Goodreads Blog
Goodreads Blog posts (showing 271-280 of 524)
book mapping
Posted by Ken-ichi on February 25, 2011

I love maps, and Goodreads has the data to generate some interesting visualizations of reading habits tied to location, so I figured I'd do a little map-making. The simplest form of geographic data we store are US postal codes, so I focused on making regional maps of US metropolitan areas, starting, of course, with the San Francisco Bay Area, where I live. First of all, here's a map of users in mind-numbing pink:

Woah! I think I'm blind. Note that the intensity of the color is on a log scale, so smaller values are more exaggerated than larger ones (please forgive my cartographic irresponsibility in not including legend, just didn't have time to figure one out). Not sure what the deal with the numbers in the South Bay are all about. I actually had to remove Palo Alto all together b/c a lot of users who only use the Facebook app get logged as being from there. Oops.

Now, here's one for reviews of books by Michael Pollan, slightly calmer color scheme:

Here the intensity of the color correlates with the number of reviews by people in the zip code divided by the total number of people in that zip code. This isn't perfect because people can review multiple editions of a book or read multiple books by an author, but it's a decent proxy metric. You can see Pollan's greater popularity in wealthy, urban areas like SF and Berkeley. These values are also log-normalized, and I just didn't show data from zips with less than 50 people, since I figured there was too much skew there (I know, not exactly science). Areas with less than 50 users or no data are shown in grey.

Now check out Stephanie Meyer:

Meyer is so popular that it really isn't necessary to log-normalize the data. Here's the same data on a linear scale and zoomed out a bit:

See, now that's interesting (to me at least). What are we seeing here? Urban / suburban? Liberal / conservative? Adults / kids? Let's repeat the Meyer experiment in some other cities.



Houston (what's up with those empty areas?!)



I'll leave it to you guys to draw your own conclusions.

Sources & Tools

header redesign
Posted by Ken-ichi on February 16, 2011

You may have noticed the site header is looking a little different, and that's because we recently redesigned it. There were a couple things we wanted to achieve:

1) reveal more of the site through dropdowns (and improve navigability a bit)

There are a bunch of drop-down menus with direct links to different parts of the site, including your groups, giveaways, your default shelves, etc.

2) take up less vertical space

Navigation and branding are important, of course, but having a slimmer header puts a little more focus on the content.

3) emphasize search

The search box is now over on the left and somewhat more noticeable. This might take a little getting used to, but we hope it will also make it easier for new users to look up books. Search also includes auto-completion.

4) more prominence to notifications

New messages and friend requests will now show in red boxes in the header. You can also now access your notifications by using the drop down menu next to your name in the upper right.

Redesigns never please everyone, so we hope you don't find this change too jarring. We've tried to incorporate a lot of input from you guys through the Feedback Group, so if you have thoughts or suggestions, you can let us know there. Nothing is set in stone (stone websites having gone out of fashion in the early 90s).
Introducing the New Goodreads "g"
Posted by Patrick Brown on February 11, 2011

How many times have you wished that you could add a simple, beautiful graphic representation of Goodreads to your blog, website, email signature, etc? All the time, right? I know the feeling. Our logo is great, but it's a little long. It lacks the simplicity, the impact of single letter. All of that is about to change.

You may have noticed that we have our snazzy new favicon (that's the little image that appears in the address bar of your browser when you visit a website). We're quite taken with it, and as such, we would like you to use it to help us spread the word about Goodreads.

It's simple, really: Go to our API page (Don't worry if you do know what an API is, you won't need to.) or just scroll to the bottom of this post. Scroll to the very bottom of the page, and choose from one of the handy sizes we've made. Right click or control click on the image and click "save image as" to save it to your computer.

You can add the Goodreads "g" to your blog, website, email signature, Facebook page, etc. Make it a clickable image that will take people straight to your profile on Goodreads, your author page or book page, or even your favorites shelf. Maybe you could design a kite with the Goodreads "g" and fly it at the beach this summer. Or make a patch and sew it onto your backpack. Or get it tattooed on your body. Think of it -- your very own Goodreads "g" forever emblazoned on the body part of your choice! The possibilities are limitless.

Here is the Goodreads "g" in all its various sizes and glory:

Reading Across the Gender Line
Posted by Patrick Brown on February 10, 2011

Yesterday,'s Laura Miller posted an article lamenting the fact that fewer books by women are reviewed in the press than books by men, and that, furthermore, there are fewer female reviewers in these book review publications -- such as The New York Review of Books, The Atlantic, and Harper's -- than there are male reviewers. Miller quotes statistics posted by Vida, an organization for women in literary arts. Miller also points to a comment by Ruth Franklin, noting that fewer books by women are reviewed because fewer books by women are published. By most estimates, this turns out to be true (in the world of literary fiction, at least). The question with all of this is why? Why are fewer books by women published and reviewed?

Miller provides an answer:

The imbalance in books published is indeed a puzzle; book publishers, like any other business, want to make money, and multiple surveys indicate that women buy and read far more books than men do. (This fact has long been established within the book business, but since some Salon readers have questioned it in the past, please see the National Endowment for the Arts "Reading at Risk" report.) If women were only -- or even primarily -- interested in books by women, the logic of the marketplace would dictate that publishers should release more titles by female authors.

And here's where we have to get anecdotal. There's really no hard data on how many books by male authors are read by women readers and vice versa, nor are we likely to ever see any. But try this: Ask six bookish friends -- three men and three women -- to list their favorite authors or favorite books, without explaining your motivation. Then see how many male authors the women list and whether the men list any female authors at all.

Oh, but we do have the statistics! We have data on how many books by women are read by men and vice versa. In 2010, of all the reviews posted by male users on Goodreads, only 18.3% of them were of books written by women. In contrast, 38.6% of the reviews posted by women were of books written by men. You don't have to be Bill James to see what this means -- last year, women were more than twice as likely as men to read and review a book by an author of the opposite gender.

Why is this the case? I can't say. I've tried hard to recognize my own reading prejudices, though I'm aware I could stand to diversify my shelves quite a bit more. I've also learned that there's no ground to be gained in shaming people about what they choose to read. Still, I echo Laura Miller's sentiments when she says: "A novelist I used to know once defiantly informed me (apropos of nothing we'd been talking about) that he'd never read a Jane Austen novel and had no intention of ever reading one. Deeming him something of a lost cause, I kept my mouth shut, but it was clear he expected me to get indignant, and to scold. Instead, I could only look at him with pity. The loss was entirely his."

I am proud to say that Goodreads has been quick to recognize the many great books published in 2010 that were written by women. In the 2010 Goodreads Choice Awards, books by women took home 16 of the 23 awards, including Favorite Book of 2010, Best Fiction, and Best Non-Fiction. Of course, Goodreads represents a different world than that of a traditional book review publication. We welcome readers of all books, whereas the focus of The Atlantic, for instance, is highly literary and somewhat narrow. Our membership is also majority female (and it's not even close). So perhaps it makes sense that Goodreads members would be more likely to recognize female authors than the literary establishment is.

I'm fond of ending posts with a question, and the question in this case is obvious: How parochial are your reading habits? Do you tend to read books only by men or women? Do you think about this at all when you're choosing what you'll read next?
What Sort of Book Wins an Oscar?
Posted by Patrick Brown on January 27, 2011

This past Tuesday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences posted its nominations for its annual awards. The Oscars aren't for another few months, but the debate has already begun. Will The Social Network win Best Picture? Can anyone stop Colin Firth from taking home the Best Actor award? Why was Hailee Steinfeld nominated for Supporting Actress when she was clearly the lead in True Grit? And will Christopher Nolan show up and crash the podium -- Kanye West-style -- to claim Best Director? Only time will tell.

Unsurprisingly, several of the Best Picture nominees were adapted from books. Adaptations have historically done well at the Academy Awards, with over 25 winners coming from the world of literature. Unforgettable movies like Gone with the Wind, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and The Silence of the Lambs won over fans on shelves before they dazzled on the screen. But it isn't always wildly popular best-sellers that win big on Oscar night. Lesser-known titles often prevail over their blockbuster counterparts. In fact, it's a good rule of thumb that if you want to win an Oscar, don't adapt the most popular book of the era. Obscure titles are often a better bet to win.

With that in mind, we thought it might be fun to use Goodreads data to look at some of the books that inspired past Oscar winners. Have the films' glory impacted the popularity of the books? Are the movies that win Best Picture mostly adapted from popular best-sellers or do obscure books sometimes carry the day? Let's take a look.

Here are the most notable adaptations to have won the Academy Award for Best Picture, along with the total number of ratings (that's how many times someone has added it to their shelves) as well as the average rating on Goodreads:

Book # of Ratings Average Rating
All Quiet on the Western Front 28,541 3.73
Gone with the Wind 156,441 4.14
Rebecca 37,088 4.07
How Green Was My Valley 2,100 4.09
The Lost Weekend 108 4.05
Hamlet 73,925 4.03
All the King's Men 7,007 4.06
Ben-Hur 1,193 4.06
The Godfather 18,053 4.21
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest 45,806 4.13
Ordinary People 3,956 3.75
Out of Africa 4,104 3.91
Dances with Wolves 1,030 3.78
The Silence of the Lambs 103,639 3.84
Schindler's List 5,702 4.16
Braveheart 294 3.64
The English Patient 15,049 3.78
A Beautiful Mind 3,020 3.75
The Return of the King (LoTR) 81,1147 4.40
Million Dollar Baby (Originally titled Rope Burns) 265 3.83
No Country for Old Men 19,409 3.97
Slumdog Millionaire (adapted from Q&A) 4,445 3.87

As you can see, there's a mix of very popular titles like Gone with the Wind and Silence of the Lambs, as well as some titles that have remained more obscure despite the Oscar win. Can it be that fewer than 300 people have rated The Lost Weekend on Goodreads? Apparently, it is.

The average number of ratings for past Best Picture winners is 27,833. The average rating for those books is 3.956. One other interesting note: The only Goodreads Author to have a book adapted into a Best Picture winner? Michael Blake, whose Dances with Wolves won the Academy Award in 1991.

This year, there are four Best Picture nominees that have been adapted from books:

The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich. This was adapted into the Golden Globe-winning The Social Network. Goodreads members seem pretty split on this book. David Sawyer says: "I haven't been this glued to a book in a while. The extra short chapters made the book feel fast-paced, a perfect device for telling the story of the meteoric rise of Facebook. I've always been a huge fan of Facebook, even when it was "thefacebook," so it was great to read about its genesis. Or, should I say, alleged genesis?" But Alexandra says: "The book disappoints me. There is an extreme deficiency of literary value. There is little description and real development of the characters. You don't get a glimpse into their thought processes, minds, feelings... This book is as cold as a circuit board."

Stats: 1,958 ratings, 3.22 average rating

True Grit by Charles Portis. This is actually the second adaptation of True Grit. The first brought John Wayne his only Oscar for Best Actor (despite, as I mentioned in the opening, his character playing a more supporting role). Most Goodreads users liked this book a lot. Mike Ingram says: "Not usually a Tracking Bad Guys Through The Indian Territories kinda reader, but read this because of how much I like Portis' other work. And it's great -- lively, often laugh-out-loud funny, with some action sequences toward the end that are riveting in that Hardy Boys final-chase-scene way (except better written, and funnier). And the last chapter almost -- almost! -- made me weepy."

Stats: 1,696 ratings, 4.11 average rating

Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Rolston. This was adapted into 127 Hours, starring dreamboat Oscar host (and author!) James Franco. Goodreads reviews were pretty mixed for this one, which is, of course, the well-known true story of the hiker who cut off his own arm to survive. Michael Buozis says: "There is only one character in this book, and that character is, you guessed it, Aron Ralston. Between a Rock and a Hard Place is Ralston's account of his ordeal pinned to a canyon wall by a half-ton chockstone in Blue John Canyon. He alternates between chapters telling of the delirium of those five days and the choices he must make, and a sort of "how I came to be the way I am" recounting of his life story. The irony of the book reveals itself to the reading pretty early on. A seemingly random accident, with a one-in-a-million rescue, has been fated for this kid his whole damn life. I call Ralston a "kid" (even though he was my age when he had this accident) because he shows time and time again that he has learned very few lessons from his great experience of the world."

Stats: 1,539 ratings, 3.70 average rating

Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell. This is probably the dark horse in this year's race, but everyone has been raving about the film, so who knows. Many Goodreads members connected with the story of Ree, a 16-year-old girl tasked with bringing her father to a high-stakes court date. Goodreads member Karen says: "this is no morality tale, it is just a slice of a life that is happening, unsung, in america. it's too short a book for me to say much about without rooning [sic] it for everyone, but i loved it like crazy, and will have to get all his other, out of print, books into my hands..."

Stats: 1,577 ratings, 3.93 average rating

And Winter's Bone might be the only of these three titles to experience a real surge in readership due to its nomination. As you can see, a fair number of people have added the book to their to-read shelves since its nomination on Tuesday:

It's worth noting that all four books have found roughly the same size audience, despite being about radically different subjects. True Grit has the highest average rating, but as we saw from the list of previous winners, that doesn't guarantee success. The Accidental Billionaires has the most ratings, but opinions on it are quite mixed. And mass appeal doesn't seem to be what wins Oscars, at least not for adaptations. The three most popular books that were adapted this year -- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Eclipse (Twilight 3), and Eat, Pray, Love -- failed to win nominations for Best Picture (shockingly).

So who will win? I think the Goodreads numbers suggest True Grit will take home the award. But I could be wrong? Who are you pulling for this year?
Will 2011 Be the Year of the Ebook?
Posted by Patrick Brown on January 26, 2011

At the very beginning of the year, USA Today made an announcement that made many in the publishing business take note. The week after the holidays, their top six bestsellers -- enormously popular books like Girl with the Dragon Tattoo -- sold better in ebook than in print. This makes sense, as everyone who received an ebook reader -- a Kindle, Sony Reader, Nook, iPad, and the like -- was no doubt eager to try it out. Additionally, who wants to brave the cold to go shopping for a physical book the week after Christmas when many bookworms had likely already unwrapped a month's worth of reading. Of course ebooks sold better than print that week.

But what if the jump in ebook sales is more indicative of a larger trend? What if 2011 is going to be the year that ebooks make "the leap" and become the dominant form of reading? We thought it might be illuminating to look at the growth of ebooks on Goodreads over the past two years as an indication for where we're headed.

To look at the rise of ebooks on Goodreads, we started by checking the total number of reviews posted to Goodreads for each of the three major formats (audiobooks are a pretty distant fourth, so we didn't include those numbers). The trouble with this approach is that Goodreads has been growing at such a rapid rate that the numbers of reviews is rising. To account for the growth of Goodreads itself, we decided instead to look at what percentage of reviews are tied to the ebook edition, as opposed to the paperback or the hardcover. The numbers were somewhat interesting. Here are the graphs for paperbacks, hardcovers, and ebooks from January 2009 to December 2010:




As you can see, ebooks are clearly on the rise. They currently represent a little under 4% of the total reviews on Goodreads, so while paperbacks and hardcovers are still much more popular, ebooks are gaining ground. There are a few caveats here, as there are with any set of data. First, not everyone on Goodreads shelves exactly the edition they are reading at that moment. As you can see from this poll, better than half of responders don't shelve the exact edition of their book. In fact, most shelve an edition with the same cover as theirs. This no doubt skews our data on editions somewhat. If you assume that only 40% of people are adding the specific edition, the number of ebook readers out there is likely much higher. The other caveat is that many of most our data sources were not providing the actual ebook editions via their APIs and data feeds at the beginning of 2009. By the end of 2010, most were. It stands to reason that with the actual ebook editions available for the first time, we would see a rise in the number of people choosing those editions, which indeed we do.

But even if we assume that ebooks represent, says, 8% of the reviews on Goodreads, that means that physical books are still much more popular than ebooks. This makes sense, as even though USA Today found ebook sales to be outpacing print sales for the most popular books, it made no such claim about the market as a whole. Most industry analysts have put ebook marketshare at anywhere from 3% to 10%, meaning that our numbers are more or less in line with theirs.

Still, a jump from less than 1% to nearly 4% (and likely higher) is a significant increase in activity. From the three format graphs, we can see that most of this is coming at the expense of paperbacks. We thought it might be interesting to look at who is reading these ebooks. Just for fun, here are the graphs of the reviews by format for women and men.



As you can see, women seem to be adopting ebooks at a faster rate than their male counterparts. Not coincidentally, women are also reading fewer paperbacks than they were a year ago, while men have read hardcovers and paperbacks at roughly consistent rates. If these graphs are an accurate representation of the current book reading (and book buying) market, then it would appear that it's the paperbacks more than hardcovers that are losing ground to their electronic brethren. This is somewhat surprising, as many ebook sales seem to happen during the first weeks of a book's release, the time usually reserved for hardcover sales. It's possible that the paperback slippage is due to avid readers -- those who have read 50 or more books in the past year -- switching from paperbacks to ebooks. This makes some sense, as readers who read more stand to benefit the most from switching to ebooks, while a light reader might not read enough to offset the cost of a device.

The numbers back this up, to a degree. Goodreads members who rated 20 or fewer books last year posted an average of 3.0% of their reviews on ebook editions. Members who rated 21-50 books last year posted 2.8% of their reviews to ebooks. But users who rated more than 50 books last year posted 3.8% of their reviews to ebook editions. These very active readers are clearly the vanguard of ebook consumption.

How about you? Have you changed your reading habits in the last year? Are you reading more ebooks, or are you a fan of the physical?
Barcode Scanner in iPhone app
Posted by Ettore Pasquini on January 24, 2011

The latest version of the iPhone app (1.1.5) features a barcode scanner! We added this feature for two reasons: to scan your books and easily add them to your Goodreads account, and to quickly pop up information about a book, if for example you are in a bookstore trying to decide which book to buy.

The scanner is available in the iPhone app under My Books. After each scan you will see the book title and cover appear at the top of the screen: if you tap on that, you can quickly see reviews about the book you just scanned. Regardless, all your scans will be saved in a list that you can browse once you close the scanner. From there, you can add them to your shelves or simply read the reviews whenever you want.

Barcode scan in Goodreads iPhone appScanned books in Goodreads iPhone app

There's one known issue though: the scanner will close on its own if you leave it open for too long. This is necessary to work around a problem in the actual barcode scanning software, which is not under our control. Your scanned books won't be lost. A workaround to this issue is to force-close some of your other apps running in the background.

We hope the barcode scanner will make it even easier to add your books on Goodreads and improve your experience at your favorite bookstore!

UPDATE: I added some topics in the help section for the most common problems related to the barcode scanner (and the iPhone app in general). Please refer to those first for a possible answer to your questions.

UPDATE 2: version 1.2.1 adds the widely requested "mass-add" feature: add all your scans to the read or to-read shelves, as well as the ability to just clear your scan list.
Goodreads Mascot Competition Results + Shop
Posted by Michael Economy on January 20, 2011

The Goodreads Mascot Competition has concluded. Here are the results:


Book bee by Maggie Reuter

Second place

winston the hedgehog by Michael Gruen

Third place

octavo by stephanie keefe

Mascot memorabilia including tshirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, tote bags, and mugs is available in our Goodreads Store.

Here are the official poll results:

Thanks to all everyone who participated
Spoiler Tags
Posted by Louise on January 20, 2011

After I finish reading a book, I'm excited to discuss it with others on Goodreads. Some of these other people may not have read the book yet and would be pretty angry if I had spoiled the ending for them. That's why we finally added in support for spoiler tags.

In discussion group comments and book reviews, members can now mark text as spoilers by surrounding the text with <spoiler> and </spoiler> tags. Anything between those tags will be hidden in a "(view spoiler)" link. The spoilers won't be revealed until that link is clicked.


We've been talking about spoiler tags in this feedback thread. Join us in there for questions and comments.
2011 Reading Challenge
Posted by M a y a on January 10, 2011

It's January, the time for New Year's Resolutions. At Goodreads, many of us hope to read more this year. Join us by entering the 2011 Reading Challenge!

To date, we have more than 20,000 people participating, with a total goal of more than 1.7 million books across all users! And users have already read more than 39,000 books in 2011 toward their goals.

Check back to the challenge page to see your friends' progress, and the Goodreads users' totals.

Also, you may display your progress on your blog or website with our new reading challenge widget.

Happy reading!

Join the 2011 Reading Challenge »