Thursday, May 16, 2013

Booklikes, or Reviewing a Review Site

After Goodreads announced their purchase by Amazon I started to look for other options.  I have discovered of the course of this past year that I really like the ability to track and organize my reading.  I say over the course of this past year because I've had LibraryThing and Goodreads accounts for something approaching 5-6 years, and this past year and a half really marked the first time I've ever fully embraced them.

I imported my entire Goodreads collection into LibraryThing, which has some fantastic tools but I'm just not satisfied with the layout.  Additionally I am WAY past the 200 book limit for a free account and need to buy a lifetime membership (makes little sense to me to buy the annual membership) in addition to tweaking the imports and their shelving/tagging schemes.

I also imported my entire collection to a new site called Booklikes which didn't possess everything I was looking for, but was well packaged with appealing visual design.  Since I imported my entire collection several of the key features initially lacking have been added and functionality continues to expand.  Somehow it also had not registered before this week that the site was still in beta.  Wow.  The performance difference between accessing the site while in beta vs live is immediate.  Everything loads quicker (and with more accuracy).  I'm no longer experiencing some of the odd quirky errors that are likely a side effect of a product in demo run juggling all the databases of individual user collections and cross-walking to the data sources.

Booklikes is distinctly more of a blogging site than Goodreads.  Think LiveJournal vs Facebook but with bookshelves.  Booklikes does not (yet) have the rich user interaction of Goodreads, but instead focuses on more involved user content supporting not only book reviews and blog posts but photo and video.  Since going live on Tuesday social functionality has already taken steps forward, so I expect to see this continue to grow.

I had a surprising amount of fun going back through my collection and reshelving/tagging.  It is very easy create and edit shelves.  I would like to see bulk editing of shelf contents, but I mostly wished for that when sorting through my ~560 imported titles.  Once the bulk of my collection is massaged and sorted I generally have limited need for bulk additions of titles to shelves.  I think my collection is now far better organized than what sits on Goodreads.

The blogging platform that Booklikes utilizes allows for multiple reviews of the same book, as well as reviews flagged for multiple titles.  I expect to have fun with this down the road, the ability to write new and updated reviews as I find my reactions to books have changed or maybe had a chance to percolate.  Also like many blogging platforms, you have the option of adding pages to your booklikes blog, as well as options for customizing your URL.  Additionally Booklikes supports publication to Twitter and Facebook, as well as supports affiliate programs with a growing number of book sellers.

Finding books supports author, title, and ISBN (both 10 and 13) searches.  I would like to see a move towards federated searching across data sources, but it is very simple to switch between.  If the book cannot be found adding a title is easy.  You have the option of including or excluding data sources in your settings, including sources from different countries.  Speaking of countries, search options currently include sources for Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland (with 14 companies on board), Spain, Sweden, UK, and the USA (with 7 sources).  Like everything else, this continues to grow and morph.

I cannot say enough about the support from Booklikes staff.  The are very receptive to suggestions (and several times were already on the cusp of releasing the requested feature), and tickets are easy to submit through an in-site IM tab.  I have always received quick response, even when no one was online to immediately chat, and they're even open to random book chat.  Over all very friendly and welcoming.

The top features I really hope for are groups, member searching, and the ability to view the collected reviews and ratings for specific titles.  As I mentioned earlier, the social aspect is not fully developed to the point that I would like, and that is really what is holding me to Goodreads.  I look at ratings and reviews regularly as a librarian, and I fell in love with the richness that book social sites can bring to active online book clubs.

I see Booklikes as coming into the social reading website scene with a decent base.  During the beta and even post release they are showing a dedication to growth and development.  I'd like to see how it continues to grow.

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