LibraryThing in the time of coronavirus

Posted by Paul Samael on Monday, March 30, 2020 Under: Random thoughts

At the end of last year, I joined LibraryThing, mainly out of dissatisfaction with the recommendations on Goodreads, which I found to be very hit and miss (more miss than hit, to be frank).  I was going to wait a while before doing a review of my experience to date, but LibraryThing has just announced that it is now free (partly in response to the coronavirus pandemic and everyone being in lockdown), so I decided to put my thoughts down now.

Better at recommendations than Goodreads?

I'm afraid the jury is still out on this one and it may be that I need to work at it a bit more.  I think it is probably a bit better and I suspect that LibraryThing's dataset and tools are more sophisticated in some respects than Goodreads, but my trouble is that I want something out of these recommendation engines that I doubt they can actually deliver.  Both Goodreads and LibraryThing tend towards "read-a-likes" - whereas I want to be pointed in the direction of something different from what I've already read (but that has enough in common with it that there's a reasonable chance of me liking it - because, yes, I want to have my cake and eat it).  I don't think either of them is that good at highlighting these kinds of books - but that may well be inevitable because the books that would tick my boxes would not necessarily tick those of that many other people.   

On the positive side, I do find LibraryThing a lot more manageable than Goodreads, mainly because it has fewer users.  So where I see a book in the recommendations that I think might be interesting, I can look up what others thought of it and instead of there being so many reviews you can't possibly read them all, on LibraryThing there is generally a smaller number.  This means you can read a fair few of them and come away with a better impression with whether the book might be for you or not, usually featuring a broader range of opinion.  The trouble with Goodreads in my view is that there are so many reviews that you don't get any sense of which ones provide a representative sample of opinion (or you have to work at it a bit more by filtering out 4-5 star reviews in favour of more negative reviews).  In that respect, I don't regret defecting to LibraryThing.  Nor do I believe that the vast numbers of people who read this blog (ha ha) will suddenly result in LibraryThing becoming more popular than Goodreads as a result of my ever-so-slightly lukewarm endorsement - thus undermining the main thing I like about LibraryThing....

LibraryThing also has a number of ways in which you can filter your recommendations, which is helpful - for example, you can filter out recommendations of books by authors you've already read (those have always struck me as a bit pointless anyway, because once you've found an author you like, it's generally not hard to find other books they've written).  And you can take a look at other users' lists if that helps e.g. users whose reviews you found helpful etc (although that's no different from Goodreads).

Transferring from Goodreads

Of course, for LibraryThing to be any use to you at all on the recommendations front, you will need to tell it what books you have already read.  Here I have good news.  I thought I would have to re-enter these manually, but you can just export your Goodreads list as a spreadsheet and then import that into LibraryThing - which seemed to work pretty well on the whole (barring a few errors).

Finally, I am not going to say anything about coronavirus because I don't think I have anything to add to the existing tsunami of words on the subject.  I hope it was nice reading about something else for a change.

In : Random thoughts 

Tags: librarything 
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About Me

Paul Samael Welcome to my blog, "Publishing Waste" which will either (a) chronicle my heroic efforts to self-publish my own fiction; or (b) demonstrate beyond a scintilla of doubt the utter futility of (a). And along the way, I will also be doing some reviews of other people's books and occasionally blogging about other stuff.
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