Goodreads Blog
blog posts (showing 331-340 of 482)
Follow your favorite reviewers and authors
Posted by Otis Chandler on June 09, 2009

Relationships made through reading no longer have to go both ways. We just launched the ability to follow the reviews and status updates of your favorite Goodreads members.

In the style of Twitter, members of the site can now follow the updates of people they admire without having to form a typical "friendship." When you follow another Goodreads member, you can see the books they add and their reviews, but as a follower, there is no pressure to reciprocate.

This new way of connecting on Goodreads will encourage many more book reviews to be published and consumed. Here are some of the ways members will benefit from this feature:

  • Independent bookstores and book reviewers to gain the following they deserve
  • Micro-celebrities in the book world don't have to be swamped with friend requests and can also build a large following
  • Authors can also now build a following for their book reviews
  • Members can now follow their favorite authors without having to friend them

Following is designed to make Goodreads more useful to people who use it. Here is how it works:

  • Reviews and status updates from people you follow now appear on your homepage.
  • You can now filter your homepage by friends, top friends, or people you follow
  • When you view a book you will see a new section of reviews from people you follow
  • You can disallow anyone from following you in your my account
  • Anyone you block will not be able to follow you

Partial credit for inspiring this feature must be given to Tim O'Reilly for his blog post Goodreads vs Twitter: The Benefits of Asymmetric Following. O’Reilly made the astute point that relationships in the real world are usually not symmetric, and that "Asymmetric follow is why I use Twitter regularly and Facebook much less often". We’re predicting that pretty soon following will be a hallmark of all social networks – the benefits are clear. Indeed, Yelp already supports it, and Facebook is trying to hack it in with their Facebook Pages.

So now the question is: who should you follow? Here are some interesting folks. Post more in the comments!


Neil Gaiman
Stephanie Meyer
Sarah Dessen
Paulo Coelho
Jennifer Weiner
Meg Cabot

Indie Bookstores:

Vromans (Pasadena, CA)
Tattered Cover Bookstore (Denver, CO)
Modern Times Bookstore (San Francisco, CA)
Lemuria Bookstore (Jackson, MS)
Staff Fig Garden Bookstore (Fresno, CA)
Powells Bookstore (Portland, OR)
Orinda Bookstore (Oakland, CA)

We even have a few celebrities:

Felicia Day
Wil Wheaton

Here are some techies I was eager to follow:

Kevin Rose
Veronica Belmont
Catarina Fake
Tim O'Reilly
Jason Calacanis
Evan Williams

Here is what a profile page looks like now - you can friend or follow someone at your leisure:

Here is what the new homepage filters look like:

To discuss the new feature click here.
Why the publishing industry is afraid of the fall of the newspaper industry
Posted by Otis Chandler on June 08, 2009

*rant on*

I had the opportunity to read an interesting article about the status of the book industry titled The Long Goodbye? The Book Business and its Woes. It was full of interesting points, and I recommend reading it. Here are some excerpts I found particularly interesting:

"A key element in the dissemination of books, independent of publishers and booksellers but essential to both, is the press. The simultaneous collapse of the business model for newspapers and magazines is a gruesome fact of life, and we book people keenly feel the pain of a sister print-on-paper industry, to put it mildly. ... Book news and criticism were fundamental to the old model of book publishing and to the education of writers; Internet coverage of books, much of it witty and interesting, does not begin to compensate for their loss."

This is a theme I keep hearing over and over again at book conferences. And for good reason: the process of building up buzz about a book pre-launch is critical to it's success, and with the demise of newspaper book reviews and other media outlets, it's no longer easy.

But authors don't despair - there are still plenty of ways to get there - it will just take some more work on your part. You have to have market yourself. Here are some tips, based on talking to authors who are having success:

  • Join as a Goodreads Author and reach out to the community here (don't take my word for it: read this and this)
  • Create a Facebook page and a MySpace profile and reach out to communities there. Collect as many friends as you can that are interested in your work or your genre.
  • Create a Twitter account and start following anyone who talks about your novel or genre. Engage these people!
  • Create a blog and post interesting things about your work and genre.
  • And here is the key: anytime you post anything on any of those service, post a link to it on ALL the other services. Respond to any comments, tweets, etc that you get. Engage, engage, engage!

"Publishers used to presume that money earned on successful titles would help pay the bills incurred in producing and marketing books that sold less well... carrying the "frontlist" of new titles and goodly portions of the "backlist," books from years earlier."

This is the way any hits driven business works - the hits pay for the misses. If the hits no longer pay as much, then you can't afford to produce as many misses. Yet the number of books published each year is *growing* - how can that be? Going back to my points above - more authors are self-publishing and marketing themselves. Once a self-published author reaches a certain level of success, then the big publishing houses will publish them - and that's how it works now.

By the way: did you know that 50% of a publishers revenue is from the backlist?

"Of the roughly $10 a publisher took in on a $20 book, say, 10 to 15 percent of the cover price was allocated to the author, leaving only the remaining $7.50 or so to cover the fixed, make-ready costs"

This illustrates how the supply chain is broken - there are too many people and costs involved. Note that with an ebook there are no fixed costs and no distribution costs. So why do publishers insist on selling books at the same prices? Did you know that Amazon is taking a LOSS on Kindle ebooks by selling at their $9.99 price point?

"many bestsellers were now going in the opposite direction. More and more derivative pseudobooks were spun off from the Internet or TV, booklike objects created by the teams working for, say, famous generals in televised wars, cooks, telly dons, ballplayers, reality-show contestants, famous pets. These flashy items dominate shelf space, ad budgets and public attention... they are choking off the life-support systems for vital literature."

I have to agree with this one. It's a side-effect of a hits-driven business that is foundering. It's clear a better model is needed - we're taking suggestions here.

"the entire world of American retail business is veering toward obsolescence. Must books now find their way in cyberspace?"

(I'm now in love with the word obsolescence)

"But these Internet people don't care. For billionaires like Brin, accessing the giant river of infinite book "content" onto which they can glue paid advertising is simply a giant new way to make more money, and they are single-minded about that."

It is clear that somebody needs to care about literature beyond how to monetize it. After all, if nobody is fostering the creation of good content then we all lose. But it seems to me that Google cares quite a bit, and is the way *forward* - not backward. They offer publishers quite a lot: free traffic to their books in a DRM safe way, and now even revenue from ebook sales. Why would you say no to that?

Goodreads Puts Its Own Spin on The New York Times Bestseller List!
Posted by Elizabeth on May 28, 2009

May 28, 2009—The New York Times and Amazon know what people are buying, but Goodreads knows what people are reading. We’ve capitalized on that data by creating a brand new, searchable area of the site where users can find the most popular books people are currently reading—based on when the book was published.

Goodreads members can search by year, month, and even look into the future to see which books are generating the most buzz.

Want to know which books published in 1929 are currently the most popular? A Farewell to Arms, The Sound and the Fury, and All Quiet on the Western Front are still perennial favorites.

What about 2009? The most popular books published in February were Fool: A Novel, by Christopher Moore, The Help by Kathryn Stockett, and Evermore by Alyson Noel.

And even more useful, what do people want to read next? This September, there are three books that are more popular than Dan Brown’s upcoming The Lost Symbol: Two young-adult novels from the Hunger Games series and the Books of Bayern Series, and the romance novel An Echo in the Bone.

Goodreads compiles these lists by tracking the number of people who have added each book to their shelves, either as Read, To-Read, or Currently Reading.

To view this new feature please go to:

New Releases By Date!

Goodreads Indonesia organizes bookswap, makes Jakarta Post
Posted by Otis Chandler on May 18, 2009

The Goodreads Indonesia group just let us know about a very cool sounding bookswap it organized in Jakarta this weekend. The Jakarta Post wrote a piece about the event titled Book fans benefit from book swapping.

We are just tickled pink to see members around the globe using Goodreads to organize and do great things. Congratulations to the Goodreads Indonesia group! And thanks much to Amang for sending the below clip:

Server maintenance
Posted by Michael Economy on May 10, 2009

Our hosting provider is currently doing some maintenance which is causing Goodreads to have some connectivity issues. You may encounter some delays when connecting to Goodreads. The maintenance they're doing is supposed to be done by 4am pst.

Matching kindred souls through a shared love of books
Posted by Otis Chandler on April 29, 2009

We just received an amazing email from one of our members. With his permission, I am pasting it below. We have gotten a few notes about successful matches, and each one is equally amazing.

"I just wanted to drop you a line to tell you about something wonderful that happened as a result of Goodreads. I received an invitation from a student to join Goodreads. I joined and added books then found that I could add friends. I began looking for educators in my area to add as friends and then looked at their friends. I found one person in particular with whom I was very compatible as far as books read and ratings. I added her as a friend and we soon began discussions of books. I told her about a book that looked good and planned to read. A couple of days later she bought the book and read it sparking even more discussion. Soon we were using IM to chat and eventually texting and talking on the phone. I know goodreads is not a dating website, neither of us were looking for someone to date when we joined. We eventually met in person and have been together ever since.
Goodreads helped match two kindred souls through a shared love of books and now a love for each other. Thank you for a wonderful website and a place for bibliophiles to join together and share their passion."

The Ayn Rand Phenomenon
Posted by Elizabeth on April 28, 2009

I've only read one Ayn Rand book, The Fountainhead, but it certainly captivated my attention. The archetypal characters were blissfully black and white, and painted a strong case for Rand's philosophy of Objectivism. However, I have many good friends who can't stand her work.

So, I took notice when I read in CNN that the current political climate in the United States has sparked a fury of Ayn Rand book sales.

I'd be interested to know if Goodreads members think her books are newly relevant or not.

Los Angeles Times Festival of Books
Posted by Otis Chandler on April 25, 2009

The Goodreads team will be running around the LA Times Festival of Books tomorrow. We won't have a booth, but we will be wearing Goodreads tshirts, handing out bookmarks, and I will be on several panels - follow it on Twitter.

If you live in LA, the festival is really a fun way to spend the day - lots of books, food, famous authors, and an excuse to get outside on a beautiful day - what more do you need?

Plus they have a fun logo!

Six things I like and don't like about my new Kindle
Posted by Otis Chandler on April 16, 2009

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I got a Kindle 2 when they came out, and wanted to share my thoughts about it, after having used it for a few weeks.

Things I like:

1. The feel of it. It's very slim and has a nice form factor.

2. Having all my books with me. Somehow I'm comforted knowing that all my favorite books are always with me. I immediately went and downloaded all my favorite out of copyright books and uploaded all my programming ebooks.

3. Being able to preview the first four chapters of any book. Huge!

4. Kindle makes it easy to upload any ebook from your existing digital library. Certain files like .txt and .mobi can be copied from your computer, or pdf's can be emailed to a custom email address. Only problem is if you have hundreds of files, emailing them one at a time doesn't scale, plus there is a 10 cent charge per book.

5. Search. Sony ereader didn't have it and it was a major flaw. Come across the name of a character and can't remember who they are? Now it's easy to find exactly when they were introduced...

6. Clips - Kindle lets me take clips of documents as I read - very cool. Now we just need a way to easily get those off the Kindle and onto my Goodreads Status Updates. I'm hoping that will be possible?

Things I don't like:

1. The Kindle is electronic and expensive, so I can't take it to the beach or the pool and leave it on a towel while I jump in the water. Plus, having to turn it off while taking off or landing in an airport really chafe's me.

2. Trying to nickel and dime me for reading blogs. Why do I have to pay $1.99 to read my favorite blogs when I can get them for free anywhere else? I found a way around this by using Kindle's browser to navigate to the mobile version of Google Reader, and presto - now I can read hundreds of blogs for free. But why Kindle is trying to make money on free content, I don't know...

3. I have hundreds of books I've purchased in my bookshelf. I'd love to put those on my Kindle and read them there - but I'm sure Amazon won't give me the ebooks for books I've bought. So the net result is it doesn't look like I'll be using my Kindle much...

4. The price of most ebooks is too high! What publishers don't want you to know is that it takes less than a dollar to print a book. The rest of a books price is intellectual property, plus overhead from shipping and distribution middlemen. All that stuff should be removed from the ebook price. Even then, digital content is a different beast, and publishers need to experiment with the right price point - not just assume that what works offline will work online.

5. The joystick navigation. The Kindle uses this little joystick that you have to click up and down in order to navigate the Kindle Store or the web. The problem is that its clunky, slow, and prone to accidental clicks. Examples of devices that do the same thing but 10x better: ipod's wheel, blackberry's ball, and last but not least the scroll wheel on a mouse. It's funny too that after using an iPhone I kept wanting to touch the Kindle to make it work. Now I'd guess that e-ink and touchscreens probably don't go (?), but that joystick does need to go...

6. This list would be remiss if I didn't mention DRM. I just paid for a book on Kindle and now I can't read it on my PC if I want? I can't put it on my phone or open it up in my Adobe Reader? Consumers lose with DRM and will avoid it at all costs, including cracking the DRM and sharing the files for free. The Music industry learned that one the hard way, and is now going DRM-free. Want to know why? Listen to Cory Doctorow's talk about DRM from Tools of Change. Consumers will pay for digital content - but only if two criteria are met: it's easy to buy, and they feel like they truly own it after they buy it.

Bottom line? It isn't perfect, but I'm loving it.

ps. If want some free ebooks, this page lists some great options: My favorite source is Feedbooks, since they make a great Kindle format of each book. And as of last month all Feedbooks books are now available on Goodreads!

pps. This clip is hilarious:

The AmazonFail debacle
Posted by Otis Chandler on April 13, 2009

A quick visit to Twitter last night brought to my attention that something was going wrong with Amazon. If you haven't heard, apparently 57,000 books on were made unsearchable (and unranked), mostly in the Gay & Lesbian and Erotica categories. Amazon has now released a statement saying that it was a mistake and the books were being brought back.

What impressed me was the speed Twitter and blogs were able to get Amazon to realize there was a problem and react. There were thousands of posts on Twitter and #amazonfail is a top trending term. This is impressive, and is a great example of the masses using social software to cause positive change in the world. This would not have happened 10 years ago.

To be fair I kind of believe Amazon - they would not have intentionally delisted so many books. I could believe that, as they say, they just accidentally merged their porn and sexuality/erotica categories. Either way, it's a big flaw that something like that could occur, and a PR nightmare.

The fun even resulted in a thread from concerned Goodreads members and a short-lived group.

But just to be clear: our goal at Goodreads is to allow members to rate, review, and catalog any book in existence - not just books available for sale at major booksellers like Amazon. Goodreads now has nearly 6 million books in its catalog, many of which are not available on Amazon. And we intend to keep it that way!