing that I have to keep updated, as it’s all I can do some weeks to remember to update the store’s main website and, occasionally, the store’s My Space page. (I have completely avoided Facebook so far, and watch out if I ever start tweeting—I’m not sure the public at large wants to know what runs through my head at random intervals during the day.)

I started out on Shelfari, and I have to say I liked the idea of it and the layout and usability. You create a profile, somewhat like MySpace, etc. but without as much stuff—just a brief description, a picture, then onto talking about books. You create virtual bookshelves (seen onscreen as actual shelves—you can even choose your faux wood finish) to display the books you want to read, the books you’re currently reading, and the books you’ve already read, with ratings and reviews if you care to go the extra mile. You can search for “friends” or use a handy form to invite people from your email address book. You can explore groups who share special interests (Harry Potter fans, Twilight fans, etc.), and engage in online discussions with members of your groups. I participated recently in a lively, interesting discussion about good YA titles to pair with “adult” classics in high school classrooms, for instance.

Shelfari lost favor with me when it was bought out by Amazon, however, and I haven’t really kept up with it as much lately. Instead I’ve been setting up shop, so to speak, on Goodreads. (In actual fact, although authors and bookstores are among the many users, these sites are really for sharing opinions and enthusiasm about books, not for promoting your book or your business…not directly, anyway.)

Goodreads is for all intents and purposes almost exactly like Shelfari, with a few more bells and whistles. There are handy widgets you can use to display a designated “bookshelf” on a website, on your MySpace or Facebook page, or even in a blog.

[This is the part where it would be really cool to show you my bookshelf using one of the above-mentioned widgets, but alas WordPress is one of the few blog hosts that does not support Goodreads widgets. There is supposed to be a plug-in you can download to get around that, but I am not tech-savvy enough to figure out how to do that. I’m sure any twelve-year-old reading this could probably walk me through it, and perhaps a few older folks, too. I welcome advice!]

There are links on Goodreads to search and buy books, and of course Amazon is the most prominent one, but thankfully Indie Bound is also one of them. ( will direct you to an independent bookstore anywhere in the country you want to find one. And almost all indies will ship anywhere, just like Amazon.) Library Thing is another popular site that I have yet to explore, but I intend to do that soon.

Part of the appeal of sites like these is that you can keep up with what your “real” friends are reading (as long as they join and keep up with it). You can also peruse the virtual bookshelves and reviews of other people who like (or despise) the same books you do for recommendations. I think the biggest drawback is that, although it’s fun to create your bookshelves and fill them with your favorite books, rating and reviewing them, it’s probably not going to be something you keep up with that well unless you do have “real life” friends doing it that you want to check in with or unless you get involved in some of the discussion groups. I see a lot of profiles where people were “last active” six months ago or a year ago.

So, do you any of you fair readers participate in these or other networking sites for readers? Care to share your experiences? Are there any notable ones I’ve missed?

Published in: on February 20, 2009 at 6:36 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. *sigh*

    Okay, I finally gave in to peer pressure and joined Facebook. All the cool kids are doing it! ;o) Look for our page and become a fan, unless you are one of the last five people on earth (well, four, now) who isn’t on Facebook yet.

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