LibraryThing and Shelfari Revisited

Back in July, I posted a poll on this site asking for input into LibraryThing and Shelfari. I was very curious as to what other bloggers used and why.

Since the Blog Improvement Project this week is to discuss some “social media” tools that we use for blogging, I’d thought I’d revisit these. I feel that both Shelfari and LibraryThing help me blog, although I find them to be more of a help for me than for others.


Image via Wikipedia

I love Shelfari for the widgets. I keep two widgets in my first sidebar (scroll down to see them). The first is a “Currently Reading” widget. I love to visit other sites and see, in the sidebar, what books they are currently reading. I think a graphic format makes it more appealing, and I love Shelfari’s widgets because I can make it look like a bookshelf.

The other widget I use is a “Recently Read” widget. I have all the books I’ve “recently” read in the widget; one need only click on the next arrow to see the past year of reads. Again, I like the graphic format, as well as the ability to browse.

The best part of Shelfari is that it lets me have separate shelves for “current” and “past” reading, as well as a “shelf” for the “up next” reads. I don’t work with the “up next” reads because that is always changing for me! It’s too hard to keep that up-to-date on the web.

The downside of Shelfari is just about everything else. There is lots of advertising. I don’t spend lots of time on the site because the interface is annoying. I haven’t been impressed with the groups or the reviews. It’s also hard to get a specific copy of a book in my shelf; I go with the nicest cover, rather than the specific copy I’ve read because my copy may be hard to find.

In other words, I like to work with Shelfari because their widgets are awesome. It’s a great place to start for cataloguing books read for the widget format. Visit me on Shelfari here.


Image via CrunchBase

On the other hand, I love LibraryThing for everything else. LibraryThing doesn’t have shelves to separate reading into past and present, nor does it have very practical or “pretty” widgets. I think it’s a rather “ugly” interface. But it has everything and anything else you might want.

First, LibraryThing has reviews. Members like you and me write up reviews of the books in their library. When I hear about a book, I go and look it up on LibraryThing. If it gets good ratings and reviews, then I add it to my list. Bloggers or friend recommendations as well as LibraryThing is my criteria these days.

Which leads me to my next point: Bloggers, your LibraryThing reviews can be an awesome introduction to your blog. I put a short-and-sweet review on LibraryThing, usually with a link to a longer review on my blog. I don’t know if anyone finds my blog that way, but I can tell you that I find other blogs through LibraryThing reviews. If I really liked their review, I’ll browse their other LibraryThing reviews and their profile, looking for a blog link. Then I browse their main blog page; if they have lots of books I like, I may add it to my reader.

Is it a pain adding my reviews to LibraryThing every month? Yes. But I think it’s worth it. (Also, if someone likes my review, they can give it a thumbs up, and that’s always nice to see!)

Also, LibraryThing has groups. I love the groups I’ve joined about the classics and classic authors. It helps to know that there are people also reading these books that I can discuss them with. As much as I love blogging, my blog readers haven’t always read what I’m reading; the LibraryThing groups help give me guidance. I even just joined a “group read” group, where we are going to read the same book. There is also a group for bloggers where people can ask questions and post about giveaways.

Lastly, LibraryThing has books. Need I say more? I can organize my personal library by Dewey Decimal System or Library of Congress. I can add reviews to all my books, not just ones I’ve blogged about. In addition, it’s so much fun to browse reviews and get recommendations and go from one book to another to another via the “similar books” links. It’s like browsing the library shelves. From home. With reviews. This doesn’t help me blog (it’s just another way of “wasting” time online) but it is so much fun!

You can participate by reading the reviews and joining groups and book browsing all without paying a penny — but paying lets you add more than 200 books to your personal library ($10 for a year; $25 for life). Visit me at LibraryThing here.

The bottom line is that for me my LibraryThing membership was well worth the $25. I love it!

What about you? What book services do you subscribe to  (if any)? Do you think it helps you in blogging? Does it help you in your reading?

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 have a Library Thing account, but I have mostly abandoned it for my Good Reads account. I tried out Shelfari, but I found the interface too annoying, so that one was flat-out. There are two things I really like about Good Reads: 1) it’s completely free, no matter how many books you add; 2) like Shelfari (but unlike Library Thing) you can subdivide your books into shelves 3 main (to-read, currently reading, read) as well as sub-shelves based on your own designation (for instance, I have a shelf called “sold”, so that I can keep track of books that I read, but no longer own, and “to buy/borrow” for books that are on my to-read shelf, but that are not actually in my possession). I’m sufficiently obsessed with cataloging my books that I appreciate the flexibility this system affords. Also, I tend to find the reviews written on GR slightly better than anywhere else. Oh also, I like how you can write down quotes you enjoyed in a book, as well as keep track of the date you read a particular book. Since I rate my books, though, I do like how Library Thing allows half star ratings! All of this comes down to personal preference, I think, and that’s mine!

    But I’m terrible about taking reviews from my blog and posting them on sites other than my own. I feel like it’s enough of a challenge getting it up in one place that I find it too daunting to modify my reviews (they tend to be quite long, and often have personal anecdotes in them) to fit the parameters of any site other than my own.

  2. I think LibraryThing is definitely the superior site when it comes to cataloging and keeping track of my library, and of course I love their Early Reviewer program (gotta love free books). And, yes, the reviews are helpful, too. I have an account with Shelfari, too. But lately I’ve been playing around with Good Reads a little more – it seems to be a little more user friendly than Shelfari, and it lets me have as many different “shelves” as I want. I also think the GR discussion groups are a little more interesting than either Shelfari or LT. And I love the way GR lets me “update” my current reading, so I can see my progress as I go. So I guess each one has its uses and strong points.

  3. I use Good Reads a little, but I’m a Library Thing girl. I haven’t tried Shelfari – there just isn’t enough time to explore everything.

  4. I didn’t want to deal with the spam of Shelfari (I had a friend join and immediately her account began blasting my address with invites, so much so that I had to block it), but I liked having shelves, so I went with GoodReads, too. I love it there! You can do social networking with other friends, there are cool widgets (though not as cool as the Shelfari bookshelves, I admit), I can connect to it through Facebook and/or Myspace, and sometimes I get to meet with authors who have claimed ownership of their books. I always put up a couple lines with a summation of what I feel about a read book, with a link to my specific review, and it takes no more than a minute to do, so I do it after posting each of my reviews. I also like it for all those things Steph said above. In December, I debated back and forth which of the three systems I should use, and I’m glad I chose GoodReads, even if most of my friends use other services.

  5. Oh! I also like that GR allows you to update your progress in the books you’re currently reading. I don’t know if the other sites do that, but it’s one of my favorite features.

  6. I have a GoodReads account, but it’s mostly dormant. I get much more use out of LibraryThing for all of the reasons you mentioned, although I really haven’t done that much with its “social” aspects – as you say, there’s just not enough time!

    For me, LT’s tags are more manageable that GR’s shelves, and it helps me keep up with the status of all my books.

  7. Oh, yes, per Amanda & JSHall, I love being able to update my reading status on each book and have the little tracker bar that marks how far through I am in a book!

  8. Steph, I don’t mind the modifying reviews thing and I really didn’t think twice about the cost — really, $25 for life is minimal considering how much I use LibraryThing. I never really tried GoodReads, although I have an account — but I thought it looked ugly from my brief time….But I use the accounts for completely different things, so isn’t it fun how there are all sorts of options out there?
    JLS Hall, I love free books, but only ones I want to read — I have yet to find Early Reviewer books that look appealing so that hasn’t really spoken to me yet. But yes, I think LibraryThing works well for cataloging. Love the idea of updating my reading progress! (I do that in a word program now.)
    Kathy, I’ve seen you on LT!
    Amanda, when I first joined Shelfari, I made the mistake of looking up people by email and I was so embarrassed that it sent out spam to everyone. So embarrassed. I only entered about four or five addresses so I sent them a personal note apologizing. I don’t look for people and discussion via Shelfari so I gave up on that. Never tried to discussions on GoodReads.
    Florinda, the discussions on LibraryThing are quite fun, once you find groups you like!
    Natasha, well, you can see from this discussion that everyone has an opinion! I like LT the best, but I’ve never used GR with it’s fancy “update-your-reading progress” option, which I think sounds pretty cool…

  9. Thanks for the excellent review of Library Thing. I’m in the Blog Improvement Project too and came to find out your opinion. Library Thing sounds like the thing for me.

  10. Ladytink, yeah, I forget often too!

    Margot, well, as you can see from the comments, everyone has different needs. I’ve never tried GoodReads but it sounds like many people think their reviews and discussions are worthwhile too. Whatever you use, I hope it works out well for you!

  11. I’ve tried both Library Thing and Shelfari, and IMO, Library Thing wins hands down. I paid $25 for a life-time membership but the books I’ve won through the early reviewer program has already paid for itself!

  12. I thought I commented on this earlier, but apparently I forgot. This is a great post about both of these services — I usually use GoodReads, but am seriously considering using LibraryThing more to keep track of my book collection. Thanks for this post 🙂

  13. Valerie, I like LibraryThing too, but I like Shelfari for completely different reasons! I don’t usually care for any of the early reviewer books — and I have yet to get one of those that I do find interesting, so I’d hesitate to recommend it to people to get “free books.” Not quote the point of it, I don’t think….

    Kim, I never tried Good Reads, but it sounds like it also has great features! I do find LibraryThing to be great for books I own.

  14. Has anyone check out bookarmy yet? I think its generally the same concept. They have authors involved and there’s alot of video uploaded. Some of the self-made (by authors) book trailer videos are hilariously bad.

  15. BookToken, haven’t heard of that one. Unless Checkhov and Maupassant and Nabokov have risen from the dead, though, the author’s involved probably wouldn’t interest me personally!

  16. Haha. I doubt they have a server that can accomodate resurrection. Would it be worth me dressing up as Nabokov?

  17. Pingback: Debbie Does the Internet

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