Booked til Tuesday

Life, Law & Libros

Discussion: Online Book Communities

What do you look for in an online book community? What are the most important features to you? A lot of online book communities double as social media sites with private messages, forums and commenting features, but at their heart, supposedly, they're all about books.

LitRate - Coming Soon - A community for book loversI recently saw posts about a Kickstarter campaign for "LitRate," a new book site by the awesome Ashley of Nose Graze. What is it? According to the site:
LitRate is our dream for a new website for the literary community. It will essentially be our version of Goodreads—but better. We've seen all your ideas, all your complaints, and all your dreams of new features. We're here and ready to implement them in a new site that we can build together!
To be honest, a new and better Goodreads, without all the drama and negative connotations that have arisen in recent months, sounds wonderful. On the other hand, this got me thinking about all the different online book communities with which I have accounts, and how many of them do or don't get used.

When Goodreads was my primary review platform, I used it for everything - reading reviews, finding new books and giveaways, chatting with readers, etc. Since starting this blog and focusing more of my energies here, GR has become little more than a cataloging tool.

I backed up all my shelves and reviews on BookLikes following a certain GR PR disaster, but the Tumblr-like format didn't work for me and essentially would have been a second blog. (I'm not that much of a masochist...usually.)

Then there's Riffle, a Pinterest-style book site, that I use almost exclusively for its lovely lists.

I recently signed up for Literally, which is a personal cataloging tool with graphs and stats on your reading patterns, badges for different site and reading achievements, and an emphasis on personal recommendations from readers you know. It's a bit of a pain updating my reading status on both GR and Literally, but, while I love Literally's limited socializing, I'm not quite ready to quit the "industry standard." That and, love or hate it, you're not worried about Goodreads suddenly disappearing one day, especially after the Amazon purchase. Smaller sites have been known to do that from time to time.

Which brings me back to LitRate. Do I/we really need another book community? I'm considering whether to contribute to the Kickstarter campaign, so it's an extremely relevant question. On the one hand, I already have at least two sites for cataloging my books, I talk to most readers through their personal blogs, and I may have found my perfect match with Literally's emphasis on personal reading and minimal social interactions. On the other hand, I like the sound of of some of LitRate's features, especially the search features. (I'm a sucker for search functions that let me exclude key words, like "love triangle.")

Key features
  • The ability to search for a book and immediately see details about it (cover, title, author, publisher, publication date, ISBN, etc.).
  • Create your own virtual libraries of books. Tell the world which books you own, which you're currently reading, which you want to read, and which you've already read. Tag books with your own customized labels to better keep track of and categorize them.
  • Rate books (with half stars!) and leave reviews.
  • Save reviews as drafts before publishing them.
  • Advanced privacy settings for labels, reviews, and accounts.
  • Send friendship requests and follow your friends' updates.
  • Unlock achievements, ranks, and virtual rewards.
  • Keep track of your reading progress and statistics. Plus, compare with your friends.
  • Start discussions on the forum.
  • Customize your site experience.
What do you guys think? I know many of you have already heard about LitRate. Is this something you'd be interested in? Do you prefer to wait and see whether new online book sites make it or die out before investing your time and money? Do any of these features sound appealing? Maybe you spend all your time in the blogosphere and have given up on social book sites? On the count of! :)


  1. This is an excellent post! I actually had very similar thoughts a few months ago. I kept hoping around different cataloging sites, trying to find the perfect one for me.. But I never found one that felt just right, you know? So I kept dropping the sites one by one.

    That's eventually why I decided to move forward with LitRate. I know not everyone wants or needs a new cataloging site, but it's something I was looking for. And if the right one didn't already exist, why not try making it myself?

    I think ultimately people are looking for different things. Some people love Tumblr (I don't) and thus BookLikes is perfect for them. Others like a more simple cataloging experience and will turn to Literally or LibraryThing. The lack of ratings on Literally was a pretty big deal breaker for me. I personally crave a more social site and I couldn't find anything that fit the bill, so that's why I sought something new.

    I do think it's pretty cool that we have more options available to us now. Hopefully everyone can find a site that does what they're looking for!

    1. I think it's awesome that you have the know-how to build a site with all the features you're looking for, and I bet it will be amazing. :) You know, I actually didn't think about Literally's lack of ratings until you mentioned it just now. Haha!

  2. I'm pretty darn excited about LitRate I must admit. I like the badges that Literally has but I want to be able to interact with friends a bit more than it allows. However, Goodreads has gotten a bit out of hand for me and I'm just too lazy to deal with using many of its features >.>

    1. I'm glad to see so many people excited about the project! It means it's filling an online void that needs filling. :)

      My problem is probably laziness, too. I feel like trying to maintain a presence on Goodreads and BookLikes and Riffle and Literally and BookBloggers (I forgot that one before) and the blog is just me posting the same stuff in six different places; and I dislike the feeling of redundancy and wasted effort. Which is why I'm picking and choosing which sites I use, and which features therein (because Goodreads has WAY too much stuff for me), and focusing the bulk of my energies on interacting with people here and on their personal blogs. Because comments make everyone smile. :)

  3. I only use Goodreads, because let's face it, it's the most comprehensive. I only use it to track my books and upcoming titles. I hardly ever use any of the social settings. They seem redundant when I blog and follow my favorite users on other media sites.
    Litrate sounds like its adding a lot of fun features, like pausing a book. I'm still not interested in the social aspect, but anything better than Goodread's search function could entice me away.

    1. Yep, love it or hate it, Goodreads is still the largest and most visible online book community, but the social features seem redundant when you already follow others elsewhere. (And I have a niggling feeling people prefer comments on their blog posts to comments on their GR statuses/reviews. You know, a more personal feel, like you visited me in person instead of texting/calling? Or I'm just weird. :P)

      I'm definitely considering LitRate. If it can combine all the features I like on separate sites into one and not require too much extra work, it could be a winner. :)

  4. I probably don't use as many of the social features on Goodreads because of my blog - but I know that when I first started I didn't get into it because the groups were just too confusing. So I'm really excited about LitRate's Forum setup. I think it will make it easier for people to join in.

    I'm most excited though about the genre sorting - they're going to have books sorted by genre and then show you what books you already have on your list from that genre. That will eliminate so much of my shelving work! And the half-stars! Seems like a small thing but for me the round up or down question is always a pain.

    Great post!

    1. Ashley does great work, so I know the setup for LitRate will be clean, clear and efficient. :) The genre sorting does sound pretty cool, especially since I feel like I'm always guessing at what genre a book is. There are so many sub-genres, I've lost track. Thanks for stopping by! :D

  5. I've been looking at other sites, but nothing's caught my interest enough to invest my time in migrating. (Yes, I like Riffle due to the lists; love the lists!)

    Drama aside, Goodreads is not a particularly easy/intuitive site to use. It's always felt to me like functions have been added on to Goodreads, rather than being integrated into it. (Why isn't "owned" a shelf? Why isn't there a help document that isn't a forum?!)

    Gosh, genre sorting would be lovely... And privacy settings. Can there be such a thing?

    1. Fully leaving Goodreads behind hasn't really been an option yet, but LitRate might change that. (And Riffle's lists made my Top 10 Tuesday posts SO much easier.)

      It's never a good sign when privacy settings aren't the norm.

  6. I'd be interested in LitRate - especially if they let you do half-star ratings and save review drafts. I'm always interested in new literary websites. :)

    1. Yep, those are two of the main features they're talking about. I'm glad you like the sound of it. :)

  7. Honestly, I know everyone has problems with Goodreads (so it seems), but I'm perfectly content with Goodreads. I have a blog, Goodreads, and that's about it for book-related social media. I feel like if I join another community, I'll be overwhelmed. Technically, I have accounts with Epic Reads and YABC, but I barely use them because dang, who has the time!?

    I'm not saying I wouldn't use LitRate (I love Ashley and totally support her), but chances are, it wouldn't be a priority for me. I'm happy with my blog and Goodreads and wouldn't want to feel like I need to transfer all my content to ANOTHER community site.

    Excellent post, Kel!

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

    1. Formatting issues and lack of privacy settings aside, I wouldn't be surprised if most users' biggest problem with GR is fear. That deleting reviews and shelves without notice incident really shook people up. But I totally get you. For the limited tasks I require, it gets the job done.

      I confess, when I stop and evaluate how many accounts I have online and where I should be placing the most emphasis, though I'm usually a stickler for grammar, I sometimes think, "Ain't nobody got time for that." ;)

  8. Honestly, I am right there with you on not knowing whether I would really use ANOTHER book community website. I have tried all the new ones (albeit only a token bit) I hate Booklikes because it is just another blog like Tumblr and why would I want to spread out and keep track of yet another blogging platform. So I stopped pushing my content to those two places - I am not going to constantly cross post.

    I have an Literally, a Leafmarks, a Riffle, a Booklikes, Tumblr, LIbraryThing, Book Blogging, Goodreads and jeez I don't know what else.

    But it boils down to I really only use Goodreads. It has everything for the most part that I need and I do a lot of interacting with book friends on there that aren't necessarily bloggers. I don't care if they never visit my blog because I'm getting real community interaction with them. Which is what I like. Readers with similar or interesting tastes.

    Would I try LitRate - yes, will I donate to it, I will (I forgot I meant to earlier) - am I very confident that it will succeed when up against the communities that are already out there - I just don't know. It's hard to come up against Goodreads and most communities don't really end up getting much use because Goodreads is already pretty much the standard. I think many bloggers will use LitRate if it gets off the ground but I work in software and I know its really hard to have a successful bug free product the first few years so it'll be hard for Ashley and her husband especially if they are doing it on their own. It's such a huge project that I would think it would have to be their job in order to get it to be successful they way they want it to be. I'm in no way a coder so I don't know how difficult it'll be but I work with several web based coders and there are usually a whole team of them working on a project that isn't even as big as this one. So I hope the best for her but like you said I'm always wary of investing time in a new one that comes out because it might just disappear.

    The features they propose to have sound like they will be nice so I'm curious and I'll definitely lend a few dollars to see it happen.

    As for the goodreads censoring thing. That did not effect me at all. I think more people got upset about that then was warranted - they were censoring author bashing and drama not someone's honest reviews of a book. I still see all sorts of inflammatory reviews about books - it was when it stepped into the zone of personal bashing that GR stepped in. So I'm probably one of the only people that wasn't bothered by the fact that some of those things were taken down.

    1. I'm glad you've been able to communicate and interact with additional readers on Goodreads! :D

      I guess the good news is, besides keeping things up to date on Goodreads because it's the big one, I'm not too invested on any of the many other platforms, so if LitRate pulls through well and its features work as promised, I won't be split about leaving old friends for the new hangout.

      I have no problems with Goodreads censoring out the drama (I think we could probably use a little more sometimes), but that one instance of their deleting reviews and shelves without notice and/or chance to back up definitely had me backing up all my data (just in case). Taking things down is great, but without notice? That's a little iffy.

  9. I personally just can't manage this many things at once. I'm still only on Goodreads, though I try to steer clear of drama. Some of these others area appealing but no way could I update them all. I'm mostly totally out of the loop with these platforms, so thanks for informing me! Though for now, I'm going to stay where I am.

    1. I completely understand. It's nice to have a "standard" where you know you can find everyone and where you can stay updated in case a new site bombs. (For instance, Literally won't recognize when I press the "Finished" button from my phone for some reason.) Though the Riffle lists are great for quick Top 10 Tuesdays. :)