Goodreads

A comprehensive social catalog for books, with community reviews, lists, groups, discussions, etc.

Investigator - Tom

Situation

Tom enjoys reading in his spare time, both fiction and non-fiction.  For each book he reads, Tom likes to learn a bit about it.  He enjoys researching online for information about the author, to read reviews and discussions, see if the book is popular and how it is rated, hear what other people found important or noteworthy, etc.

Vision

Goodreads usually appears in any online search Tom performs for a fiction book.    There he finds a brief teaser summary on the story, as well as information about the author and other books they’ve written.   Of special note on Goodreads is a list of community reviews, which are of mixed quality, but the most liked reviews are sometimes thoughtful and offer a variety of perspectives.  Also of interest to see how popular and well rated the book is within the vibrant Goodread community.   Tom likes the community based feeling of Goodreads, expressing personal opinions of actual readers.  A nice compliment to the more formal nature of professional reviews found elsewhere, or the impersonal nature of Wikipedia.  In this way, Goodreads forms a unique roll in Tom’s quest to know more about a book, and nicely compliments other sources.

Insights

Some readers like to research about books – synopses, reviews, background, author.

Having a literature based community with a comprehensive catalog can attract contributors who will share their opinions and perspectives on books.

A community can offer personal perspectives that differ from professional content.

Model

Readers can browse and search an extensive catalog of titles.

Each title has a brief teaser summary.

Each title is by an author or several authors.

Each author has a brief bio and a set of titles authored by them.

Community members can rate titles and write personal reviews.

Each title has statistics such as number of readers and distribution of ratings.

Explorer - Barbara

Situation

Barbara is an avid reader of literature and fiction.   Always looking new titles to read.  She loves browsing in bookstores and perusing various award or top lists online.  But feels like she always sees the same titles.  Would like more diversity and choices.

Vision

Barbara has noticed Goodreads in the past.  Every time she searches online about an author or title, Goodreads appears near the top of the listings, along with Wikipedia and Amazon.   She decides to explore and see what’s there.

Barbara is drawn to Goodreads extensive catalog organized by basic genre such as Fantasy, Crime, History.  Even more delightful is all the subgenres.  Related to Fantasy are Dark, Epic, Herioc, Urban, Weird, etc.  Within each genre are lists of popular and most read titles, as well as community curated lists such such as Essential Weird Fiction and Books with Non-linear Time.  Further, Barbara notices that for each book there is a list of books people also liked.  Overall Barbara is satisfied that she will find lots of possible books on Goodreads to read in the coming years, although she will likely never give up hanging around her favorite bookshops as well.

Insights

Avid readers are often searching for new titles to read.

Traditional sources are bookstores and award or top lists.

The searching process can be time consuming and still yield only limited popular results.

A comprehensive online catalog can give access to a wide variety of possibilities.

Indexing by genre and subgenre can aid readers to browse specific types of books.

Curated lists can offer yet another view into the catalog, indexed along manifold diverse lines such as essential or themes or structures.

For individual titles, a list of books people also liked provides yet another method of discovery, based on community tastes.

Having multiple organization schemes such as genres, curated lists, and “also likes” offers readers many possibilities to explore and discover titles in a huge catalog, and perhaps escape the limits of mainstream popularity.

Model

Readers can browse titles by genre.  Titles can belong to multiple genres.  Genres may have subgenres.

Within a genre, readers can see lists of most popular and most read titles.

Individuals can rate titles, and indicate that they have read it.

Titles have associated with them popularity (rated highly) and read count (number of people in the community who have read it).

Community members can collaborate to create named curated lists of titles along any theme they desire.

Associated with each title is a list of titles also liked by people who rated that title highly.

Recommendations - Alex

Situation

Alex is an avid reader and is often looking to discover new titles he would enjoy.   Frequently  busy with work and travel, he doesn’t have time to go to bookstores or search for reviews.   Further, although Alex has diverse tastes, from classics to fantasy to historical fiction, he prefers a direct style, and tries to avoid the post-modern obscure writing with no point that seems to have become popular.  Alex is frustrated at the effort involved each time he finishes a book and must search for the next one to read.   Alex would prefer reading to be about relaxing, and not to add more work to his life.

Vision

Alex often visits Goodreads when researching what to read next.  He has noticed that if he creates an account and rates his past reads, then Goodreads will give recommendations by category.  Taking time to search and rate a lot of books sounds like more work to Alex, but he decides to put in his recent reads and give it a try.  Indeed, Goodreads automatically categorizes his reading and under recommendations generates separate lists for classics, fantasy, sci-fi, general fiction, historical fiction and even humor.   This quite appeals to Alex, who thinks hmmm, I just read a few of classics in a row, so now am in the mood for something light, maybe fantasy or sci-fi.  All lists are further based on readers liking of books that Alex liked in these genres.   Which is important to Alex in his quest to avoid the deplorable post-modern style.

Over the coming months, Alex tries a few books from each category.  Some are better than others, but Alex and is pleased overall with the results.  Finding new books this way requires minimal effort, although he still has to put in the time to continue rating the books as he reads.

Insights

Readers are frequently looking for new titles to read that appeal to their tastes.

Researching and discovering appropriate authors and titles is time consuming and often yields mediocre results even after expending considerable effort.

Readers would find useful to receive recommendations by genre that are tailored to their likes, allowing browsing by the genre suited to their current mood.

Readers might be willing to invest the effort to enter and rate their past reading in order to benefit from high quality recommendations.

Model

Titles are organized by genre.  A title may belong to several genres.

Each title has an associated set of titles that readers also enjoyed.

Readers receive recommendations of titles organized by their favorite genres.

Recommendations are influenced by books a reader likes being associated with other titles liked by other readers who also liked that book.

Social - Alice

Situation

Alice is a social reader, enjoying reading together with old friends or making new friends.  Alice belongs to a couple of local reading groups.  Enjoys other people picking the books to read so that she breaks out of his usual habits and discovers books she wouldn’t necessarily have considered herself.  Alice loves getting together to discuss novels with others to hear about what other people saw in a book, their ideas and thoughts and feelings as well as themes, characters, plot lines, etc.    Her reading groups that just meet once for a few hours to discuss each work do not satisfy her desire to go deeply in all there is to think about.   Often the groups go off on tangents unrelated to the book, reducing the opportunity further.  As an alternative, Alice tried taking literature classes that meet regularly at the local community college, but doesn’t really care for the writing assignments as much as the open discussions.

Vision

Alice was chatting with Terry, another member of her book club, lamenting how little time they have on their one evening together each month to discuss a novel.   Terry suggested that Alice check out the groups and discussions on Goodreads, a literary site with an emphasis on community.  On Goodreads, Alice indeed found hundreds of groups and discussions of all sorts, many actively used by members.  Unfortunately overall the average level of discourse was pretty low, with people not have much interesting to say other than “I liked the book a lot” or “I’ve been planning on reading it.”  But Alice was motivated, and over time she eventually found some better groups, joined a few of the online reading clubs, and friended other readers for whom she felt an affinity,  The discussion boards within groups she found to be more focused.  Alice became proactive in guiding the discussions, sharing her thoughts and soliciting others as she read each book and at the end.  When looking for new titles to read, was great for Alice to look at friends virtual book shelves to discover titles she might not otherwise encounter.

Still it didn’t seem possible to have what she craved, easy access to the thoughtful discussions of themes, characters, plot elements, etc. in books she was currently reading or had read.

Insights

Social readers derive as much pleasure from sharing and discussion as they do from the reading.

Traditional book clubs that meet in real life are constrained in the amount of time possible for the group to gather together and discuss each book.

Social aspects can cause book clubs to loose focus from the work under consideration and devolve into just gatherings for chatting.

Literature classes meet regularly and have guided thoughtful discussions, but are oriented around coursework and examinations, which will not appeal to people interested exclusively to read and discuss or who lack time and inclination to do writing assignments or study for tests.

An online literature community site with a comprehensive catalog and repository of ratings and reviews can attract the critical mass needed to form ongoing discussions and groups around diverse works and topics.

The noise of less thoughtful readers declaring simply that they like this or that, or plan to read or have read various titles can significantly dilute the content, and be disheartening to the readers seeking meaningful discussions.

Model

Community members can conduct discussions and form groups.

Each group has an internal discussion board, separate from the general discussions on Goodreads.

Groups can be used for diverse purposes, such as topics discussions, activities or reading clubs.

Community members can friend each other.

Readers can organize titles into shelves (lists).

Friends can view each others shelves.

Organizer - Louis

Situation

Louis likes to read a lot and likes to keep things organized.  In his life he has read hundreds of books.   So many that he can’t remember.    Louis enjoys reading all the works particular authors or in particular series.  Louis likes to keep track of all the titles and authors he has read and when he read them so that he can browse through the collection to evoke memories and be inspired to read more.  Likes to think about his favorites, and also fun to recall how bad some books were.  Likes to make lists of titles to read in the future, and books by authors he likes, new authors or titles he has come across.

Vision

On Goodreads, Louis can mark all the books he has ever read from the extensive catalog.  When he views any author or a series, he can then see which titles he has already read.  Louis browse through his past reads and see his favorites, or what he read in a particular year or just look randomly.  Further Louis can organize his past reads into virtual shelves, grouping together however he likes – such as sci-fi and fantasy with complex speculative universes, or historical fiction that influenced his world view.  Louis feels content that he can keep track of all his past reading and how it has been a part of his life.

Insights

Organizers appreciate tools to record and track their reading life.  Compile all the books and authors they have read.  Facilitate browsing past reads.  List books of a particular author that they have not read yet.  Etc.

Model

Readers can mark books that they have read, and record the date.

Readers can rate individual titles.

Readers can create virtual shelves along any theme, and place titles on them.  A title can be on multiple shelves.

When viewing authors, series or shelves, books already read as designated as such.

Fan - Marta

Situation

Marta loves reading, but confines herself to mostly Speculative Fiction – Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Weird Worlds, Imagined Societies, Cyberpunk, etc.  Marta participates in online communities and goes to fantasy fairs and sci-fi conventions as well, to immerse and share these loves with others who share her interests.  She has as a blog of her own with occasional followers and reads other people’s blogs.  Marta likes rare or obscure books and less read or little known titles that occupy the hidden corners of our cultures.  Marta loves talking about all the themes and details of the various speculative universes with others who share her passion.  She would love to have more literary discussions than she gets from her friends and the individual blogs with various followers don’t really form a focused enough community.

Vision

On Goodreads Matha creates a group devoted to Speculative Universes.  She organizes the groups discussion board to have discussions about various individual universes, discussions to compare fantasy or sci-fi universes, etc.   The discussions automatically show up on Goodreads pages for individual titles that are referenced.  Over time, people who share her interests discover her group and participate in discussions.  They even begin meeting in real life as conventions.

Insights

Fans like Marta needs a focused active community in one place online to discuss Speculative Fiction Universes with others who share her interest at the same level of detail.

Model

Community members can create groups with discussion boards around topics that are meaningful to them.

Discussions of individual titles are automatically cross referenced to appear on the details pages for the titles.

Alt Fic - Fred

Situation

Fred is always looking for new books to read, but sometime struggles since his particular tastes don’t necessarily match the top best sellers that everyone else thinks are great, or that everybody is reading “now”, but which he finds ordinary and derivative.

Fred is open and loves diversity and new experiences.  If Fred could, he would include in his reading read many books about esoteric themes or by little know authors.

Vision

Fred would like a way on Goodreads to see random titles in genres, instead of only the most popular, so that he can decide independently what he would choose to read.  Even a blend of popular with random would suit Fred, so he would feel he at least has the opportunity to avoid the tyranny of the majority.

Insights

Explorers like Fred don’t necessarily want to always read what everyone else is reading.  Popular with the mass public or trending now is not necessarily of use to him.

Model

Books can be browsed with an element of randomness or obscurity.

General Model

Goodreads is a social community platform for people who enjoy reading books.

A comprehensive catalog of Authors and Books is available to search or browse.

Books are organized into browsable genres, by recommendations, awards, new releases, various lists.

Details are available for each book such as language, publisher, publish date, number of pages, ISBN, etc. Awards, quotes, and trivia are also listed. Related books are displayed as “Readers also enjoyed these books…”

Authors have short biographies, list of works and details such as birth date and twitter handle.

Readers can record books they are currently reading and rate books they have read, or write reviews.

Ratings are averaged across readers, and reviews are aggregated with each book. Individual reviews can be liked, and popular reviews are floated to the front of the review list.

Readers can ask questions about a book and answers are supplied by the community. Popular answered questions are displayed with each book.

There are book lists, such as “Best Historial Fiction” and “Best Books of the 2010s”. Readers can vote for books in the lists to raise their individual rankings.

The community can form groups, or initiate discussions, submit quotes, or even ask questions of the authors.