Goodreads vs. LibraryThing

Tuesday August 12, 2008 @ 12:44 PM (UTC)

I first mentioned my two book-cataloging affiliations in the “Against Friendship” social networking post:

From there, I also got into LibraryThing, which sadly seems to be superior but is not getting the new membership gestalt goodreads is.

I thought it was time to revisit the topic and really dig into the pros and cons of the two sites. Now, I do realize there are other book-cataloging websites – many. But it’s ridiculous enough to use two, so I haven’t tried any others.

The first thing to address is, why use a book cataloging website at all? Since this discussion is predicated on my use patterns and preferences, it’s only fair to set them out. Everyone’s intentions vary, but for me the benefits have been:

  • It reminds me to go read instead of messing with the internet.
  • It allows me to access my friends’ opinions (or at least star-ratings) on books when I need them – when I’m trying to buy Christmas gifts at 2 am, for example.
  • It’s helped me develop a practice of summarizing my thoughts on each book I read, which made annotating my grad school reading easy and has, I feel, made my opinions on books sharper and better expressed.
  • It provides a central place to save all my well-intentioned ‘to-read’ books.
  • It captures data on my books – to kibbitz over with my Mom at her yearly-book-tabulation time, to keep track of books borrowed or lent, et cetera.

Goodreads was designed as a social networking site for book-cataloging. Its home page is familiar to users of networks like Facebook – a log of the recent books added, reviews posted, “friendships” established by your friends on the site.

LibraryThing was designed by librarians. It’s centered around the collection of book data, and social networking has only gradually colonized it – as noted in “Against Friendship”, it originally had only ‘Interesting Libraries’ and ‘Private watchlist’ and now has ‘Friends’ as well. Its customizable home page, recently revamped, gives pride of place to a search-box that searches your own library of books. By default, the next item down is your recently added books.

That gives you the basic difference between the sites in a nutshell: GR is centered on the social aspects, LT is centered on your books. Still, it’s more than possible to use them in a very similar way. If I had to choose a word to sum up each, I’d call Goodreads “simple” and LibraryThing “robust.” Goodreads’ interface is clean, appealing and fairly self-explanatory, and the conceits of social networking have been widely disseminated, so the bar to new user entry is low. LibraryThing can be more intimidating, its wealth of information necessitating and populating many fields all over the screen.

That data, though, is fabulous. Unlike Goodreads, which is committed to a categorization system called ‘shelves’, LibraryThing uses tagging. This encourages the user to find her own ways to use the system – combining fairly utilitarian and obvious tags like “own, read, fiction, novel” with the personal and highly useful “lent to Grandma” (and subsequent “read by Grandma” – my Grandma’s local library closed, you see) or “Box 25.” In addition, the basic ‘library card’ information for your book on LT is well-designed. If your book has an author, a translator, an editor and an illustrator, you can enter all their names and label the rôle of each accordingly[*]. You can, if you like, enter the date you bought or checked out the book and the day you started reading it, the date you finished. Goodreads has, by contrast, only “date read,” recently expanded from month and year to day, month, year. On Goodreads, book cover is linked to ISBN, an often inaccurate shortcut, whereas on LibraryThing you can choose from the covers uploaded by other users or a bunch of pretty blank covers as well as the ISBN-linked Amazon images. LibraryThing has a great book-adding interface that allows you to type the tags once for one group of book-adds and integrates a barcode scanner seamlessly. They have a versatile batch-edit mode for changes, and you can search hundreds of libraries worldwide as well as Amazon, whereas Goodreads only searches the various Amazon sites. If I’m going to spend time entering data on my books, I prefer to have complete and accurate information, so LibraryThing wins by a mile on that front.

Goodreads is free and runs on ad revenue, whereas LibraryThing is ad-free and free up to 200 books, after which you are asked to pay $10/year or $25 for a lifetime membership.

Probably as a consequence of the differences outlined above, LibraryThing has 473,080 users while Goodreads claims over 1,000,000. This despite LibraryThing being founded August, 2005 and Goodreads December, 2006. For the social aspects (accessing my friends’ opinions when I need them) the population difference makes Goodreads the victor – vast mobs of my acquaintances signed up for Goodreads (many of them, strangers to each other, at exactly the same time, in fact.) The social exchange Goodreads emphasizes is that of opinions, and therefore there are a lot more reviews on Goodreads in general, even if there aren’t any from your friends on a particular book. There’s also a nice feature (I was among the users petitioning for its addition) where you can mark which friend recommended a book to you. LibraryThing, being a little more focused on the collection and cataloging of books, generally has fewer reviews (in all fairness, while they have fewer ratings, they display a nice bar graph of them, which is helpful.) I hereby back up my anecdotal ‘feeling’ with data – I chose the first book my eyes fell on (The Blind Assassin) and found that on LibraryThing 5350 people have entered the book in their ‘library’, 1328 of whom have given it a star rating, and 79 of whom have entered a review. On Goodreads, it’s harder to determine exact numbers but I believe 9173 people have entered it, 7272 have given a star rating, and about 700 have entered at least a one-word review.

Which brings us to another, more delicate topic. I may sound elitist here, but I’m not running for office, so who cares? Probably as a consequence of the differences outlined above, LibraryThing’s smaller population is more serious about books. You see fewer, if any, really stupid or careless reviews, and the discussion groups (which I don’t really do much with on either site) seem to have lively, literate discussion.

So, returning to the reasons I use these sites, we see that both are equally good at reminding me to go read, at developing my reviewing skills, and keeping track of my books to read. Goodreads is better for showing me my friends’ opinions on books, and LibraryThing is lightyears better for capturing data on my library. Goodreads has been good about adding features, which has improved the site experience for me and captured more information, but they’re still far behind LT, and I really wonder if they should try to catch up. There are some limits they would have trouble shedding – they are really wed to the ‘shelf’ model for example, too wedded I think to swap it for tags, and adding tags on top of shelves would be klugey and make it more confusing for new users. If they try to make their site robust, they will sacrifice the simplicity and accessibility that have made them successful.

For me, LibraryThing is the clear winner. It’s versatile, and allows me to capture all the data I might ever want about my book collection and reading, the first time it comes up. It is fun to explore other people’s book collections, see library similarities and see the trends and recommendations that so much data produce. (Thanks for getting me started on it, Miss Thursday!) I keep up on Goodreads though, because the social aspect is fun, and I like to see what all my friends and classmates are reading. So I am doomed to keep both accounts, but I hope this blogget helps someone decide which one fits their book-cataloging needs.

Update, 9/7/2008: As I recently discovered while browsing a used bookstore in Mountain View, LibraryThing is quicker and easier to use on the iPhone, which surprised me.

*Updates, 2/16/2009: Goodreads has added multi-author and customizable role support to their book data, although it is not as integrated and easy as LibraryThing’s. They have added an experimental mobile version of the site, which loads more quickly. Current numbers of users at each site can be viewed by clicking through the links in the relevant paragraph above. On a personal note, Goodreads has risen in my esteem somewhat: they are very responsive to user input and requests, which can lead to quick improvement. I still use both, and plan to continue doing so.


I think your analysis hits the nail on the head with regard to the strengths of each site. Oh, thank you, by the way, for introducing me to both. I’d been meaning to look into them, but then you were gracious enough to bring them directly into my living room! Maybe it is due to your influence, but I definitely use Goodreads for the networking, review, and referral aspects, and LibraryThing for keeping track of what books are where in addition to ratings.

Thank you and you’re welcome, respectively :)

I actually think book cataloging has made me realize things about myself I wouldn’t otherwise have known. Really, I had no idea that one pocket of organization in my psyche ran so deep until I found myself capturing “Bought used at Powell’s for $4.95” in Comments after peeling the price tag off a book….

A really helpful comparison. I’m a LibraryThing member and very happy with it, but have recently come across Goodreads – you’ve saved me some time experimenting, because it’s clear LT is the better fit for me.

Glad it helped! Composing it certainly organized my thoughts.

I found your site while trying to figure out an aspect of LibrayThing that I don’t understand. Thank you for your comments. I was also looking at the comparison between the two sites. Since I never did figure out that answer to my original question – I thought I would post it here. I have a profile on LibraryThing and noted on my page that two people have “asked to be my friends”. What does that mean? (I am only using LT as a way to get ideas for other books that I might read.)

Thanks, Felicity, for the comparison. I have been a LibraryThing member for a couple of years now, and only came across Goodreads recently. Based on this post, I think I’ll give it a try. I love the cataloging on LT, but would like to have more discussions and see other people’s opinions. My initial impression of Goodreads, just based on looking at a handful of books, was that it had a lot more reviews than LibraryThing.

Robin, to answer your question on LibraryThing, if two people have asked to be your friends, it probably means they saw your collection of books and found they shared a lot of them, or maybe they liked some comments you made on the forums. Being a friend basically means they get alerted when you write reviews, add books, etc.

Thank you so much for your analysis – it’s true, most of my librarian friends are on LibraryThing, while the regular folk are on Goodreads. I will probably end up creating accounts on both of them, just to test, but your analysis is definitely helpful!

I’m glad this article is helping people out.

french panic — I joined LibraryThing because one of my librarian friends was on it :)

Andrew — yup, more reviews and more members. And I don’t find syncing the two too onerous — just a little renaming and deleting of columns in excel, and the exported LT data goes into GR just fine.

Robin — What Andrew said. ‘Friends’ show up on your profile labeled as friends, and you both see each other’s recent updates and activity.

A longtime librarything user. I have a vast bunch of books in librarything. I tried to import them into goodreads. Goodreads says it supports imports from librarything; it’s right in the list of supported websites!!! But when I try the import, it fails to recognize a bunch of fields, and can’t add over half my books! This is, at best, false advertising, and at worst, straight up lies on the part of goodreads. If they can’t cope fully and completely with librarything data, they shouldn’t say they support it! I will be deleting my goodreads account, and reporting these people to the FTC and BBB for false advertising. Either they fix the import feature, or fully and completely remove librarything from the website as a site they support imports from. The founders of goodreads are nothing more than straight out criminals. I see no need to keep an account with people so completely dishonest.

As an FYI, I have ISBNS on all of my books. So it should work. Anyway, I verify the data on all of my books; it’s all correct. I strongly resent having to manually add books it says it can’t add, because the goodreads import feature is 100% broken.

I haven’t done a batch of imports from LibraryThing to Goodreads recently, but in the past it worked out fine. I had to change the headings of the data columns in my file first, but I don’t remember having any imports fail for which I had the ISBN. That is odd.

They do have a Feedback forum that is monitored by GR staff, if you want to report the bug.

Thank you for the in-depth analysis. Now I know which site to use. ;)

I may be late to the discussion, but there’s one point I’d like to comment on:

GoodReads is actually quite good at linking to external sites once you find a book. It has a little-noted function called “book links”, where you can customize what external sources of data you want to use, and it links to them depending on whether they contain the book, which is pretty robust.

For example, for me, I set it up to link to my local library and to paperbackswap. So when I find a book I like on GoodReads it’s very easy to either request it in the library or on PBS.

I really like your analysis.
For myself, I try to avoid the social networking and yes I prefer LT for that.
The only drawback with LT if you compare it to GR is the graphics. I think GR is more enjoyable than LT. But I’m pretty confident it will change in the future.

For the rest, I’ll pay the lifetime membership when I’ll reach the 200 books ;)

I have noticed that it is much easier and faster to add books to Goodreads: review someone’s list and click “Add to my books”. You can do a page full without it reloading each time. Furthermore, the import function does not require ISBN numbers as does the LT; title and author are frequently enough. Once I uploaded a file to GR, I was able to export it and then upload it to the LT because GR added the ISBN numbers. On the other hand, it is easier to “tag” books in the LT, but getting 3,500 books into the system takes a lot more time. That’s how I see, anyway.

Unfortunately, everything you had to say is completely wiped away by this phrase:
“…you are asked to pay $10/year or $25 for a lifetime membership.”

Hey, this is Tim, the founder of LibraryThing. This is a great comparison—lots to think about.

Here are some comments, corrections, etc. Sorry to be so long-winded. I should get back to programming!

I’m just a book lover, not a librarian. When I started LibraryThing, I wanted to catalog my own books, which include a lot of out-of-print books. Amazon didn’t have most of them. So LibraryThing started with library sources, and a library view of books—every book is different, every book should be editable, etc. We added Amazon later, of course, but the committment to doing the book data right has always guided us. We do have two librarians on staff, but we don’t call them “librarians.” Goodreads has a non-librarian employee they call the “librarian.” So it goes.

It’s interesting to hear you talk about tags vs. shelves. Basically, they’re the same thing, except in how you enter them and what they’re called—the GoodReads UI and wording encourages people to think o them as “boxes.” The result is less descriptive and creative, and more utilitarian.

Still, some LibraryThing members wanted something more “solid” than tags, so we recently added “Collections.” Collections work like playlists in iTunes or collections in Flickr—sub-libraries you can “stay in” and work with, or treat all together in one big lump. They make it a lot easier to use LibraryThing in divergent ways. Default collections include “Wishlist” and “Read but unowned.” You can adjust your preferences so that individual collections don’t influence your recommendations, and so forth.


To the user who complained about Goodreads’ import, I suspect the problem is that Goodreads’ is basically a “layer on top of Amazon.” Members don’t have their “own” book data at all, but just a collection of “pointers” to Amazon data, with some user-added manual data. (That’s why you can’t edit your book data on Goodreads—there is no “your data” to edit. Only “librarians” can edit book data, and whetever changes they make, everyone gets.) Because it’s a layer on Amazon, if Amazon doesn’t have the book, you’re out of luck.

To the user who said LibraryThing can only import by ISBN, that’s not true, but we should probably show it better. See the import page, down at the bottom. You can send us tab-delimited text file.

Unfortunately, everything you had to say is completely wiped away by this phrase: “…you are asked to pay $10/year or $25 for a lifetime membership.”

If you have 200 books, you’ve probably spent $2,000 or even $4,000 on them. They mean a lot to you. Entering them is going to take many hours, no matter how you do it. They’re probably a big part of your life. The way I see it, if your money and time has no value, then by all means you should choose the free site, no matter how many ads—I currently get a large movie about dishwashing detergent—they subject you to.

The joke here is that, when you go to pay, you’ll discover the $10/$25 was actually a fake-out. It becomes “pay what you want”—you can pay as little as $1. Or you can pay more. Amazingly, we actually get more than we ask for—when given the opportunity to pay what they want, LibraryThing people pay more than asked.

Besides making more money, the fake-out fee has a secondary effect—it creates a tight-knit community of smart, opinioned people. After all, since I’m not running for president either, I can tell you that people who would never spend a dime on anything online are well correlated with the people who think “gaaaay!” a clever review, and friend everyone who’s read Twilight. I figure we lose some of the best sort to Goodreads every day, but we get many of them back when they discover they can’t edit their data, or get tired of the adds and the one-word reviews.

Membership numbers

On the membership numbers. LibraryThing currently has 700,000 registered members, and Goodreads has, I think, two million. Want to know a secret? LibraryThing doesn’t have anything like 700,000. Most LibraryThing accounts have fewer than ten books. I think something like 35% have zero! Even so, LibraryThing members have more than twice as many books per member as Goodreads does. That makes no sense until you realize Goodreads’ “two million” is even more bogus than our 700,000.*

Two things are at work here. First, “membership counts” are hogwash. No matter the website, most “registered members” are long gone. In Goodreads’ case a rather relentless email-harvesting effort got them into the mailbox of everyone you know, often everyone in your address book. How many are using it regularly now? What does it say about LibraryThing that we don’t mine people’s email programs, make people pay and still nearly match Goodreads in books and traffic (see for some rough numbers).

Lastly, I’m sorry to hear you don’t think we’re responsive enough. Our site-related groups are very active, and we rely on them a lot. Anyway, I’d love to hear more about how you think I could make the site better.

*I haven’t done a page-by-page analysis of Goodreads’ members, but I did it to Shelfari once, who also claim millions of users. The vast majority of users had no books, and left the day they arrived. And because they grew by email harvesting, there were more total “friends” than books!

I admit I’ve been postponing responding to the many comments on this post, partially because I wanted to do some digging on both sites before answering with anything like authority. There are definitely some things that are out of date in the original post, and only a few of them are addressed in my ‘update’ footnotes. This post gets more new comments than any of my other articles, and I’m glad people are still finding it useful, but it does need further updating.

re: goodreads’ capacity for searching external sites
Hi, Ilia. As you say, ‘book links’ on Goodreads aren’t widely known or used. While I’m not a GR expert, I do often read the Feedback fora and try out new features, and I wasn’t aware of it. I’m glad there is a way to add sources besides Amazon and the books already entered on Goodreads and I may try it out. However, LibraryThing’s external sources are pre-loaded and don’t require any user legwork. It’s convenient to be able to look up a library edition audiobook (a common thing for me) by clicking on the library catalogs, or to enter an old, pre-ISBN work by entering the Library of Congress number and accessing their database.

Re: Good job!
Yes, I think LibraryThing is easier to use simply for cataloging if you want to avoid the social stuff. You can choose to make your profile private on either site, but the focus on book data makes LT a more natural fit for that use.

Re: Goodreads is easier:
Here we come up against the classic “how does the user want to use the site?” question. While I may add a book one of my friends has, especially if I have a different viewpoint on it that I want to express with a review, I like to add books with a high degree of granularity: that is, if it’s a book I own, I want to add the version I own, with the proper ISBN and cover. I don’t always know how I’m going to use this data in the future, but it’s easier to capture the correct data from day one than go back and correct the data when I someday decide I need it to be right.

Therefore, I don’t often use the fast-add button unless I am adding a book ‘to-read’ that I don’t own. I don’t often use other members’ book lists to add books. I also own a bar code reader, so from that perspective it is far easier to add books to LibraryThing: I can scan in a mass of books with the barcode scanner, then import them into Goodreads from a LT-created spreadsheet if desired.

People use sites very differently, which is one reason I think there’s more than enough room on the Internet for more than one (or two, or three, perhaps) book-cataloging site(s).

Re: I hate the social part of Goodreads but that’s where I’m staying:
I’ll defer to Tim Spalding’s points about membership cost being variable. I bought my own lifetime membership (and one as a gift for a friend) a while back at the full $25, and haven’t worried about it again since.

As I mentioned above, people use sites very differently, and have different comfort zones. I would feel a little caddish using Goodreads’s site with AdBlock Plus enabled, since their revenue comes from ads and if I like the site well enough to use it, I don’t want to foil their business model. On the other hand, since their advertisers know I’m female from my profile, I’m often annoyed out of my skull by animated and/or vacuous advertising that assumes that because I’m a woman I must be a mom, or dieting, or both. That isn’t Goodreads’s fault, precisely, but it is annoying, and some users might find it annoying enough that they’d pay for an ad-free site like LibraryThing.

That’s just an example. Companies are still exploring the various ways to monetize websites, and there are lots of folks who are willing to pay for a service they appreciate. I also pay for a Flickr pro membership so that I have remote copies of my photos at full resolution. People vary.

Re: Comments from the LT founder:
Hi Tim! Thanks for joining the conversation. Sorry about the mistake about LibraryThing being started by librarians. I think that was word-of-mouth, and I should have made certain of my facts. On the other hand, about half of my friends seem to be librarians, so I guess coming from me it’s high praise!

On tags versus shelves: I’ll try to explain why this is a fairly big distinction for me. I’ve been involved in a few discussions about this, because I’m not the only tag-lover who has a Goodreads account. It’s possible to use shelves like tags, but the more shelves you have, the more unwieldy it is, because they are persistent and appear on your profile and (most importantly to me) inflate your drop-down shelf list. You don’t want to make a new shelf unless it’s going to apply to quite a few books. I have more shelves on Goodreads than most other users I see, but I still have far fewer than I do LibraryThing tags. Just as an example, one of my books (let’s use Blind Assassin again) has these shelves on Goodreads: “read, booker-winners, favorites, fiction, historical-fiction, literary-is-a-genre, novel” and these tags on LibraryThing: “aging, Booker Winner, Canada, epistolary, favorite, fiction, fiction-in-fiction, historical fiction, literary fiction, masterpiece, novel, Ontario, own, read, read by Grandma, siblings, sisters, suicide” (I try not to put spoilers in my tags, but the suicide is in the first line of the novel, so it’s fair game.) I do, as you say, find the tagging process more descriptive and free-wheeling. It also means I can pack more sweet, sweet data into every book entry.

I am using ‘Collections’, but mostly it’s a matter of using Power-Edit to move all books tagged with ‘read’ and ‘borrowed’ into the collection ‘Read but unowned’! I’m a prolific tagger, after all.

I didn’t mean to imply that LT is unresponsive, just that I’ve noticed a lot of GR responsiveness of late. I do still use both sites, and anticipate continuing to do so.

The only suggestion I’m harboring at present is that I’d like to be able to add books in the mobile version of the site — one of the big uses I have for mobile book cataloging (after checking my list of books to read while browsing bookstores) is noting a book a friend has recommended to me in conversation, so I don’t forget. I do realize this is a tall order, since currently the mobile version doesn’t log you in with your password. If I have any further suggestions, I’ll be sure to post ’em.

“book links.” This is a misunderstanding. Goodreads (and LibraryThing) allow you to link to an outside site, like a library or a swap site. That’s entirely different from getting your data from that site. Goodreads links out, but they don’t take data from other external sources.

“Goodreads is easier.” I think Goodreads has done something very interesting by having their “works” be the main search—so you can search for works and add them easily, without having to bother about editions and such, unless you want to drill down. But this fits GR more than LibraryThing—most LTers want to be specific about editions, so having a “drill down” rather than a “flat” presention wouldn’t fit them as well. Some have suggested we offer this as an option, especially for when you’re entering a wishlist and edition isn’t so much of a concern.

“I’m a woman I must be a mom, or dieting, or both At least it’s not hot dating action 24/7. Someone tell Yahoo that I’m a married man!

“Tagging.” Yeah. It’s interesting how something that is conceptually the same comes out so different because of user interface. It’s a good warning to people like me to think from the user’s perspective, not how it looks on disk, as it were. I feel the same way about “labels” in GMail. They’re tags, but the UI is crappy so I don’t use them much.

Mobile site. We need to upgrade our mobile site, although it works well on the iPhone (as does basically everything), and that’s diminished our need somewhat. We do, however, have a feature to Twitter books into your library. So you can SMS a book into your LibraryThing account while standing in a bookstore or library. See this link.

Anyway, thanks for putting up with my long comment, and for your reply.

Thank you for all the great information here about both sites. I am starting a book club for my Master’s program cohort so that we can discuss books that we read. I know that both sites have group discussion features that will allow this, but does one site have any advantages over another for this book club purpose?

I am a LT user and will not budge; I checked out Goodreads but never created an account, and after reading this page and all the responses I know my choice is wise. I’ll stick to the well organized site with the serious readers. Ditto on hating ads.

I was interested in using Library Thing after hearing about it at a library conference; however, I was turned off by the price tag. As an avid reader, I would have gone over my two hundred books very rapidly.

I’m a LT user also, and prefer it over Goodreads. But, I’m really dismayed by Tim’s comments above: “Mobile site. We need to upgrade our mobile site, although it works well on the iPhone (as does basically everything), and that’s diminished our need somewhat.”

As an avid iPhone user, I can tell you that LT sucks on iPhone. I can search my catalog. Period. And the interface for doing so is really ugly and clunky. Ditto with the LT regular site. Yes, you CAN do everything…by going to the LT regular site, but it’s such a chore on a mobile phone that I don’t go there unless I absolutely have to, then I’m just frustrated, and usually just give up before I’ve done what I wanted to do. Six months ago, Tim posted that LT needs to update their mobile site, and it’s still the same. That’s a big fail.

LT may want to act like this is really not that important, but I beg to differ. It’s VERY important. Web browsing via mobile devices is one of the waves of the future, and LT needs to be riding that wave now, not sitting on the beach saying “someday…”

My suspicions are that LT is ignoring the iPhone/Mobile Phone aspect of their site for fear of making Amazon angry. I could be wrong about that, but that’s my suspicion. I understand how much easier it is to catalog books when you use the Amazon interface, but, IMHO, LibraryThing needs to become Amazon independent if it wants to move forward and create a site that’s technically savvy. Other sites seem to be realizing this, and are moving away from Amazon for just this reason (I got an email recently from one site that I use that boasted about how it is now “Amazon-Free”).

Believe me when I say that as much as I like LT over GoodReads, I am seriously considering switching simply because GoodReads has an excellent iPhone app, which is 10 times more useful than LT’s so-called “mobile” site. Yes, it IS that important.

Wake up, LibraryThing!


Thank you! This was exactly what I was searching for.

I don’t usually comment on sites like this but I wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone who took the time to post – I’ve been on LT for a year now and just found Goodreads and was trying to figure out the differences. Thanks for such an engaging and helpful conversation!

This review has been very insightful and thorough, but it does not make my job of choosing easier at all. LT seems to be my first choice by far (I’m very pedantic about my library and I’d rather have choice and versatility than an ‘easy to use’ UI and social ‘stuff’). But a big consideration for me is mobile access — I’m using Android, which is still a ‘young’ platform, so I’m willing to be patient for apps — but if GR has good mobile access and LT not, it might swing my vote despite LT’s otherwise great score.

In general — I’m glad people are still finding this article relevant despite its age. I hope to do some digging and do an entirely updated version in the next few months. Thanks for stopping by!

Elmi — LT’s mobile site is reasonably quick to load, but it’s still read-only: since they don’t have a login for the mobile site, you can’t edit your entries. I mostly use the Goodreads iPhone app now, but the mobile site was nice and allowed me to edit lists and add updates. Goodreads has a fast development track record, so they might be a better bet if you’re waiting on a Droid app.

I was thinking about using one of these websites so I “asked Google” about it and ended here. Your article and comments were really helpful. As a RYM user I really like data-oriented approach of LibraryThing. I also agree with Tim about the fee: with 200+ books $25 is more like free :-) And it gives higher overall quality.

Since Google is still directing people here when one types in “GoodReads vs. LibraryThing” (which I just did), I’m guessing that people are still reading this post.

I am a LibraryThing member of long standing (tried GoodReads a couple of times, including through Facebook, but didn’t care for it) and I recently obtained an Android phone.

Access to the LibraryThing site through my phone allows me to log in, post, view and edit books and — wonder of wonders — add books through a handy little LT scanner app that utilizes my phone’s camera. It’s not as fast as the CueCat attached to my laptop, but it has served me well.

So, I would say that the mobile site is fixed. And, for all the reasons listed above and more, I would encourage serious readers to join LibraryThing. It really is a pleasure to discuss books there, with a variety of well-read individuals, in addition to being able to catalogue your own library in real detail.

First, I was doing a google search for something on Goodreads and this came up. I decided to read it.

While I would LOVE to sign up for LibraryThing, I’ve tried a few times, and I’ve never gotten any email or anything back from them, so I tried a different email address and got no activation email or anything, then I tried contacting the site, emailing people, and nothing back, so I went with GoodReads, and yes, I had made sure all my email settings were appropriate and checked my spam folders as well and even adding email addresses as contacts, it didn’t work.

So far with GoodReads, I haven’t been disappointed. But I am not totally into that attitude because I use GoodReads, and because it has more of a social media feel to it, implies I’m less of a reader.

Maybe sometime, I’ll give LT a try, if my email addresses ever work, until then, I’m perfectly content with GoodReads.

a big CON in my opinion. i don’t care so much about what my friends are reading – i care about what people with similar taste are reading…

This April will mark 5 years that I’ve had a lifetime membership with LibraryThing. I tried Goodreads a few times over the last couple of years mainly because a lot of my author friends were starting to use it for promotion. Up until earlier this week, I never did anything more with GR but finally decided to export my LT data and import it into GR after more of my author friends started using it and linking it back to their FB pages. It worked, but with some tweaking (using 2 different exports – the CSV and the TAB-del to get the ratings and reviews – and modifying the headers based on the GR template) and got most of the books up. However, as much as the GR home page looks “nice” there was still something about the site that bugged me.

This post pretty much summarized my own feelings about what it’s been. I wanted a place to track and catalog my books, not a social networking site. So, for my personal library (and maintaining it), LT is my absolute choice. As for promotion, though, there’s something to be said about integrating with social networks :)

Thanks for the debate Felicity!

Thank you so much, especially Felicity and Tim, for this article and the subsequent posts answering questions.
I’ve been a member of LibraryThing for a while, though I’m not as anal about adding all the details that are available. My biggest problem is with myself—I wish I’d known about the site sooner and had started recording books I’ve read sooner. :)
I was directed to this article today (by Google) because I’m working on two separate projects that I’m planning on merging, and I’d initially planned on using LT for those projects. Let me explain:
a) My mother has been keeping track of all the books she’s read since the 70’s. Her PC got bogged down recently (for a variety of reasons), so I offered to find an easier way to log her books—she had approximately 25 pages of a Word document listing all the books. Yikes! I was able to go in and create a user account on LibraryThing that was separate from my own account. (A huge plus!) I’ve gotten about halfway through the C’s (she lists books by authors, alphabetically), and it’s taking me forever to enter them all. I tried uploading the document, but because of the format, it won’t work.
b) I’m working on a project for school (am working towards a 2nd Bachelor’s Degree, in Library Sciences, with the hopes of becoming a public librarian). Essentially, I’m to find a Web 2.0 tool that I will use in my professional life. I had planned to do my project on LibraryThing. After stumbling upon this article, I’m realizing that Good Reads may be a better choice for patrons who simply want to keep a list of what they’ve read and what they want to read. I intended to use my mother’s list as an example.

Thank you very much for the help!

Thank you Felicity for your original side-by-side comparison, updates and posts to various comments concerning LT and GR. Thanks as well to all those involved in the the ongoing conversation.
From the get-go, I have almost exclusively used LT for cataloging my library, however, I periodically use GR to gain access to a greater quantity of book reviews…as was originally stated by Felicity and echoed by others, GR typically lists many more reviews for a given book than does LT, though those GR reviews are not necessarily more thorough or professional. Bottom line is that I want both the detail and organizational structure of LT as well as access to more reviews for a given book, whcih GR affords.
I intend to export/mirror my LT library to/with GR and utilize both going forward.

Well, I’m more conflicted now than I ever was. I’ve been on Shelfari for quite a bit now and I like it… Sort of. I like my shelf, it’s easy to use, I’m just used to it and I’m a creature of habit. However, what I don’t like is the reviews and discussions section. I get very few and/or very stupid ones. I’m not going to sit here and profess to say that I’m an overly sophisticated person and I’m sure some of my reviews that I’ve written on my own blog could be tackled by people for lack of insight or whatever the case may be but “OMG! ppl have 2 rd this!” or “blah” is not the type of review I’m looking for either.

I want honest opinions and if the honest opinion is simply “Loved it!” that’s okay with me but these other ones are just not helpful and to be frank, annoying.

I tried goodreads and was very unimpressed but… I’ll be honest… I gave it a whole big day and removed my account out of frustration. That was the “creature of habit” kicking in. Having said that, I do frequent GR a lot simply to read reviews of a book I’m interested in.

I don’t mind paying or donating to be a member of a site especially when it gets rid of advertising and spam etc. So that doesn’t seem to be an issue either.

I guess my issue is being able to keep a well rounded list of my books with options of knowing whether I’ve read them, plan to read, own them, would like to own them, etc. and HELPFUL REVIEWS. Tags are a good tool as well.

The social aspect?? Ehhh, I’m indifferent to this I guess. I have facebook and hardly frequent it. I’m more into searching out books and book blogs to see if I’m missing a good book out there. So, I guess I don’t mind friending people, but it never seems to go further than that. I don’t check out their profiles to see what they’re reading nor they mine, so why bother requesting the friendship in the first place? That would strictly be for people who want to discuss books with others who have read it and I think there are forums/groups etc. for that…. or maybe I’m just anti-social! Who knows?

Anyway, I thank everyone for their comments on here. They’ve been very helpful even though I still can’t make my mind up. I have decision-making issues, what can I say? I wonder if there’s a book for that?

I was using LivingSocial Visual Bookshelf, but when I came to add a review earlier this week they encouraged me to sign up to GoodReads and made this easy. Furthermore, I read this earlier in the week and it seems quite a good advance. However, based on what I read here and with other recommendations, I will trial using both LibraryThing and GoodReads. Dare I suggest that these become one and the same thing with the best bits from each incorporated. Peace be with you!


I am an unhappy GR user. I really do not like GR sending messages to my friends every time I read a book. I know that each individual user can opt to not receive these messages, but that should be the default. I wrote to GR about this. Does anyone know if LT automatically sends emails / messages to people afte I enter a book?

Thank you,
Jeremy (UAE)

hi! thanks for this! I’ve decided to use Goodreads since my Visual Bookshelf on Facebook has been closed down =( Hope I’ll enjoy GR!

I’m with Goodreads all the way. I prefer it, and even though I have an account with both, I keep going back to GR. I find it easier to navigate and lots more lists, listopias and groups to check out for fun (and for reading ideas).

Thanks so much for your review of both websites, it was very helpful.

I have decided for Librarything, and although the interface is weird and some features are still poorly developed (such as adding books onto your library from friends’ libraries), it is definitely my cup of tea.

Thanks again.

I would disagree that the users of LibraryThing are more serious about books, or that LT has a better, more literate community. For the first couple weeks I was on the site, the community was almost nonexistent and very bland, with a complete lack of the interesting personalities that dot Goodreads. If anything, I’ve become a more broadminded, more self-aware reader because of Goodreads’s users and reviewers. Lots of great discussion I never found on LibraryThing. Plus, the lists, and groups, and even authors on the site are so much fun to interact with. And best, of all, you can add all the books you want, and never pay a dime.

Thanks for the comparison. I’ve had a LibraryThing account for some time, but haven’t used it. A posting on Facebook prompted me to look into Good Reads and thus led me to this article and all the comments. I don’t see a clear cut winner, so I’ll have to use both.

I love Shelfari! It does everything that LT does and is free. You can tag your books, select the correct cover for your book, read reviews and all the rest.

I’ve been looking for a “simpler” book cataloging site then either librarything or goodreads provides. I just want a site that allows me to catalog my personal collection without being bombarded by other people’s opinions and ratings. So far, libib.con is the winner for that.

I have never used Library Thing, but I use Good Reads. Excellent website in my opinion. I have just started my own website – Never did one before, its trial and error.

I have to agree wholeheartedly with your assessment. I also use both platforms but can’t seem to get people over to LibraryThing.

Unfortunately, I have never tried LibraryThing out, but I have been a long-time user of Goodreads and I love it. You are absolutely right about the huge difference in the number of users – just take a look at the pages of the apps on App Store. They both have an awesome rating of 4,5 stars but LibraryThing has only 22 review as opposed to 1209 reviews of Goodreads. The difference is huge!
I am completely satisfied with Goodreads, I even love the fact that I can find reviews of less experienced readers there. Although I think that they could add more functionality. Mobile app development now can do almost anything. For example, I would love it if I could read newspapers and magazine directly from Goodreads.

New comment

required, won't be displayed (but may be used for Gravatar)


Don't type anything here unless you're an evil robot:

And especially don't type anything here:

Basic HTML (including links) is allowed, just don't try anything fishy. Your comment will be auto-formatted unless you use your own <p> tags for formatting. You're also welcome to use Textile.

Copyright © 2017 Felicity Shoulders. All rights reserved.
Powered by Thoth.