It’s time to shelve Goodreads

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

Hey Goodreads, 2010 called — they want their interface back.

Seriously, I don’t think very many changes have been made to Goodreads since I started using it a decade ago. Up until recently, I would use Goodreads to log everything about the books I was reading. After all, it’s the best option since so many people use it, right?

At first sight, Goodreads seems to offer everything that an avid reader may want: a way to organize what books you have read and want to read, a review system, and recommendations. But each of these things have some sort of flaw to them. The shelf system combines all your books that you’ve ever read and you can’t filter it. For me, this means a “Warriors” book sits next to “Flowers for Algernon.” Don’t get me wrong, both are good books, but my reading taste has changed drastically but there’s no way to filter what I want to see on my “Read” shelf.

The review system also badly needa some updates. On Goodreads, you can only do the standard one to five stars and nothing else. While I may feel a book was a solid 3.5 stars, I’m forced to choose between three or four stars. While my rating is just a drop in the bucket, I would still feel better if there was a better review system.

Don’t even get me started on Goodreads’ recommendation system. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to read a single recommendation I was given. Half the time, it’s a book with 503 ratings but is “trending this week,” or it’s the world’s most popular book. I’ve never felt like the recommendations were tailored to me, which makes them utterly useless.

I wasn’t really aware of any alternatives to Goodreads until recently, when I saw some people posting online their year-end summary from something called “The Storygraph,” so I decided to check it out. I must say, though, that it wasn’t hard to convince me to try an alternative to Goodreads.

When making an account on The Storygraph, it gives you the option to import your data from Goodreads, which was an immediate green flag. To me, this meant that The Storygraph clearly knows its audience — people wanting to switch to a more modern book-tracking system.

I was also pleasantly surprised by the robust information that the books are labeled with on The Storygraph. Depending on user input, each book has a set of tags that you can easily filter, both on an overall preferences or specific preferences level. This means I can get recommendations that fit my general reading preferences or a specific genre I’m looking for. I can also rate books up to a quarter of a star, which I find to be a big plus. This is a vast improvement over Goodreads’ recommendation system.

This tag system also lends itself nicely to a robust statistics page. You can view your reading statistics for a year at a time or for all-time, which I am a huge fan of. This stats page does a great job of breaking down what kind of books you tend to read, and it’s interesting to see how your reading habits have changed over the years. The all-time page also does an analysis of your "to read" shelf and shows some extra statistics, like year published.

But all this isn’t to say The Storygraph is a perfect replacement for Goodreads. You can’t easily view what books you have read on The Storygraph, which I find a little annoying. Also, since The Storygraph isn’t as established as Goodreads, there aren’t as many reviews and resources (like author profiles or quotes). I don’t view this as a huge deal, but I expect as more people grow frustrated with Goodreads, more people will migrate to The Storygraph.

While Goodreads certainly satisfies what it set out to do, don’t settle for something that looks like it’s stuck in 2013. While I like The Storygraph, there are also other options out there. I highly recommend taking a look for other services that aren’t Goodreads — you won’t regret it.