Goodreads Developers discussion

feature requests > Add book-specific notes or underlinings

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message 1: by David (last edited Mar 22, 2013 12:05PM) (new)

David (davidanthonynunez) | 1 comments First, I'd like to thank you guys for putting together a website and app like Goodreads. It fulfilled an immediate need and I kept finding new layers and more uses for it as time went on. It's wonderful for helping me to figure out if a book I'm eyeing at a store is well-liked and if they're selling it at a good value. And much in the same way that music and movie services help you discover new works you wouldn't otherwise have found, this is helping me to really go deeper into a particular genre. And unlike Netflix and iTunes, the recommendations Goodreads comes up with are spot-on.

In the months leading up to learning of Goodreads I had been using a pocket-wiki to compile lists of books I had read, books I was current reading, and books I hoped to read someday. Being obsessed with making it more than a simple list, I had searched out URLs for links to those books and authors on Amazon and embedded them into my book listings. So when I found Goodreads I was really happy to see a feature like that available and done with such a level of thoroughness.

There is still one thing which I still use the pocket wiki to do, and I wanted to mention it as a feature request. I jot down notes or word-for-word extracts of key sentences as I progress through a book I'm reading. Some of these extracts are "quote worthy" and I might add a quote on Goodreads later, but quite often they would just sound silly to add as such are are really there to help me remember key points in the book (Goodreads quotes to me seem more like broad-sweeping and often inspirational pieces).

Since I believe the majority of readers are engrossed in works of fiction, I don't think this would be a really useful tool for them and for those types of books. However, a high-school or college student might - like me - find themselves needing to mark a sentence they came across or write down a short note on a term or idea. Whether it be to help a student study later for finals, keeping track of a term or literary character introduced far earlier in the book (which is now difficult to remember), making a highlight or quick note is indispensable. But that introduces the problems of notes being scattered amongst assorted notebook papers or throughout the book in slapdash highlights & underlining.

I believe we bookworms are facing a crisis in dealing with highlights and underlines in otherwise perfectly good copies of used books. Beautiful books are being made ugly and permanently associated with some anonymous person's mind, and it's most unfortunate (slight tongue-and-cheek). It wouldn't even be so bad if one even ran across underlines & highlights that actually mark useful pieces of the book, but this rarely seems to be the case. Books must be saved from these vandals!

I already use Goodreads to mark the progress through several books I have open at a time, and I thought I read recently that you guys are taking it to another level of detail by beginning the marking of chapters themselves. I guess then I'm proposing a possible long term feature where I could pull up the specific book (and perhaps a chapter) and type in a short note.

It seems you guys are always trying to get more accurate, detailed and helpful information cataloged on all the world's books (the existence of Goodreads librarians attests to that ambition and to what a mammoth undertaking it is to cover all that material), and I believe a feature like this could help increase the number of book reviews that get added by users. Once you've finished a book, it's often difficult to recall everything you enjoyed and even more so to come up with specifics that you could pen into a book review. The more complicated the genre and the more far-removed it is from fiction, the more difficult this becomes. If however, users were able to mark underlines/highlights, concepts, and even quick thoughts as they go, then all that pertinent information is available to them when they finish the book and are prompted to rate it and compile a review. Perhaps in one of those notes they've been working on a "draft" of their book review too. So creating a tool to help absorb material as you go could lead to more pertinent book reviews.

I think an important point in a tool that helps you log your notes is that it help you out by categorizing what type of note. There are a few categories I can think of myself, but I believe there are others that make just as much sense (if not more):

* New Character - This one was my wife's idea and she described the difficulty in some novels she reads (ones were there are a lot of foreign names) in keeping track of ancillary characters. Some minor character may be introduced in an earlier chapter, but when they show up again late in the book you find yourself thumbing back through the novel trying to recall any information on them. If you enter a note of this type, perhaps a corresponding field would be made available for the character's name, and one more field to type a sentence or two about them.

* Term - Textbooks often mark in bold or italics any important terms or concepts the student is expected to remember. However, not every book does this, and even if they do the reader still has to flip through pages of the book or of their notes later.

* Highlight/Underline - Word for word reproductions of sentences in the book (yes please, stop vandalizing your books!). I believe a nice corresponding feature to this would be if you could later turn any of these into a Goodreads quote at the click of a button. Not all highlights are quote-worthy; I have a psychology book were the previous owner underlined "this patient was a catatonic schizoprenic", which is meaningful only to the course charted through reading by their particular mind (and is therefore private). The user here could have decided to keep the highlight like that private, but turn one of the book's more inspirational sentences into a quote.

* Questions - A reader inevitably gets confused and that turns into frustration later in a class discussion where the professor asks if anyone had any questions and the reader forgot what they were earlier confused by. If you could keep track of a question then it helps the reader better understand the book. Perhaps also you could attach a corresponding "Answer" field to this type of note in case you solve it later. And in the end if you've finished the book and your question still wasn't answered, perhaps there could be a feature where you click a button to turn it into a new Goodreads book discussion post.

* Study Notes - Thoughts you may have on something you just read, some other book/author it reminded you of, or something the professor said in class.

* Book Review Rough Draft - Work on your review as you go.

The last point I wanted to make on this feature is the visibility of a user note. To me it makes sense to default a note to "private" visibility. Some actions, such as turning a rough draft into a book review or turning a highlight/underline into a quote would make it public just by nature of that transition, but others you could choose to make public. Perhaps when you finish the book and the normal screen appears where you can rate the book and enter your review, that screen could be tailored to pre-populate the textarea with any rough draft you've penned. And below the textarea element where you're penning your review, each of the Study Notes and Highlights/Underlines you've taken can appear for you to reference while you're putting together your review. Next to each note below the book review there could be a checkbox that you could mark if you wish for that note to be made public when your book rating and review are published. Otherwise, though those notes would remain private they would still show up for you whenever you navigate to that book's main page, broken down by chapter and by note type.

I realize Goodreads is not a note-taking app and also that such a feature is likely difficult to implement. I personally think it easiest for me to keep book notes as closely married to the book data as possible and to keep from having a scattering of papers and book pages to sift through later when I need to paraphrase key ideas in the book or to study its content for a test.

message 2: by Michael (new)

Michael Economy (michaeleconomy) Good thoughts here, thanks!

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