I have a GoodReads account. I have friends on GoodReads through that account. They may wonder why they see so few updates from me there... Here’s why.
When I decided that I wanted to keep track of my books in an online location that wasn’t my blog, I set up accounts on both GoodReads and LibraryThing, figuring I’d try them both and see which worked better for me. It didn’t take me long to determine that, for my goals, LibraryThing was the better choice.
LT vs. GR (getting this out of the way first!)
There are two main reasons I’ve heard from people to explain why they choose GoodReads over LibraryThing; “LibraryThing’s not free” and “LibraryThing isn’t social.” Both are partially true.
LibraryThing accounts are free if you list less than 200 books. That’s insufficient for most avidly-reading, book-blogging types, so LT also offers unlimited listing for $10 per year or $25 lifetime. I have the lifetime membership and it’s been totally worth it. I’ve even done a few gift-membership giveaways here to bring new members into the fold (and it just might be time for another one - see below!).
LT does allow users to add friends and follow “interesting libraries,” and you can see what those contacts are doing via the “connection news” page linked to your profile, but its social functions are admittedly less robust than GoodReads. There are no updates via e-mail, so you actually have to visit the LT site to keep up with your friends there. However, LT does have strong forums and discussion groups; in fact, I know of a few book bloggers who got into blogging in the first place via their activity on the LT boards.
You can further refine how you identify the books within those collections by using tags. Tags are completely user-defined and are sortable and searchable, whether within a single collection or across all of them. Since tags existed on LT prior to collections, I have some redundancies in my own library, but that’s avoidable (and fixable if I ever get around to it). My most-used tags are the source of a book (ARC, book tour), ratings, genre, and the year I reviewed it.
Speaking of ratings, I love the fact that LT’s system allows for half-stars. However, since my own system includes quarter-ratings, I use a tag to refine the rating of a book that falls in between (such as 3.75/5). Collections can be sorted on star ratings. Collections can be sorted on any display field, actually, and can be displayed up to five different ways, styled according to your preference. (Potentially overwhelming options - a blessing of LibraryThing, or another reason to use another site?)
Rating, Reviewing, and Interacting
Posting your own ratings and reviews will help LT’s recommendations algorithm work more effectively in making book suggestions for you; you can also post your own recommendations in “if you liked this, try that” style on any book’s record.
As I mentioned, LT isn’t as overtly social as GoodReads, but it is a community and there are a variety of ways to participate, including editing and updating book information. Most fields in a book’s record can be edited, including publication-related data. In addition, you can add all sorts of interesting facts and trivia related to a book - order in a series, names of significant places and characters, awards, quotes, alternate titles and more - in its Common Knowledge section.
Fun Stuff, On- and Off-site
A LibraryThing user’s Statistics and Memes page is a great source of entertainment (and potential blog-post fodder). In addition to standard, useful number-crunching - total books, total tags, bar graphs of review dates and ratings - you can get information on the pages, dimensions, and weight of your books (my catalog would fill 2.4 bathtubs and is 0.09 the weight of an elephant); identify all the series in your library; see how your books break down between male/female and alive/dead authors; and more.
One of the first bookmarks I added to my iPhone was my LibraryThing page; it allows me to consult my wishlist while browsing a bookstore and, in theory, I’ll never buy a book I already own again (that problem was what made me decide to start cataloging my books in the first place). LibraryThing does not yet have a full-scale smartphone app (!), and the app it does have is too simplified to be of much use (for me, anyway), so the bookmark is the way to go, for now. However, LT’s “Local Books” app, driven by the community-sourced LibraryThing Local pages, is a handy (and free!) app for iPhone and Android phones that helps you find bookstores, libraries, and bookish events near wherever you are.
Blogging at The 3 R's: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness
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