Social Reading with Goodreads

I was browsing through my RSS feed yesterday and came across this post by In the Library with the Lead Pipe: Building a Community of Readers: Social Reading and an Aggregated eBook Reading App for Libraries.  The article briefly discusses various social reading platforms and advocates for creating a new aggregated reading app in order to support social reading of library e-books.  The imaginary app, called Book Bench, would aggregate e-book vendors and integrate library e-book services with Goodreads and other platforms for a seamless social reading experience.  It sounds amazing and I wish it existed!  But the article got me thinking about social reading in general.

I’ve always loved book discussion groups and casually talking about what I’m reading with friends.  It’s always fun to recommend books to patrons and then share our thoughts later.  Connecting through reading builds community and helps us develop empathy and understand different worldviews.  My library has several book clubs and discussion groups for children, teens, and adults that meet regularly.  The one at my branch, Page Turners, typically has between 11-14 members that come every time, which is pretty robust—but imagine how much bigger, broader, and more inclusive book groups could be online and through apps!

Although I had signed up for Goodreads some time ago, I hadn’t been very active, so I took this opportunity to explore the world of social reading.  It’s very easy to connect with friends via email and Goodreads is also integrated with Facebook and Twitter.  You can search for books, add them to self-labeled shelves, and rate and review them.  Your ratings and reviews will show up on your Facebook wall and also in friends’ emails if they choose to receive digests.

The social reading aspect of Goodreads is really interesting.  People can read and comment on your book reviews and you can do the same.  You can follow popular reviewers and authors, and interact with them on their pages.  You can post status updates about what you’re reading and initiate or participate in discussions about particular books.  There are thousands of groups on topics as wide ranging as vampires, Proust, fan fiction shipping, and historical fiction.  I joined the Killjoy Feminist Bookclub, Queereaders, and the Folklore & Fairytales group.  Already, I’ve found myself hooked into the various discussions.  There are discussions about “must-read” books, specific books an entire group reads together, favorite authors, and so on.

I searched for my own library in vain, but did find that there are a few public libraries on Goodreads as groups.  The Huntsville-Madison County Public Library has 215 members and discussions include staff picks, member picks, community reads, and new on the shelves.  It looks like most patron interaction is through book ratings, but some topics get a lot of comments, and there are certainly a good amount of views.  The DC Public Library has 220 members and has readers advisory discussion threads, monthly book discussions, and general question threads.  This group seems to have more interaction, and I was interested to see reference questions being asked and answered.  I think Goodreads is a great platform for social reading and could integrate really well with public library websites and Facebook pages.  I know that our patrons enjoy talking about what they’re reading and getting recommendations- connecting through Goodreads and other social reading platforms would be a great way to broaden that interaction.

-Caroline McNabb


6 thoughts on “Social Reading with Goodreads

  1. Deborah Cooper

    Thanks for the reminder about Goodreads. I like your examples of how libraries are using it and seeing the potential not only for book groups but reference. I think it would be a great avenue for readers’ advisory too. I also think the integration with other social media sites makes it particularly useful and accessible.


  2. Meriwether

    I think it’s absolutely wonderful that the internet makes it so easy to have these conversations. I tried a book club and didn’t like it; it felt like a vanity project for the girl that started the group.
    I think Goodreads might be a better place for an actual conversation about books–people are used to exchanging ideas on the ‘net, and less interested in hearing people brag about how smart they are. It feels more egalitarian, at least.

    You’re right that Goodreads blends really well with Facebook and Twitter. The Sacramento Public Library used to have a books blog, but discontinued it for a Goodreads group ( The group has 89 members, and has been around since December 2012. SPL is doing really well with their use of social media, so I’m cautiously optimistic that their Goodreads group will take off.

    Another nice feature of Goodreads is the reading lists– for example,– which anyone can make, and members can vote on. The “YA Novels of 2013” list has 844 books and 5,517 voters. Getting a lot of votes isn’t an absolute guarantee of quality, but a book that gets a lot of votes may be something that teenaged library patrons would be interested in reading. These lists are at least a very good start for readers’ advisory work– as long as the adviser accepts that the patron may want to read Twilight or 50 Shades of Whatever. Whatever we may think about these books in and of themselves, hopefully they will be a gateway to more (and possibly better) books.

  3. J. Andrews

    Oh yea, Goodreads. Your post reminded me that my library has a Goodreads account. Sort of a trial to tie in with the adult summer reading program we only started last year.

  4. kathysbookmark

    Wow! I had no idea that Goodreads had so many great features. I don’t have an account but your post has definitely peaked my interest in getting one. I love the idea that you can connect with authors on Goodreads and have discussions with them on their books — that sounds like a wonderful opportunity. I have always wanted to be in a bookgroup and this seems like a good low-stress way to do it. Thanks for your post! Kathy

  5. kallie

    Goodreads is one of those sites that I love and always vow to keep up with, but then get busy and forget about. Given the content and the applications for book discussion and readers advisory, it does seem like a no-brainer for libraries to get involved with. When I did my media evaluation of Harris County Public Library, they indicated that they upload all their BookHunter (readers advisory service) suggestions to Goodreads so that a.) other patrons can benefit from them, and b.) librarians don’t have to re-invent the readers advisory wheel every time. I hadn’t known about the reading lists, so thanks Meriwether for your comment.

    It seems that GoodReads is the premier readers advisory/book discussion social media site, but there are also Shelfari and LibraryThing and I’m sure others I don’t know about. I’ve used Shelfari more in the past, but also sporadically. Just wondering what everyone’s preferences are and if anyone knows what’s different about them.

    Thanks for the great reminder Caroline.

  6. mcnabbarchives Post author

    Update: Goodreads has just been bought by Amazon! This will likely mean better integration, yes, but it also means that Amazon will have access to members’ ratings, reviews, and other data. My first thought was, “Well, guess I’ll quit Goodreads and just go back to LibraryThing”… but guess what! Amazon partially owns them too! As well as Shelfari. So I guess no matter what, our social reading will be carefully watched and manipulated.


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