Reading on the Go: Goodreads

With the invention of the smart phone, people have found ways to take their whole lives on the go with them. From music, to movies, and even to books, we are not content unless everything is at our fingertips. Some things are harder to keep near us than others. When I got my first smart phone, an Android, I was hard pressed to find a suitable book cataloging app that wouldn’t break the bank. Eventually, I found one that did exactly what I needed– too bad my phone was slow and outdated. I could barely use the awesome app I had found. So, I had to move on from my Android to my new and shiny iPhone 4.

Admittedly, I am a little late to the Goodreads party. Many of my friends and fellow readers have been using this site for a few years to keep track of the 20120821-203230.jpgbooks they’ve read, their reviews, and what their friends are reading. I’ve had an account, but haven’t done anything with it until recently. I downloaded the free iPad app and spent a day learning what it had to offer. From the home screen, there are a lot of things to do. I started with visiting my profile so I could change my picture from the standard silhouette to something more recent. That done, I settled down to examine the app. I dropped by the updates and checked out what my friends have been doing. The update screen gives you all of your friends’ added books, reviews, ratings, giveaways, comments, and pretty much everything they’ve been doing on Goodreads. If you have a lot of friends, then this might be overwhelming. You can easily change the kinds of updates and who you get updates from by going to the settings page. Only want to see the reviews? You can narrow it down. Have a lot of “friends” and not too many that you actually care about? Narrow it down to top friends. This will allow you to look through what you find important instead of being inundated with what you might find to be useless information.

20120821-203354.jpgThe cataloging portion of the app is pretty easy to understand. If you have a stack of books you want to catalog, you can tap scan and use your mobile device’s camera to recognize the bar code, identify the ISBN, and pull up the book. You can scan multiple books and they will wait under “Scanned Books” until you’ve done what you needed with them (added them to a bookshelf or obtain information). Then you can clear out the list and start again later. Afterwards, you can tap on “my books” and see what you have on your book shelves. The three standard shelves are “read”, “currently-reading”, and “to-read”. You can add other bookshelves if you want to create sub-categories. The only problem I’ve found with this system is the scanner can sometimes take longer to identify the ISBN depending on the texture of the book. This is not too much of a problem, it just tries my patience when my hands shake. If you do not have the bar code on hand (you lost the book jacket, it’s damaged, etc.), then you can tap on search and locate the book manually. The archives seem to be in good order, I have yet to hit a wall in trying to find a particular book or author. You can also keep track of your progress while reading, posting what page you’re up to and what you think so far by going to the home page and selecting “My Progress”.

Another interesting feature is an events page, showing you literary events in your area. Observing these events means being brought to the Goodreads 20120821-203320.jpgweb site through the app, which is not as clean as a calendar might be. Unfortunately, from the app you cannot see which events your friends may be attending. Also, the events are not organized in a coherent manner. I thought that the events might be listed as they are upcoming, but there seems to be no rhyme or reason to the organization. Unfortunately, organization in lists seems to be a point on which the Goodreads app fails. Not only in events, but also if you tap explore and look at a particular genre you will find that the books are not in any sort of order. I tried to make sense of them through ratings, amount of ratings, publication date, but the order is haphazard. The only part of the app that makes organization easy is the bookshelves, which to be honest is all that matters to me. Another point that is annoying about this app is that there is a section for groups, but no way to find groups to join. You can only look at groups that you have already joined through the web site. It would be helpful if you were able to browse available groups through the app and join them right there.

Overall, if you’re looking for a way to catalog your books or a way to discover what your friends are reading and what you should read, the Goodreads app is great. If you’re looking to use other features of the Goodreads web site, you’re better off waiting until you can get to a computer. Check out the Goodreads web site or visit me on Goodreads if you would like to see what I’m reading!

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