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Readers’ Social Network

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It is wonderful how powerful communication through social media is. If you simply start following the right people on Twitter, you’ll get a clear glimpse of what is happening around the world, as well as local and worldwide trends. Just mentioned that, because I was reading some tweeks, and came across one that was sent by a Social Network for avid book readers, and that is ultra cool. Just took some time, and signed in to that social network (called Skoob) and tried to figure out how it worked.

I love reading (and even listenning to audio books), so this social network was something I was really looking for for a long long time. There, you can keep track of books you read, are reading, abandoned, is planning to read and leave reviews. You friends can just come and look at your bookshelf to figure out what you’ve being reading and your comments and recommendations on those books.

Found two downsides in Skoob, though:

  1. It is a brazilian social network, and though I love my country and would love to see one of our social networks shine among the others, I just realized it is still a localized network focused on brazilian trends and portuguese books. That was quite a downside for me, as I’ve being reading a lot of foreign books, and have plenty of friends that doesn’t speak portuguese but that would benefit from my reviews.
  2. It doesn’t have too many books yet. Just tried some books I read recently, and had to register myself 2 or 3 of them. If I get to my real bookshelf, I’ll find some hundreds of books (some of them are rare) and registering all of them simply doesn’t fit my fancy.
  3. Ok, it was three actually. It is beta, and server response is really slow. Registering a single book just took me a whole lot of time and got me really bored.

Then, disappointed enough I just decided to go out and look for something more solid or closer to what I am looking for.

But, before going further, I would like to state that I don’t want to sound like I don’t want you to use Skoob. It is a great social network, have accomplished a lot already and it is a small start up striving to get mainstream. They’re just doing fine, they’re focusing on brazilian needs and I’m proud to see what they’ve accomplished this far. I will certainly revisit it in a near future.

That said, I’ll get into the next part. I googled and found other social networks like scoob, and decided to review the most promising one I’ve found. Here is the list of contenders:

  1. Skoob
  2. Good Reads
  3. Library Thing
  4. Shelfari

In order to review them, I decided to sign in, create a profile, add a common set of books and evaluate the overall usability of the website. Here is the common set of books I decided to add:

These are all well best sellers and known books, and any readers’ social network must have them.

Skoob

Thanks to @heitordelima, the friend that had a tweet sent through Skoob. That tweet presented me the network, and that’s why it is so important to integrate with Twitter and Facebook these days, no matter what your business is (if you want to get big). As I said before, this is a very good social network, but it is beta and focused on brazilian content. Here is my review:

  • Thumbs down... Very slow. A Social Network can’t be that slow. People just get bored and quit your site, as I did. Things must be easy and quick. That’s a point they’re probably tackling down right now, as they’re growing pretty fast and perhaps looking for funding to afford their infrastructure. As I said before: it is worth revisiting in a near future.
  • Thumbs down... Registering in a new book is got very confusing steps:
    • You go to the search bar, and type in the book you’re looking for
    • Search returns no results, then it is offered a link so you can add that book
    • The next page just says: You can’t add a book before making sure it isn’t already registered. And then, you have to conduct the same search once again. Did I mentioned how slow it was? Then I had to make two searches in order to add one book… This one got me really disappointed.
    • Then, you get to a page where you type in the basics of that book
    • Then, you get to another page where you’ll have the option to add further details
    • Then you get your book registered.
    • In none of these steps they try to auto-complete the fields based on what you were searching. Also, after typing in the title in the first page, you’ll have to type in the same title in the second one, while you should have it already filled in based on what you filled in the page before. The whole process is very slow, and I just couldn’t afford to register more than 2 or 3 books there. The harder it is to register a book, the less people will do it, the less books are going to be available in the network, the sooner the network will be dead. Usability is a big deal guys. Revisit these steps and make sure that they’re really easy, quick and smooth.
  • Thumbs Up! One thing I liked on Skoob is that it offers you a lot of options when it comes to integrating with Twitter. You can select if you want Skoob to send out a tweet when you mark a book as reading, read, planning to read, abandoned, etc. This is really cool, and this sort of tweet increases the social network presence on the internet and allow people to more effectively share what they’re actually trying to share, which is the relation they have with a given book. If they didn’t want to spread out the word about it they wouldn’t be adding books to their online bookshelf neither would they have allowed the social network to integrate with Twitter.

Books Availability

Found The Book of Mormon in Portuguese, but couldn’t find in the other languages I’ve read it (English and French). Had to add them myself, and suffered severe usability issues while doing it. Couldn’t find the other english books mentioned also, though the 7 habits was already registered there.

Good Reads

This is the network I just tried right after Scoob. Here is my review:

  • Thumbs Up! Good Reads have shown that they’ve made their homework when it comes to Web 2.0 and Social Networks. As soon as you add a book to your shelf, you start getting suggestions of related books that you may have read or that you may be interested in start reading. This made me spend a reasonable amount of time on the network, as I was always presented with a book I already read and just couldn’t stop adding them to my bookshelf. A social network must master content relashionship. It isn’t only about people anymore: you want to relate content, and that makes people linger and love your website.
  • Thumbs Up! A minor detail, is that if you say that you’re reading a book, then you can tell in which page you currently are. Update: @heitordelima just told me that Skoob has this capability as well. Unfortunatelly, they’ve missed the point of making things easily reachable. Just couldn’t see this feature at first.
  • Thumbs Up! A very good feature they have is Google Preview. While seeing a book profile, you can just get a book preview if it is available from Google. That’s wonderful if you’re trying to figure out if a book is worth reading. Avid book readers like me, sometimes spend hours trying to figure out if the book is worth a read (perhaps we should consume those hours reading them) by reading reviews of the book, table of contents, descriptions, commentaries, taking a look at a preview when it is available, etc. Book preview is a very nice feature, and make the network look really big and complete.
  • Thumbs Up! Once again: Social Networking is a business of relationships. People just tend to believe that relationships are only about people. It isn’t. And that’s the point I think Good Reads performed really well. While browsing the network, they’ll just keep suggesting you to take a look at popular shelves, more books by the author and relate books by showing what other books people that read a book have also read. This is just the big catch. A real book reader would spend a big deal of time in this network just to get up with all of that. This is more than 70% of the network, I would say.

Books Availability

I simply didn’t have to add any book. Just found all of them (and many others I’ve read) very easily. Rework, for example, just poped up when I added Crush it! and that’s what I was expecting. I just felt that though I have a reasonable amount of books, I would find more than 80% of them already listed there.

Library Thing

This one looked very promising at first, as they state they are a community of “1 million book lovers”. Truth is, that they’ve a very poor business model, and the community looks dead. Here is my review:

  • Thumbs Up! They offer two basic types of accounts: Organizational and Personal. It shows that they’re concerned about serving everyone’s needs, and that has a high potential if organizations begin to give a serious look at Library Thing and what a profile there can do for them. Having organizations interested in your social network means that soon you’re going to cash in somehow.
  • Thumbs down... It is got a horrible design. It is very hard to digest the screen and make a sense of what is being presented. Though I realized it was relating a lot of content, in the very web 2.0 and social networking way, I just couldn’t stand digesting it all. Too much data, bad color combinations and too many distractions. Design must be clear, and they’ve missed that point.
  • Thumbs down... Almost no book registered. Couldn’t find any of those. Although they’re 1 million, it looks like none of them like to contribute at all, or they aren’t actually active. I wonder if that 1 million refers to people that just signed in one day, or to people that are active in the social network…
  • Thumbs down...Twitter interaction is disabled. That’s really bad and the social network is loosing visibility because of that.
  • Thumbs down...Later I discovered that if you want to contribute (waste your time registering books in their network) with more than 200 books, you’ve got to pay a fee! I was stunned to learn that you would have to pay $10 for an yearly subscription or $25 for a life time. Hey guys! You’re trying to make money in the wrong place! You’re killing your business. Try to make money with affiliate networks or advertisements and instead of charging them for contributing, invite them and make things easier for them to contribute. This is the worst business model I’ve ever found for a social network.
  • Thumbs Up!Zeitgeist is so ultra cool. Every social network should have a live stats like that. It gets people involved and courious about your network. The long you make people linger in your network, the more valuable it will be. If people spends more time in your network, it means it is worth it, and soon they’ll start to comment out. Zeitgeist is a huge thumbs up, and a thumbs down to all other social networks that are missing this point.

Books Availability

Couldn’t find crush it!, the 7 habits and neither The Book of Mormon. That made me feel like the community was dead and that no book could be found there. And as my real book shelf features hundreds of books, registering them there would certainly be a pain. It feels like only 10% of my books could be found there already registered.

Shelfari

This was the last one I tried, and has the most pleasent interface. A huge plus is that it is owned by Amazon, a worldwide book seller leader. Here is my review:

  • Thumbs Up!Very pleasant and highly usable interface. The design is clean and thematic. Browsing is smooth, fast and easy. Just loved it.
  • Thumbs Up!Search is always easily at reach whenever you are inside the network. That really helps when you just had remembered a book you would like to learn more about or perhaps add to your bookshelf.
  • Thumbs down...It is hard to evaluate right after adding the book. After adding it just gives you a box where you can say that it is a favorite, and that box will vanish within 2 or 3 seconds, so you’ve got to be quick! That’s a downside, really, as I like to always rank the books I’ve read.
  • Thumbs Up!Very good shelf. It looks like a bookshelf, and gives people an overview of what you’ve being reading, what you read or what you’re planning to read.
  • Thumbs Up!As one would expect, due to the fact they’re owned by Amazon, one of Shelfari’s strengths is Web 2.0 and Social Networking capabilities. Like Good Reads, Shelfari has done their homework and you would spend hours browsing the interface without actually realizing you’ve done so just because things are so well related that you can’t stop clicking through.

Books Availability

I can’t say this for sure, but it looks like all the books Amazon is got to sell are registered there. Just couldn’t find a book that wasn’t registered already. I would say that at least 90% of my bookshelf could be found there easily.

My Readers’ Social Network of choice is…

I chose Shelfari as it seems to already have the majority of books I own, and they have a really cool interface with serious web 2.0 and social networking features. It is owned by Amazon, the website is really fast and the community seems pretty active. I would go for Good Reads as well, but I think that Shelfari is got more books and that will make my life easier. Skoob is a no go for a while, and Library Thing is got a very long road ahead to became a Readers’ Social Network of choice for any avid book reader (not to mention that they’ve got to change their business model!)

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