Goodreads Blog
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New way to shelf your books
Posted by Otis on June 11, 2008 1

We launched a new interface for adding books to your shelves last week. You should now find it much easier to add books to your to-read shelf, or add a book to multiple shelves at once - both highly requested features!

A quick usability study:

Problems with the old shelves UI were:
- Members often didn't understand that a book had to be on one of three default shelves (read, to-read, currently-reading)
- Members often didn't know they could create their own shelves
- To add a book to the 'to-read' shelf (our most popular shelf by far) it took several clicks

The new solution:
- A new dropdown that visually makes clear that the default shelves are exclusive and others are not.
- The new dropdown also makes adding a new shelf much more apparent
- A hover menu over the 'add to my books' button that easily with one click lets members choose read, to-read, or currently-reading.

Note: Some tag-savvy members sometime ask why we didn't just call our shelves tags - after all, they are essentially the same thing, with a slightly more constricted interface. The answer is that tags are just still not mainstream. They are getting more so, but why make it confusing for the 70% of the popular that doesn't know what a tag is - when they all know what a shelf is?

New hover menu to easily add a book:

New "dropdown" to edit shelves:

Old add/edit shelf dropdown:

Allen County Public Library Video Tour of Goodreads
Posted by Otis on June 11, 2008 1

Some Goodreaders who work for the Allen County Public Library made some really nice video tours of Goodreads. They were too good to avoid posting here - so enjoy!

part 1

part 2

JK Rowling's Harvard Commencement Speech
Posted by Otis on June 09, 2008 1

Just listened to it - good stuff if you haven't seen it yet!

Graduation speeches are funny things. Graduates are ready to get out of there, and a few tidbits of advice from some bigwig probably isn't really going to change their career paths. But I think they can be useful to look back on. My favorite all time is from one of my role model's: Steve Job's commencement speech at Stanford in 2005. Steve basically said to follow your passions - wherever they might lead. Advice that I agree with fully :)

Rowling's first message was that it's ok to fail, and that the only way to succeed to is first fail. Thomas Edison had a similar quote. Some quotes that resonated with me:

"Failure meant the stripping away of the nonessential."

"You might be driven more by a fear of failure than a desire to succeed." (I'm reading the book Sway by Ori Brafman right now and this resonated.)

"It is impossible to live without failure. Unless you live so cautiously that you avoid life - in which case you fail by default."

JK Rowling hasn't written a book since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - but if she follows her own advice I think we'll see her start to give back to the world. She closed with a powerful message of the social responsibility of those who have the power to make a difference. A great quote was "We do not need magic to transform our world".

Read the full text here.
Ever thine, ever mine, ever ours
Posted by Jessica on June 03, 2008 603238

Amid all the insultingly obvious product placement in the new Sex & The City movie (I laughed, I cried, I abso-f***ing-lutely loved it), I was thrilled to see Carrie Bradshaw reading and cherishing a book. A real book! For a heroine who writes for a living, Carrie seems to spend more time out on the town than in bed reading. So this was a welcome sight.

But is it a real book? A quick Google search reveals that no one is exactly sure what book she's reading. Here are the top two candidates:

1) Love Letters of Great Men and Women
2) 50 Greatest Love Letters of All Time

Either way, you're sure to get a huge sampling of passionate reading. Who needs Mr. Big when you can read about the loves of Benjamin Franklin, Michelangelo Buonarroti, and even Jack Kerouac?

Other intriguing love letter anthologies found on Goodreads:
1) Other People's Love Letters: 150 Letters You Were Never Meant to See
2) Four Letter Word (collection of fictional letters from great writers like Audrey Niffenegger, Margaret Atwood, and Jonathan Lethem)
3) Love Letters: An Anthology

Write your reviews and tell us which one is the juiciest!
Goodreads at BookExpo
Posted by Otis on May 27, 2008 1

BookExpo is in our backyard this year - Los Angeles! The Goodreads team will be running around at the conference on thursday & friday. If you'd like to schedule something to meet us please drop an email to

We're also organizing an informal meet-up after the festivities on Friday. Please join us for some drinks - details here!

new book montage widget
Posted by Otis on May 26, 2008 1

Decided to have some fun with widgets today. Inspired from one of the top Facebook apps, I made a new 'book montage' widget. It's a javascript widget, so it will only work on blogs that allow javascript widgets. Like our flash widget, its full configurable in terms of which books you show, and how many. The other cool part is its variable width, so it will fit anywhere!

Check it out in action below — or get started configuring your own!

Order your to-read shelf!
Posted by Otis on May 13, 2008 1

We've made some improvements to the recently launched order your to-read shelf feature.

In addition to being able to move items up and down, you can now use the edit view to enter the exact number you'd like to reorder the list to! This interface has worked well for Netflix so we thought - why reinvent the wheel?

On a side note I think the ability to order my shelves (you can make any shelf orderable in 'edit shelves') is the coolest feature we've launched this year. From a usability perspective what was happening was that as people added more and more books to their to-read list it became so large as to be useless - people were being forced to make separate 'to-read-soon' lists. I believe the ordering will fix this issue - and set the stage for many other things!

Here's a screenshot:

Goodreads Indonesia gathering
Posted by Otis on May 11, 2008 1

Evidently some of our nearly fifty thousand Indonesian members organized a gathering. A picture is worth a thousand words, so all I'll say is that this makes my heart feel all warm and fuzzy :)

What do you want on your homepage?
Posted by Otis on May 08, 2008 1

Now you can get get recent updates from your groups on your Goodreads homepage! While many members love the updates from the friends, many people have mentioned that their groups are updated more frequently, and they'd love a better way to keep tabs on it.

There are now 4 tabs on the homepage, allowing members to see updates from their friends, top friends, groups, or just view books or reviews from thteir friends.

One search to rule them all
Posted by Otis on May 08, 2008 1

We launched a great new feature a few weeks ago that hasn't been mentioned yet on this blog. You can now search across all searchable items from the main search page (accessible in the header). Previously the main search page only searched books, and it was up to the user to navigate to the index pages for groups, quotes, events, stories, and people to search them.

Having six different search pages in six different areas just didn't make a lot of sense! It made a lot of the great content basically invisible for lots of members. We really hope hope the new search page leads lots of new members to find all the great content that exists in the various sub-areas of the site.

Here's a screenshot of the new page: