While we have the best tools for smooth media consumption, the options for book readers remain quite limited. Books deserve better than Goodreads.
Books deserve better than Goodreads
Although I mainly consume TV series, podcasts and games, I also like to read books. However, it is quite difficult to discover new books that specifically fit my path. I am used to platforms such as Spotify and Netflix, which know exactly what to watch or listen to next through their algorithms.
For books, there is Goodreads, a network for book readers. Anyone who likes to read books and live online has a profile on Goodreads. There they share which books they read and what they think of those books via a star rating.
Goodreads collects a lot of data, but in the end little is done for the user. I have now given nearly three hundred books a star rating in the app. Then the service should be able to recommend a next book to me, right? A bit hidden are some tips, but they only seem to be based on separate books that I have read.
Goodreads is from Amazon, and that store only uses the information to improve its own store. I’m part of the problem, because I read almost all of my books through Amazon. I have a Kindle and purchase my digital books from the Amazon website. In addition, I have a subscription to Audible (also from Amazon) for listening to audiobooks.
The only time Amazon has nothing to do with my reading list is when I pick up a paper book. That only happens far too little. A book like this usually lies next to a chair for months waiting for me to touch it again. Only to be distracted by a screen after a few pages.
One of the strangest parts of Goodreads remains the Reading Challenge. The app challenges you to read more through a challenge for the next year, which you determine yourself. For example, that you want to read twenty books in 2021.
Why does everyone think it is a good idea to add stress to an activity designed to relax? As if the end of the year wasn’t busy enough, you also have to race through your books in a hurry. If you fail to achieve your completely arbitrary goal, you will only feel bad.
The problem of the app is of course not this challenge, but that Goodreads has become too big due to the role of Amazon. Alternatives no longer stand a chance and books deserve better.
Dutch young people read far too little. When I was forced to read dusty books at school, it took far too long until I started reading for pleasure again. Back then, the only competition was DVD and PC games. Now books have to compete with TikTok, YouTube and Fortnite on a screen that we always have with us. There is nothing wrong with the books themselves. But if Goodreads is the best the internet has to offer to make reading more social and fun, then I see it bleak.
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