Goodreads launched their website in 2007, and has since built a community of 20 million members who have added 570 million books and 24 million reviews - and the book app uses bar codes. Goodreads provides the opportunity to catalogue book collections, read and write reviews, and connect with fellow book lovers. If you’re looking for a new book, the recommendation engine analyzes 20 billion data points, resulting in personalized recommendations. With the Goodreads app, you can reference your book collection or add books to your “to read” list on the go.
Exploring and discovering new books is one of the strongest functionalities of this app. There are several ways to search in addition to just entering a title or author. You can explore book lists by genre—with forty to choose from—or unique categories such as “I Didn’t Know it Was a Series!” and “The ‘Can’t Wait’ Books of 2014.” If you like going with the flow and being up to date on the latest big thing, you can search lists of the most popular books from the week, month, or year. A final option is to “Explore Books at Random!” which might not be necessarily useful, but nevertheless could be an interesting way to try something unexpected. In addition to finding book recommendations, you can also read ebooks within the app. You can find ebooks by the most downloaded or recently uploaded from a catalog of over 2,000 public domain ebooks.
There are plenty of community reviews for most books, but as with all things community based, sometimes it’s time consuming to wade through the irrelevant to find the valuable. An option to read expert reviews would provide a quick and reliable source of information without taking away from the feeling of community. There could also be the possibility to gain a reputation as a reviewer with a peer rating system.
You can join groups and connect with friends from Facebook or phone contacts, though integration with Twitter is surprisingly missing. The well-established Goodreads community, however, enables you to connect with other book lovers outside your normal social networking sites.
The built-in barcode scanner not only enables you to inventory your home book collection, but if you’re browsing in a store, you can scan the barcode of a book to add to your “to read” list and read reviews before purchasing. This functionality generally works pretty well, but it doesn’t recognize some older books, which might be disappointing to those who have a book collection built over many years, which would make manual entry time consuming and wearisome. For the books the barcode scanner does recognize, it fills in the title, author, relevant publishing details, and community reviews reliably, but that’s about it. A functionality to link to online shopping sites such as Amazon or Barnes and Noble would be helpful, or at least an option to check availability and prices at local stores. Shopping integration with Amazon might very well come to fruition in the near future, as they acquired Goodreads in March, 2013.
When Amazon purchased Goodreads, they combined one of the largest communities of book lovers with one of the most established ebook platforms and store fronts. Integration with the new Kindle Paperwhite was announced in November 2013. In addition to accessing Goodreads benefits through the Kindle Paperwhite, you can also add your entire collection of books—both physical and electronic—purchased through Amazon to your Goodreads account.
The Goodreads app is free in iTunes, and is definitely worth a try.
This review is of the Goodreads iPhone and iPad app, but is also available for Android.
Written by Kristin Clay