LibraryThing versus Shelfari versus ?

[poll id=”2″]

In January, my friend sent me an invite to Shelfari. I hadn’t heard of any book cataloging sites before then. I liked the idea, so I signed up. I love tracking my “To be read,” “I’m reading,” and “What I read” books, and I love being able to have a widget on my blog to show readers what I’m working on. There are some annoying things about the Shelfari interface, but even since I started using it in January, they’ve made some significant improvements. (One thing I’ve learned, though, is that if Shelfari grabs on to email addresses, even once, it takes over and keeps emailing, like spam. I am really annoyed, because it was under my name and I don’t want to spam people.)

I’m not very concerned with the social networking side of Shelfari. I might like to be a part of discussions, but (1) I’m not finding groups of people interested in discussing what I’m interested in and (2) I really don’t have that much time to sit and chat with strangers online. I’m busy enough blogging

Since I started book blogging a few months ago, I came across a number of other book cataloging sites. It seems most people use LibraryThing. Here’s my question for LibraryThing users: why does it cost money ($10 a year or $25 a lifetime)? I certainly want to catalog more than 200 books (which is the limit before it costs money), and that seems an oddly low limit. Why limit it? What are the benefits to that service over the others, since the others are free?

Which online book catalog service do you use? Why? What do you mainly use it for?

All that said, despite some annoyance with Shelfari, I like the attractive look of the Shelfari widget. I’m also a pretty cheap person; I prefer to read books from the library and online at Project Gutenberg over buying one. Besides, I just set up a free account in LibraryThing and I can’t figure out how to separate my books into shelves (to be read, reading, finished reading). Can I? If not, maybe I’ll just use it for books I own. I do like the view options. We’ll see.

If you want, spread the word about the poll above. I’m really curious about book bloggers’ online book cataloging habits.

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  1. I could be wrong, but I think that LibraryThing charges for over 200 books to help with overhead expenses. I paid the $25 for a lifetime membership and haven’t looked back. I’ve received 5 ARCs through their Early Reviewers program, so that more than made up for the membership. I like the interface as well and the staff has been very helpful to me. I also haven’t tapped into a quarter of the features they offer. I just love it.

  2. I use both LibraryThing and goodreads. I have been using goodreads for over a year, and I really love it. I use it to keep track of books I’ve read, books I’m currently reading, and books I want to read. (The community side of it is really well developed, but I don’t use it much. Also, I really love the widgets.)

    I have only been on LibraryThing for a few months, but I purchased a lifetime membership to keep track of books I own. (The Early Reviewers program is nice, and I particularly love the local feature that lets me see what book events are happening nearby. I think goodreads is easier to use, though.)

    I’m happy with both services. I like the way they allow me to organize my reading life. :o)

  3. “Here’s my question for LibraryThing users: why does it cost money ($10 a year or $25 a lifetime)?”

    Because there are no annoying ads on the site and it helps defray the costs of running it. Think of it as a bookclub with a one-time joining fee. It’s well worth it, and sometimes I feel a bit sheepish that I didn’t pay more given all the value I’ve derived for the site. If you have a largish library like I do, weeding out the duplicates (say, the cost of 2 paperbacks) more than makes up for the 25 bucks I paid for the lifetime membership.

    Others find that the free advance reviewer copies of books they’ve received via LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer program more than “makes up” for the joining fee, but I should note that you don’t actually have to be a paid member to receive copies of ER books — anyone, paid or non-paid — can join the program for free.

    The point is, LibraryThing is so full of awesomeness that all these monetary calculations never factored in for me. The sheer joy of using the site and storing my books alone affords a lot of value for me — certainly more than the measly $25 I shelled out.

    As someone who NEVER pays for anything on the internet, I found myself not hesitating when it came to LibraryThing. It’s the best bit of money I ever spent online!

    The extremely rich features of LibraryThing are, to me, unmatched by any other website. “Shelves” imo are pretty poor compared to using tags; book data is also better displayed and manipulated on LT than elsewhere. What’s striking is that functionality is constantly being upgraded on LT and not a fortnight goes by without developments on the feature front. Shelfari is a poor clone by comparison. (Also, its spamminess is annoying.)

    “I certainly want to catalog more than 200 books (which is the limit before it costs money), and that seems an oddly low limit. Why limit it?”

    To whet your tastebuds, I think. Give you a taste of 200 — people then tend to find that they’ve been sucked in and want more!

    “What are the benefits to that service over the others, since the others are free?”

    No ads. Passionate members. Highly interactive (if you so choose) and dynamic. Not one-dimensional like so many other sites where the book data you put in just sits there — there’s stuff you can actually do with it! Also, the more you put in (say, contributing info on everything from tags to user covers to your favorite local bookstores) the more you get out of it has been my experience. It makes one’s catalogue and bookdata “complete” in a satisfying way — and the best part is that others are contributing as well, so you’ll find bits of interest from others almost immediately as you start exploring books or bookplaces that you share. There’s something for everybody.

    There’s a great bed of metadata — much of it user-contributed — to work with, since there are now almost 30 million books entered. This gives great recommendations, for example. The main “benefit” thus, is that it is by far more feature-rich than any other book cataloging site than I know of. It’s a booklover’s booksite in the same sense that a chef can be a “chef’s chef” — driven more by love of books (or analogously, cooking) and therefore wonderful for that very reason. That’s my perspective on it anyway (as a moderately dedicated but quite passionate user of the site).

  4. Oops, some grammatical blunders in my last post. “From” for “for” of course; and “that I know of” rather than “than I know of”! Lack of sleep is doing me in.

  5. I didn’t realize that Library Thing’s lifetime membership was only $25. I thought that was per year. To tell you the truth I haven’t gotten into any of the different systems yet. I think I have accounts with all but have been to busy to dive any deeper into them.

  6. Technically speaking, you can pay what you want from $16 (?) to $50 (?) for the lifetime membership. I’m fuzzy on the details, but I think there’s a sliding scale on which you can choose to pay what you think LibraryThing is worth to you.

    Apparently, the average was $26 (slightly more than the suggested amount of $25). The yearly membership is $10 but once your year is up you won’t be able to add anymore books. I went for the lifetime, and I’m still using the service 2 years on.

  7. I use LibraryThing for the books I own, and Shelfari for everything else. I know there’s another service out there, GoodReads, but since I’m already on two services, why join another? As for the cost, I think LibraryThing has a little more of an extensive library. What I mean is that it seems like when I look up ISBNs, they seem to have them, whereas Shelfari usually doesn’t for some reason. That’s been my experience thus far…I can’t figure out how to separate the books either in LibraryThing into read, reading, plan to read like Shelfari either. That’s why I use Shelfari too.

  8. I haven’t gotten a chance to respond to all of your comments, but I just want to say Thank you! Especially to the first “anon” because I hadn’t been aware of some of the things. Anon, your passion caused me to go and tinker with LibraryThing for a little while: and you’re right, $25 is measly when it comes to all that is there.

    Thanks for your input!

  9. I only use LibraryThing.  The reply bay “Anon” above says it all.  I was hooked the first day into paying the $25 lifetime fee and have never looked back.  I simply love it!  Best time sink on the net!! 🙂

    >I can’t figure out how to separate my books into shelves (to be read, reading, finished reading). Can I?

    Not yet.  Tim Spalding, the founder of LibraryThing, is working on a “Collections” feature (date of release is not yet known) which will then allow you to separate your books into different collections.

  10. SqueakyChu, thanks for your thoughts! Since I wrote this post, I’ve been pretty convinced of LibraryThing and have gotten the lifetime membership. I just label books “don’t own” if I don’t have it. Although I won’t stop using Shelfari (I like their “pretty” widgets), I’m looking forward to the “collections” feature on LibraryThing. Sounds great!

  11. I’ve used LibraryThing for a couple of years (although still not got around to cataloging all my books!).  I would definitely say it’s worth the $25.

    Haven’t used the others, but on a quick tour of Goodreads recently my first impression was that books seemed to have a higher number of reviews and ratings than on LibraryThing, so maybe more members, or more active members? It also seemed more simple and user-friendly. I might give it a try.

  12. I like shelfari. I am an organized person… and it organizes for me. Sometimes it gets annoying, but I didn’t even notice the ads before you mentioned them! And it never spamed me before. However, I signed up for goodreads and joined a group, and sent me multiple emails a day on various activities and I couldn’t get rid of them, so I deleted it.

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