Goodreads Blog
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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!
Importing book videos from publishers
Posted by Otis Chandler on April 09, 2009

In my my panel at Tools of Change, Tim Spaulding and I called out to book publishers to create API's to open up the meta-data about their books. Most of their data is available through other means already, but it is a pain to get. We didn't quite come to a solution, but one interesting thing has resulted out of this: videos from Youtube!

Random House has an account on YouTube with hundreds of author videos that they have favorited. We worked out with them that if they added link in the description of each video that contained the ISBN of the book mentioned, that we could then use YouTube's API to query those videos and automatically import them on the appropriate author and book pages on Goodreads. And it's working!

For instance, here is their feed:

If you're a publisher and have an account on YouTube, we suggest you do the same for your videos, and then send us the link to your YouTube account! This will ensure your videos will appear on Goodreads for readers to consume. So far we have 2,928 book related videos that have been viewed on Goodreads 68,625 times!
Goodreads hits 2 million members!
Posted by Otis Chandler on April 06, 2009

Goodreads just hit 2 million members! We're very honored and encouraged to have so many smart bookish people using Goodreads, and we can only promise to keep working hard to make it even better for the next million people who stop by.

Goodreads' mission is to help people read more books. We think it's working, as members so far have added over 46 million books to their profiles. This includes 4 million text reviews, 36 million ratings, and 7 million books that people want to read. Goodreads has a whopping 5,245,559 distinct works in it's catalog, and thanks to an army of Goodreads Librarians, we think one of the better book databases online.

Hitting an arbitrary milestone like this is always a great excuse to look back at the past year and see how things have changed. Here is a list of some of the bigger features we built in the last year—amazing to think they all didn't exist a year ago!

Thank you so much to everyone who helped make Goodreads so special. Let us know what your favorite feature of the last year is in the comments!
Get your Goodreads on the go with the new mobile site!
Posted by Otis Chandler on March 28, 2009

We launched a mobile site a little while back, and after a month of testing and tweaking it, it's now live for all to use! We optimized for iPhone & Blackberry, but it should work well on any mobile phone with internet browsing capabilities. You don't even have to do anything, just go to Goodreads on your mobile phone and we should auto-detect that you are on a phone and show you the mobile version of the site.

The mobile site is a lightweight version of the regular site that should meet the most basic mobile needs. Right now you can:
  • browse your shelves
  • search for books
  • add books to your read, currently-reading, and to-read shelves
  • update your status for books on your currently-reading shelf

It you have feedback or would like request more features please join in the discussion.

If your phone for some reason doesn't auto-detect that you are on a mobile device, you can reach the mobile site directly by going to

Here is a screenshot of what it looks like on an iPhone:

Goodreads mobile site screenshot
Integration with Feedbooks gives us ebook galore!
Posted by Otis Chandler on March 13, 2009

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Goodreads has always allowed members to attach an ebook to a book page (copyright allowing of course). But now we've partnered with Feedbooks to allow members to download all their public domain books - over 1,500 titles!

Public domain books include many of those classics that, in our humble opinion, shouldn't be missed. Have you ever read Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles? You can now get it instantly, along with other great titles such Pride and Prejudice, Oliver Twist, The Art of War, Dracula, Treasure Island, and many more.

Browse all our ebooks!

On each book you'll notice a download button on the right - just click that and select your preferred format.

author blogs!
Posted by Otis Chandler on March 06, 2009

Now you can follow your favorite author's blogs on Goodreads! Each author on Goodreads can now add a fully functional blog to their profile. Goodreads members can follow as many author blogs as they like, and there is a new tab on the home page that shows you recent blog posts from authors you are following!

For authors that have external blogs, they can add the external feed of their blog and we will syndicate it to all their followers. For authors that aren't on Goodreads yet, their external feed can be added by any librarian. Syndicated blogs only show a snippet of each post, and of course link back to the original post on the authors site.

I think that along with this is going to be a pretty fun feature. I'm already following blogs for Neil Gaiman, Paulo Coelho, Cory Doctorow, Chris Anderson, and more!

Here is a list of the most popular blogs that have already been created.

Here is a screenshot of what an author blog looks like:

Not a tweet to be heard
Posted by Otis Chandler on March 03, 2009

There was a very interesting article in the Guardian last week titled The joy of anti-social media. In it, the author argues that while social media sites around reading are great, in the end it's something best done alone. I both agree and disagree.

I agree that it's best to read alone. It's the only way you can get your mind clear to think in peace! But I disagree that those thoughts you have while reading should be kept to yourself. I can learn so much more about an idea by reading about it online. I can use those thoughts to build even bigger thoughts of my own. I can find people who think differently and engage them. That's powerful stuff!

One quote in the article really resonated:

"And I still seek the majority of my literary recommendations and debates offline. Maybe it is because literary taste is such an unpredictable and idiosyncratic beast that the "you liked that so you'll like this" principle rarely works."

That is exactly why we built Goodreads - to do that online and much more efficiently! You won't find the Amazonian recommendation algorithms on Goodreads - it's all about sharing book recommendations with your friends!

The caption of this photo was "Not a tweet to heard". Love it!
Fan the Flames of Fandom!
Posted by Ken-ichi on February 18, 2009

Some of you may have noticed it in your update feeds, but fans and favorite authors have come to Goodreads! Well, ok, there have always been fans around here, and they've always had their favorite authors, but now everyone can show off their favorite authors on their profile pages, and show up on the profile pages of those authors.

As of this writing, Neil Gaiman is the author with the most fans, followed closely by J.K. Rowling, but we're still only the double digits, so find your favorite authors and become their fans! Here are mine:

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Calling all Writers for the Goodreads Status Update Writing Contest!
Posted by Jessica Donaghy on February 18, 2009

As announced in our February newsletter, Goodreads is hosting its first ever Status Update Writing Contest. There are 10 days left - all official entries must be posted before March 1, 2009. Get those creative juices flowing!

The "status update" is the web's newest reinvention of communication. We want to know how creative writers can be when they are challenged to tell a story through multiple status updates over the course of a day, with only 140 characters to work with per post. You have to make every character count.

Also, due to popular demand, we've opened the contest to Twitter users. This means you can post your story via your Goodreads status updates or your Twitter account. Either way, you must join the contest group and post your story's start date & time. Twitter users: don't forget to start each tweet with #goodreads. This will help us find and read your story from start to finish. The contest group includes official rules, a step-by-step how-to for writers unfamiliar with status updates, and general food for thought.

Are you a reader, not a writer? You can also join the contest group if you simply want to follow the contest happenings. We'll post all the stories at the end of the contest and create a poll to select a winner!

Show us how much can happen within 140 characters! Good luck!