Saturday, 13 April 2013

Tiny Story (história pequenina?) de Sebas and Clim

Um amigo mostrou-me e eu não resisti a partilhar aqui.

Simples e original, esta pequena história transmite aquelas ideias que tipicamente pensamos serem essenciais à progressão da nossa sociedade, em menos de um minuto.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Book sites and social platforms - new experiences

On the aftermath of all this, I decided to start trying new book sites and share my experience with each of them, be it as an alternative to Goodreads or as new kinds of platforms to share reading experience, reviews or recommendations. I'll keep updating this as I go from site to site and I'll also post links to posts where other people do the same.

As I said on the previous post, this is a collection manager. It allows one to create multiple lists of virtually unlimited items, be them books, films or video games. It's possible to import your collection from csv files such as the export file from Goodreads and Libib even mails you the list of books that couldn't be automatically added because of a variety of errors. The thing is the available editions are far too little which, for someone like me that would rather add the specific edition, is really disappointing. This, added to the almost complete lack of Portuguese authors and the inability to manually add books (something that was at the base of Goodreads' extensive catalogue of books and editions in multiple languages) made me give up on using it. If you are a Portuguese speaker, this won't be the place for you, unless you want to use it to list (as a wishlist for example) english written or translated books. I don't know how complete it is when accounting for other languages, though it didn't seem good enough in my short browse.

Some of my friends are already using and seem quite excited with it, even though it is still in beta test. The developers seem active and engaged with the growing community and willing to try to address all their requests.

I finally got to try this one out. BookLikes allows us to import collection via csv file, though it takes a while for the books to appear. I've asked for the importation about 10 hours ago and, for the moment, I have 449 of my 818 books available. Other than that, the website seems to be working fine, even more if we consider it is still in beta. Each person has a blog where he can share  posts such as quotes, comments or reviews, a timeline where he can see when he started and finished reading books or when he posted reviews, and shelves. The blog is really quite cool and though I don't really need another bunch of book blogs to follow, it is a really nice way to check out someone's aggregated reviews. The timeline is a cool feature, not a game changer but still one can't argue it is quite interesting to look back and see how our reading and writing has progressed along some time. It's also possible to add a link to your personal website, so that when a BookLikes user visits your page he sees, under your portrait, four options: the blog, the shelf, the timeline and the personal website. The collection management is where they need to have some improvements. The transition from GR is good, with BookLikes having identified my ratings, the books on my wishlist, some of those I've read come associated with the date I finished them, and they were also able to get some of my reviews, which were integrated on my blog. There were also some glitches such as some books appearing that I actually didn't have listed anywhere and the dates I started reading don't sync, as opposed with the finish dates. But the biggest problems here are of two kinds. The first is the fact that BookLikes doesn't allow for the user to add new books manually (it seems to import them from bookseller websites, as GR initially did) or change between different editions after you've added one. The second one is the shelf system, it still seems to limited, not in terms of number (it's infinite shelves for infinite books) but in terms of shelf type. I want to be able to define exclusive and non-exclusive shelves the way I want to (for example, I used to have "to read", "to borrow", "wishlist" and "considering") Right now I need to have all these on the "planning to read" exclusive list (the others are "read" and "currently reading") and the sub-categorised in shelfs such as "to borrow" or "to consider". The "wishlist", "favourites" and "private" classifications are the only ones not exclusive. This isn't a big concern for me right now because I know the developers intend to add these features, along with a lot of others, as one can see on their blog, so I'll definitely give BookLikes a chance and I recommend it for those leaving GR. For these, the other big problems might be Amazon appearing constantly as one of the main "to buy" options there, but as the platform grows this will be less constant (they'll connect with other stores) and less important (once you are used to the website); the lack of a recommendation system (it will probably be added in time) and a group feature. This one isn't really important for me, I'm usually not very involved in reader groups, apart from my association with Clockwork Portugal.
Oh, and have I said that the ratings have a half-star system? It's really much better, I always felt that 1-5 without halves and the association with some definitive meanings was far to much of a constraint and often confusing.

And here is another potential replacement for Goodreads. The Reading Room is a typical bookish social platform, much closer to GR than to BookLikes at that. There is no blog or timeline feature, but you do have similar collection importation and management and possibility to rate (again, half-stars up to 5) and review books. The platform also has groups and book recommendations with specific tabs for each of those features. I won't speak about the groups because I didn't try them out. The recommendations can be of two kinds, friends' and the site's through some lists or featured bookshelves. It lacks an algorithm, something that though by no means essential to me ends up being quite interesting sometimes. When looking for books one can also find here lists of award winners and even reviews published on the New York Times or The Guardian, something I found quite useful. The Reading Room also allows one to preview some books with a sample chapter (or read some complete books), something that is integrated with their Android / iOS app reading app. The app has no social or shelf update features, one is only able to get the books or chapters and read them. I've also heard it will eventually be possible to buy books directly from the site, and according to the developers, at a price comparable to Amazon's. The website ends up being a little bit confusing at first because there seems to be too much going on and fighting for attention, but this is something to  re-evaluate because the team has said they are going to redesign that interface.
The importation here is much quicker but less inclusive. The Reading Room got 545 of my 818 books (I don't now yet which were the ones that didn't get here, but I'm guessing some were the Portuguese ones) and placed the right ones on my wishlist. It didn't import ratings, reviews or dates. My biggest trouble with this one is the lack of specific edition choice. There is sometimes a very big difference between editions, such as prefaces, illustrations, translations or bonus stories, and when one gives a rating or writes a review, it should somehow be linked to the specific edition. One also cannot add a book manually, which is very limiting, but once one searches for a book and doesn't find it, the site asks for the information in order to try to add it. One can add non-exclusive shelves to organize the books, but it seems to be impossible to change or add the exclusive ones, so I couldn't go back to the ones I was used to (explained under BookLikes). The platform isn't as fluid and intuitive as I'm used to when it comes to organizing books and shelves, but it's not too cumbersome or confusing.
The Reading Room developers seems very dedicated and I've seen the crew answering people's input on twitter and even some blogs (such as the one I linked below) so though I wasn't really convinced on my first visit, I'm certainly keeping my account and will visit from time to time to check how the site goes.

Stil don't know anything about it, but I've asked for an inscription.

Other opinions/experiences:

fullofsecrets has an ongoing post with a purpose similar to this one but she has tried quite a few platforms including BookLikes, The Reading Room, weRead and Bookwormr so check it out.

Final thoughts

My overall opinion right now is that Goodreads is the best at what it does but it's far from being irreplaceable. The enthusiastic teams behind BookLikes and The Reading Room have already done very good jobs at developing their own platforms and I'm still open to more suggestions. There is a big problem with this transition for me, and that comes to the amount of books and organization I had on my collection. Almost 300 books read, about 100 to read, 100 to buy, 50 to borrow and over 200 to consider, but it's the fact that those that I have read are rated, some reviewed and all thoroughly organized in terms of length, genre or even if I got them through NetGalley that makes it harder to begin a new collection, even if the list itself is - mostly - copied from one place to another. The other major issue I have with both these sites is that they don't have Portuguese books or translations I read which means the collection there would always be incomplete (please give me a librarian status feature and manual book adding and - much as I did on Goodreads - I'll add them all gladly as time goes by). For now, I'll mainly use BookLikes and see how it goes.

If anyone has any new posts for me to feature here or new sites for me to try (that I haven't excluded on the previous posts) please say so and I'll add them.

Edit #1

Added information about The Reading Room and BookLikes and final thoughts.