Goodreads v. LibraryThing: Part Two

Amanda Nelson

Staff Writer

Amanda Nelson is an Executive Director of Book Riot. She lives in Richmond, VA.

Amanda Nelson

Staff Writer

Amanda Nelson is an Executive Director of Book Riot. She lives in Richmond, VA.

This is a continuation of last week’s post, Goodreads v. LibraryThing: Part One, which covered adding books to your library, book recommendations, stats, user interfaces, and discussion/groups. If you have anything else to add to the discussion, please do so below!


Goodreads– Shows you your friends’ reviews first, which I’m way more interested in than the reviews of strangers (another point for the “GR is more for bookish social interaction” theory). Under friend reviews are community reviews. You can filter these reviews for all editions of the book, just your edition, by star rating, or “text only” content. After that, the algorithm for how Goodreads sorts and displays is secret. According to GR, sorting is based on a combination of likes/comments, the review length, and the reviewer’s user history (number of friends, or, dare I say it, C(K)LOUT). This DOES mean that snarky/goofy reviews (which garner a lot of attention) written by popular users can have precedence in the display over other types of reviews. HOWEVER, you do have the option of filtering reviews by oldest or newest first.

LibraryThing– The first notable thing here is that LT allows you to sort reviews by language. Next, it sorts reviews by newest to oldest, but you can reverse that. You can also sort reviews by “votes,” so those with the highest number of likes are at the top. The fact that there are fewer users here also means that there are fewer reviews. ALSO LT allows you to give half stars (on your rating of the book- the reviews themselves do not include a star rating), which I sincerely wish Goodreads would do. There are whispers that LT reviews are less “fluffy” than those on Goodreads, but I haven’t noticed that.

Winner: Once again, personal preference. I prefer LibraryThing’s automatic by-date sorting system because secret algorithms make me twitchy, but I also like that I can sort Goodreads reviews by star rating. It’s up to you.


Both LT and GR have author profile options, where authors can review/add books, have discussions with other members, interact, etc. Both sites discourage “spamming” users. When authors review their own work, both sites mark the review as “from the author.”

Goodreads– When an author asks to be your friend, you have no way of seeing that it IS an author unless you click through to the profile. Once you do friend an author, they can (and many do) start sending you invites to giveaways/events/chats/whatever. Your inbox can quickly become full of author spam. If you want to avoid his, you have to accept friend requests with caution.

LibraryThing– Author chats and promotion of their own works are (supposed to be) limited to two places: the HobNob With Authors Group and the Author Chat Group. When an author schedules an Author Chat, LT sends an invitation to all the users who have that author’s books on their shelves.

Winner: LibraryThing. The difference between the two in this is pretty easily summed up by statements on their websites. From LT: “LibraryThing is not an advertising medium. Egregious commercial solicitation is forbidden. No matter how great your novel, this DOES apply to authors.” From the Goodreads website: “Are you an author or publisher? Gain access to a massive audience of more than 9 million book lovers. Goodreads is a great place to promote your book.” In my opinion, Goodreads’ use as a promotional tool is what causes “authors behaving badly” on GR to happen– some see it as a promo space exclusively, and therefore feel comfortable responding to negative reviews by confronting the user. I’ve never seen or heard of this happening on LT (if it has happened to you, please mention it in the comments), which presents itself as more user-centered.


-Both LT and GR allow cursing and both prohibit personal attacks on users/authors/members.
-If a post is flagged four times BY FOUR DIFFERENT USERS on LT, it’s deleted. If a post is flagged a million and seven times on GR, it stays until a mod gets around to it. I prefer LT’s system, since flagged posts can contain seriously abusive stuff that shouldn’t just remain out there floating around.

-In reference to hiding “unhelpful” reviews–Goodreads has stated that they are hiding reviews that don’t address the book (a move that seems to come from the use of “will not buy because of author” shelves) on the book page. LibraryThing uses tags instead of shelves, with the most popular tags being bolded on a book page. If a bunch of people tag a book with “author is a jerk,” it will probably show up, though the users would all need to use those exact words in their tag. As an experiment, I looked up an author who has thrown a few tantrums on both sites. The biggest LibraryThing tags, which are shelf equivalents, were “dystopia, YA, love triangle, prince, series, teen, romance.” On Goodreads, top reviews of the book had shelves like “kill it with fire,” “due to author,” “shit list,” and “foot in mouth disease.” I’m not saying one is better than the other, but if you have a preference about seeing that sort of thing, do with this information what you will.

-Both sites have giveaways from big publishing houses. LT winners are chosen by an algorithm, GR winners are chosen randomly.

-LibraryThing is free up to 200 books, then it’s officially $10 per year or $25 for a lifetime subscription (though it’s actually pay-what-you-can). It’s user-supported, so there are no ads. Goodreads is free, no matter how many books you add.

-When you click a book on LibraryThing, it will bring up links to your local bookstores and library to see if they have it, which is useful. It also give you price comparisons for buying the book from various websites, and the availability of the book on various swap sites (PaperBackSwap, Bookmooch, etc.). Goodreads brings up links to Barnes and Noble and other online stores.

-In reference to the “bugginess” of both sites- I crowd-sourced this question, and the consensus seems to be that Goodreads is totally down pretty frequently. LibraryThing goes down less, but often has bugs in individual features, like the collection selection when you add specific books.

(Editor’s Note: as of 3/28/13, GoodReads was in the process of being acquired in whole by Amazon. Amazon holds a minority stake in LibraryThing.)


LibraryThing is for people who want a serious, accurate, extensive book cataloguing tool. The discussions and groups are brainier, and there’s less author interaction (a good or bad thing, depending on your preference). Feels more like a site for readers and less like a site for publishers/authors to use as promotional space. Less intuitive, less pretty, less user-friendly. Better stats and tagging system. Built for those concerned with their physical library first, and talking to other readers second.

Goodreads is for people who want Facebook for books. Less a place for intense cataloguing of your books (though their system is certainly functional, especially if you have mostly new editions with ISBNs), more a place for interacting with other readers/authors. Better graphics, more user-friendly interface. Definitely has deep, substantial book talk, but you may have to look for it. Great space for online book clubs and “friending” readers. Built with those concerned with talking to other readers first, and making lists of books (that you don’t necessarily own) second.