Goodreads Blog
Goodreads Blog posts (showing 251-260 of 531)
Announcing Goodreads for iPad!
Posted by Ettore Pasquini on August 23, 2011

Curling up in bed, toting on vacation, or even Web surfing while on the can—a recent study reveals that tablet owners, such as iPad aficionados, love the portability of the device. Thirty-five percent admit to tablet use in the bathroom. No matter where you might be, we're pleased to announce that Goodreads now has an iPad app! This new release (version 1.4) takes advantage of the iPad's bigger screen, making your Goodreads experience much more enjoyable. Now you can see more of your updates, your discussion topics, and, of course, your books. This is only the first release we plan to do for the iPad - we know there is a lot more we can do to improve the experience.

Perhaps the biggest advantage is in the embedded ebook reader. Goodreads has a vast catalog of ebooks, and the iPad is definitely one of the best devices on which to read them! Check out a free classic like Jane Eyre or purchase one of the many ebooks for sale on the site.

We've also improved the barcode scanner and completed our Italian localization efforts. In case you were wondering, this is a "universal" release, which means the same app can run on iPhones, iPods, and iPads alike. In other words, all iOS devices can take advantage of these enhancements.

So, please head over to the App Store to download Goodreads for your iPad!

Reader Reviews: Inaccurate Crap or Symphony of Voices?
Posted by Jessica Donaghy on August 11, 2011

In a recent Telegraph article, journalist and author Tom Payne muses on the evolving role of literary critics, positing that "reviewing has, over the years, become increasingly personal" and discusses the "phenomenon of the reader-review, the arena in which the line between crap and inaccuracy becomes all the murkier." Whether reader reviews are fully supplanting or simply complementing professional literary reviews is still shaking out, but Goodreads is certainly the front line for the rise of the reader review. We're interested in making book discussion more personal, and we encourage Payne to give reader reviews a second chance. Our strength lies not in touting any one critic, but in providing a channel for a symphony of voices.

Payne quotes a sampling of Goodreads reviews and seems to lament their lack of depth. However, I'd argue that Payne has missed the point of reader reviews. I speak mostly from my personal experience, but I'm going to hazard a guess as to how members of Goodreads use the reviews on our site. There are two primary ways:

  1. 1. Friend reviews come first. Friend reviews are delivered directly to us in regular updates, or if we view a book page, friend reviews are displayed above reviews from strangers. Take, for example, the reviews of my very smart and well-read brother, Tim. Tim often takes the time to write a thoughtful, artfully crafted review. Other times he may jot down some notes, as if he's speaking extemporaneously. Either way works for me, because, well, he's my brother, and knowing his taste and interests, I can read between the lines and get a sense of his response to the book and whether I'd like to read it myself. I don't need him to write on par with a professional literary critic—although he's fully capable of it—because I'm getting something personal out of his review.

  2. 2. Community reviews create a collage of ideas. When I finish a book, I like to visit its page on Goodreads and poke around in the reviews posted there. I skim most, but invariably a few will grab my attention and I'll read them in full. Even if you don't venture past the first page of reviews, you're sure to find someone who raves about a book, someone who despised it, and a whole lot of responses in the middle. This vast constellation of opinions coalesces to give me a robust impression of the book's reception in the Goodreads community. I may agree or disagree with (or laugh at) some of the reviews I see, but browsing reviews always helps solidify my own thoughts on the book and provoke new ideas. No one review, as Payne points out, is fully satisfying, but readers can react to the collection of opinions as a whole.

That said, I also enjoy reading professional reviews by literary critics who can provide cultural context or insight into an author's larger body of work. What do you think, Goodreads? Do you use reader reviews as I do? Do you have suggestions for ways we can help you find the most helpful reviews?
The Goodreads Book Club Donates 5,000 Books to First Book
Posted by Patrick Brown on August 03, 2011

The inaugural Goodreads Book Club culminated last night with a one-hour video chat with author Jennifer Egan. 2,000 people watched the chat live, and many of them had their questions answered on camera by the Pulitzer Prize-winner. Among the many topics discussed were her influences as a writer, how her view of the novel as a from has evolved, how she came up with the intricate structure of A Visit from the Goon Squad, and whether she has a never-ending playlist of songs with pauses in them (she doesn't). You can watch the chat in full on the video chat page.

Egan also announced the winner and runner up in our Slide Show Story Contest. For the winner, she chose "Where Dads Go: A story for my unborn child" by Jennifer Baker as the Grand Prize winner. Ms. Baker will receive a Barnes & Noble NOOK Color. The runner-up was "Criminal Consultation" by Stephanie Long. Ms. Long will receive a Kobo eReader. Congratulations to both winners, and thanks to everyone who entered the contest and voted in the poll. To view all of the entries, check out the Slide Show Story Contest page.

Throughout the Goodreads Book Club, we've partnered with First Book to donate books to kids in need. Now that the book club is over, we wanted to say thank you to the more than 38,000 people who added A Visit from the Goon Squad to their shelves. Even though we didn't quite reach our goal of 50,000 books added, we are thrilled to announce that we will be donating the full 5,000 books to First Book. Thank you all so much for your support and enthusiasm. Thanks to you, thousands of children will get to fall in love with reading!

Thanks again to everyone who participated in the first Goodreads Book Club. It was a great success and a fun way to bring the Goodreads community together.

Live Video Chat with Jennifer Egan, Today at 8pm EDT/5pm PDT
Posted by Patrick Brown on August 01, 2011

As the Goodreads Book Club wraps up, join us later today for a live video chat with A Visit from the Goon Squad author Jennifer Egan. The chat will start at 8 p.m. EDT/5 p.m. PDT and will last for about an hour. If you have a question for the Pulitzer Prize-winning author, you can ask it in the chat box at the bottom of the page.

UPDATE: The chat is over, but to watch a recording of it, click here.

One Week Left to Help Us Donate Books to Needy Kids!
Posted by Patrick Brown on July 27, 2011

Next week marks the end of the inaugural Goodreads Book Club. Since we announced our book club on May 9, 25,000 people have added A Visit from the Goon Squad to their shelves. Almost 2,400 people have written a review of it, and hundreds have participated in discussion threads about the book. Fifteen brave and creative people submitted a slide show to our Slide Show Story contest, and the two that Jennifer Egan chooses will win fabulous ereaders. We're thrilled with the impressive turnout for this first book club; we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did!

The Goodreads Book Club will conclude on Tuesday with a live video chat with author Jennifer Egan. The chat will begin at 8 p.m. EST/5 p.m. PST and last approximately one hour. We hope you'll stop by! If you've got a question you're dying to know the answer to, ask it during the chat, and the author of the book herself might just answer it! Jennifer will also announce the winner of the slide show story contest during the chat. Don't miss it!

Tuesday is also the last day to add A Visit from the Goon Squad to your shelves and have it count towards our First Book pledge. For every 10,000 people who add the book to their shelves, Goodreads will donate 1,000 books to children in need through First Book. If you haven't yet done so, please add A Visit from the Goon Squad to your shelves. You can add it to any shelf you choose -- including to-read -- and it will still count. As I write this, about 35,000 Goodreads members have added the book, meaning that we've already donated 3,000 books. That's great, but we want to donate more. Please spread the word and help us get to 40,000 books added by Tuesday. Help us spread the love of reading to thousands of kids in need; tell your friends to add A Visit from the Goon Squad to their Goodreads shelves today!

And don't forget to tune into the live video chat with author Jennifer Egan on Tuesday, August 2 at 8 p.m. PST/5 p.m. EST.
Authors Edan Lepucki & Emma Straub Chatting on Video!
Posted by Patrick Brown on July 26, 2011

Join authors Edan Lepucki and Emma Straub as they discuss their new books in our brand new video chat feature! Edan and Emma will discuss their work, as well as what it's like to be a writer in the age of the internet, how the publishing world is changing, and much more. The chat will begin at 5 p.m. EST/2 p.m. PST and will last for approximately one hour. Check it out!

To watch the chat and join the discussion, click here!

Welcome Visual Bookshelf Members!
Posted by Patrick Brown on July 26, 2011

visual bookshelf logoAt Goodreads, we've never focused on our competition, choosing instead to devote all of our energy to building a vibrant community and delivering a great experience to our 5.4 million members. That said, we were sad to see the popular Facebook App Visual Bookshelf, which was one of our largest rivals, close its doors over the weekend. We were honored, however, to be chosen as their preferred successor to their millions of users. In the past few days, a flood of new people have joined Goodreads and cataloged over 1 million books. This meant some extra work for us—it's no joke adding a million books to the database in two days!—but we're very happy to welcome these new readers to Goodreads.

Since this influx of new books was unexpected, our book importer has been running quite a bit behind (sometimes as much as 12 hours behind). We apologize for this inconvenience, but we assure you that the importer has now caught up and anyone who has imported books should now see them on their shelves (We are still importing books that lacked ISBN numbers. The process takes a bit longer, as we have to match them by title and author).

UPDATE: We now have a one-click solution for importing your books from Living Social's Visual Bookshelf. Simply click the Visual Bookshelf link that says "export your books to Goodreads." Alternatively, you can paste any of your export URLs into our importer (rather than all three), and let us do the rest.

Many of you were likely using Visual Bookshelf primarily as a Facebook app. Goodreads is a stand-alone social network and community, but we do offer deep integration with Facebook through Facebook Connect, which means posting your book reviews to Facebook is easy to do. If you are already connected, you'll see an option to post to Facebook as you write a review. If you aren't, a button to connect and post will be on the next page. Goodreads also makes it easy to post ratings, to-read books, trivia questions, and reading progress to Facebook: Simply navigate to the apps tab to edit your settings.

Goodreads is much more than a mere cataloging site. We feature over 40,000 book clubs organized along a variety of topics and genres. There are book clubs dedicated to specific parts of the world, young adult book clubs, fiction book clubs and much, much more. If you are looking to exchange ideas with other readers, you're in the right place.

You can also become a fan of your favorite author on Goodreads. There are more than 24,000 Goodreads Authors on the site, including bestselling authors like Neil Gaiman, Paulo Coelho, Cassandra Clare, Richelle Mead, Audrey Niffenegger, and more. Read their blogs, follow their reviews, and keep up with all their latest tour stops, all on one convenient author profile page. Each month, we feature discussion groups with authors and live video chats. Join us next week for a live video chat with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jennifer Egan.

If any Visual Bookshelf members want to request features they miss or report any bugs, please let us know in the Goodreads Feedback Group. In fact, we started a thread discussing the key differences between the two sites. Let us know what features you're missing!
Introducing New "Cast your Friends" Facebook Feature
Posted by Greg Mathews on July 22, 2011

Do you ever stop in the middle of a book and think "This character describes my friend Eric exactly! But how can I tell him?" Now Goodreads has a fun little tool to help you with this!

Cast your Friends is a cool new feature that allows you to cast your Facebook friends as characters in your favorite books.  

All you have to do is choose a book, connect with Facebook and then start casting!  If you’d like to share your cast list, you can even post it to the walls of the Facebook friends you chose.

Have fun casting your friends, but be careful casting anyone as Draco Malfoy, or Joffrey Baratheon!

Want to start casting? Click Here!

You're Reading the Wrong Vonnegut: Or, why authors' best known books are often not their best books
Posted by Patrick Brown on July 20, 2011

Yesterday, in the Guardian, John Self wrote a very entertaining post about why it seems that so many authors' best known works are not their best works. He writes, "If someone reads Kurt Vonnegut's most famous book, Slaughterhouse-Five, and doesn't like it, I'll want to shout to them, "But it's rubbish! Cat's Cradle is much better!"

This is the sort of argument that used to be unwinnable -- you'd say Slaughterhouse-Five is the best, I'd argue for Cat's Cradle, and in the end, after some fisticuffs, we'd agree to disagree and go have a beer. But not anymore! We have data to help us settle the argument, definitively. Looking at the statistics for Slaughterhouse-Five and Cat's Cradle, one can see that while many times more people have read Slaughterhouse-Five (250,000 to 50,000), Cat's Cradle does have a higher average rating (4.16 to 3.87). Argument settled (Though you should really just read both books; they're both excellent). With this in mind, let's look at a few of the authors that Self argues are "famous for the wrong book."

To start with, Self suggests that Louis de Bernières should be remembered not for Captain Corelli's Mandolin (despite the Nicholas Cage movie adaptation) but for the superior Senor Vivo and the Coca Lord. A glance at the Goodreads statistics for the books supports Self's thesis -- while far more people have read Captain Corelli's Mandolin (8,000+), Senor Vivo is higher rated, with an average rating of 4.03 stars. It's worth noting that there are several lesser-known de Bernières works with average ratings higher than that of Captain Corelli's Mandolin.

How about the rest of Self's list. Unfortunately, the Goodreads data doesn't support Self's suggestion that Joseph Heller's Something Happened is superior to the more often-read Catch-22. Despite having been read by seventy times more people, Catch-22 has the higher average rating, by quite a bit (3.96 to 3.4).

And the Goodreads numbers again fail to support Self's position that Kazuo Ishiguro's The Unconsoled is a better book than his much more popular titles Never Let Me Go and The Remains of the Day; it has a lower average rating than either of them.

Still, it's fairly consistently true that an author's most read book will not be her most highly rated. For instance, Charles Dickens' highest rated book is not the more widely read A Tale of Two Cities, but rather his third-most widely read title, A Christmas Carol and the slightly more obscure Bleak House. The Brothers Karamazov, not the more popular Crime and Punishment, is Dostoevsky's highest-rated book. John Steinbeck's East of Eden has a whopping 4.31 average rating while his more well-read titles Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath fail to crack 4 stars.

This trend holds even for more contemporary authors. Aimee Bender's The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is by far her most widely read book, but it is not her highest rated; both The Girl in the Flammable Skirt and Willful Creatures have nearly a full star higher ratings. The highest rated Lorrie Moore book isn't A Gate at the Stairs, which has more than 6,000 ratings, but Self-Help, which has a mere 2,000 ratings. (I must mention one caveat with regards these contemporary examples: Since Goodreads is only a few years old, it stands to reason that the newest books -- those released since Goodreads has been around -- are going to have more ratings than older books, which people may not even remember they'd read.)

For every example, though, there are counter-examples. For instance, Jane Austen's most often-read title, Pride and Prejudice, is also her most beloved, with an average rating of 4.21. Jennifer Egan's latest book, A Visit from the Goon Squad, is both her best and most popular title, according to the Goodreads community.

I have a theory for why it is so often the case that an author's most famous work is rarely their highest rated. In the case of the classics, most readers encounter them first in school. As such, the ratings for those books are dragged down by those who bitterly recall being forced to read them. The more obscure works, meanwhile, are largely read by readers who have already read the more famous work and enjoyed it enough to seek out more of the author's work, leaving it with a higher average rating. As for the contemporary authors, I think a different phenomenon is in play. Often, an author will slowly build a readership, stacking great work on top of great work for years until, finally, they have a "hit" that many people read. Inevitably, some of these new readers won't find the author's style to their liking and will rate the book poorly. Those same readers aren't going to bother exploring the author's oeuvre any further, leaving their earlier works with a shinier average rating.

Of course it's also possible that people just like to say they prefer obscure books. I'd run the numbers for my favorite author, but he's pretty obscure. You probably haven't heard of him.
Believe It or Not, People Love Writing Book Reviews
Posted by Patrick Brown on July 18, 2011

A couple of weeks ago, in the journal n+1, Elizabeth Gumport published an impassioned critique of reviews, focusing specifically on book reviews. I doubt very much that I'll be able to summarize it, so please do click through and read it in its entirety. It is worth your time.

Gumport seems to have two critiques, one which applies to book reviews as publications (The New York Times Book Review, for instance) and the other to reviews themselves. While the first part of her argument rings true to me -- the role of the book review section has diminished and changed in recent years -- it's not the section I'd like to discuss. Rather, I'd like to focus on this line from near the end of Gumport's essay: "If we could read and write anything we wanted, what would we read and write? Probably not book reviews?"

Really? This doesn't fit with my experience here at Goodreads. At last count, we have over 8 million text reviews on the site (with at least 100 characters of text), and we add roughly 8 to 9,000 more each day. How do we reconcile this with Gumport's argument that we don't actually enjoy reading or writing book reviews? If this were true, why would so many people be flocking to a site to write book reviews?

The answer lies in the nature of our reviews. On Goodreads, a review is a personal opinion, and, more importantly, a jumping off point for a passionate discussion. While there are certainly some reviews on the site that fall into the trap of plot summary, most are emotional reactions -- what about the book was moving, which characters are likable and which aren't. This sets the stage for passionate debate of ideas among friends -- something that is fairly impossible in the traditional book review. Our members have commented on over 400,000 different reviews. That represents an astounding volume of literary dialog.

Furthermore, looking at our top reviews for the past week (those receiving the most "likes"), I'm struck by how creative and, in some cases, unconventional they are (Many of them use images, for instance). These are deeply personal creative pieces of writing, works that arguably share as much with the average blog post as they do with a book review. And they are clearly wildly popular. In fact, they appear to be gaining popularity, rather than losing it.

With that in mind, why do you read and write reviews? And what makes Goodreads reviews appealing while those of newspaper review sections appear to be waning in popularity?