Archive for the ‘Social Media’ Category

Amazon Spark: a new social network (and product discovery) for iOS

July 20, 2017

Amazon Spark: a new social network (and product discovery) for iOS

I have these bizarre mixed ideas of what product/service development at Amazon is like.

There are times when I see it as super high tech, like something Tony Stark or Bruce Wayne would have in their basements.

There are others when it feels like a mad scientist’s laboratory, in a castle on a imposing mountain with lightning crashing in the background, and mood lighting by Strickfaden (and, of course, controlled by Alexa).

Then there are times when it seems like the Invention Exchange segments on Mystery Science Theater 3000. 😉

I’m not quite sure where

Amazon Spark (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

falls yet.

The very basic idea, of being able to share how you feel about an Amazon product, makes sense. Of course, we can write reviews on Amazon, but I don’t think most people discover your comments that way. Not everything is a review, either…it might just be a comment or a question.


This implementation is quite limited, at least at this point.

It only works through the Amazon Shopping App, and right now, only on iOS (Apple).

My concern there isn’t just that it isn’t available for Android: it’s that it can only be seen through the app, and that I can’t add things when I’m shopping on my computer.

That isn’t really very social for a social network. 😉

It makes it feel more like an attempt to lock people into using the app.

If that’s the case, I don’t think it’s going to get people to add one more social network into their day. I already don’t do Facebook much myself, because I don’t feel like I have the social energy/capital to spend on it. If I was active on Facebook, I can see how I would spend an hour a day, and I just don’t have that in terms of my creative priorities.

That’s going to be the case with Spark as well, although I did just post something to test it.

It took a while bouncing around to even get it to show up. It’s supposed to be in the menu under Programs and Features, but it wasn’t there for me at first.

The interface is not really intuitive, but it works okay. There isn’t enough discovery in the discovery yet.

It could work, but this one doesn’t seem like one of Amazon’s home runs to me. It’s like the posting we used to do in Kindle books…that eventually faded, even though it was an interesting idea.

I’ll be interested in your opinion on it, if you try it. Hm…somebody did just smile on my post, so it is already working. Maybe I’ll be wrong about this, which would be great!

In the mean time, I’ll keep waiting for Amazon to burst into the VAM (Virtual/Augmented/Merged/Mixed Reality) space, which I expect to happen later this year. 🙂

Feel free to let me know what you think by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. Shop ’til you help! 🙂 


Amazon shutters Shelfari

January 21, 2016

Amazon shutters Shelfari

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post

Comparing Goodreads, Shelfari, and LibraryThing

Amazon owns Goodreads and Shelfari, and has a stake in LibraryThing.

I speculated this:

“…they might shut down Shelfari (another social reading site which Amazon owns), and fold it into Goodreads.”

Well, it’s happening now.

It was announced here:

Goodreads is much bigger, and the vast majority of people won’t be negatively affected.

However, my readers are not “most people”. 😉

It wouldn’t surprise me if some of you are Shelfari users…as am I.

In terms of the books, they are making the transition pretty easy. There’s a tool where you can merge your Shelfari books with Goodreads, and you can also export the informationy as a CSV (Comma Separated Values) file, if you like. With the CSV, you can import them into Excel or many other spreadsheets, if you prefer. You can, of course, do both.

Be aware that the export might take a while…they are saying it could be a couple of days. They plan to complete the transition by March 16th of this year, so you do have some time.

However, I haven’t found anything addressing the continued survival of my favorite part of Shelfari: the “Book Extras” entered by users. This is what I noted about them before:


  • Description
  • Ridiculously Simplified Synopsis
  • Summary
  • Characters (35 of them listed)
  • Popular Covers
  • Quotes
  • Settings & Locations
  • Organizations (in the book)
  • First sentence
  • Table of Contents
  • Glossary
  • Themes & Symbolism
  • Series & Lists
  • Authors & Contributors
  • First Edition
  • Awards
  • Classification
  • Notes for Parents
  • Subjects
  • Popular Tags
  • Links to Supplemental Material
  • Movie Connections
  • More Books Like This
  • Books Influenced by This Book
  • Books That Cite This Book
  • Amazon Customers Who Bought This Book Also Bought

There are also sections which are hidden by default: Errata; Books with Additional Background Information; and Books That Influenced This Book. I’m not quite sure why those are hidden. There is a “hide spoilers” checkbox which is selected by default (I really appreciate that!), but unchecking it didn’t make them show up.


As a database person, I love that! I contributed a bit to, for example, the A Princess of Mars page.

Goodreads has user-editable character descriptions and settings, but that’s about it…and they aren’t as rich at this point.

I’m going to write to

to see if there are plans to migrate that.

I really hope they do!

While it would increase the size of Goodreads, and therefore might slow down some things (particularly on mobile), I think it would considerably enhance the value of Goodreads…and a lot more people would contribute to the Book Extras.

Heavy, long time users of Shelfari may have greater concerns.

They may be more concerned with what happens with the “Community” features, especially groups. Will those migrate?

Those people may be particularly passionate, however, when we look at actual numbers, they just aren’t that big for a company at the scale of Amazon. This is the “most active” group under genres:

YA Books that Adults Should Read
4868 members | 1575 group books | 8507 discussion posts

I never want to see anything that anybody has written disappear. I honestly emotionally feel that when I put something on the internet, it will be there forever.

Logically, and experientially, I know that’s not true.

I’d put a lot of time and effort into the Sci-Fi Channel’s (now Syfy) community pages years ago…I was pretty proud of some of my writing in certain areas. That got shut down…I tried to save what I could, but some was lost.

For example, I’d written a nice piece on what I call the “Discovered Destiny” genre…where the main character finds out that they have some unusual nature, powers, and responsibility. Harry Potter is an example, but there are lots of them.

I’m going to try to get more information about what will transition here, as I mentioned, and I’ll share it with you if I do.

I completely understand Amazon doing this…that’s why I predicted it. 🙂 It makes more sense to have one site rather than two, even when they are complementary. Like most people, though, I always want the best of both worlds. 🙂

What about LibraryThing?

I think it’s safe for now.

It’s ownership is in a different class, and it has a lot more members than Shelfari did.

I checked and there hasn’t been much news coverage on this…I wanted to make sure you heard about it, so you can take appropriate action.

What do you think? Were you a Shelfari user? Would you care about having the data features I mentioned on Goodreads, or would that make it too busy? When you write something on the internet, do you think it is forever, or ephemeral? If the latter, do you back it up yourself? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Add Your Amazon Books rolling out to Goodreads website

April 17, 2014

Add Your Amazon Books rolling out to Goodreads website

When Amazon bought Goodreads (a bit over a year ago), one of the advantages people  envisaged  (and certainly, some people thought there might be disadvantages as well) was the ability to easily import your Amazon purchases to your Goodreads shelves.

We did get the ability to do that from some Kindle devices. For example, you have that functionality on the Kindle Paperwhite.

That was fine for people with those devices, but there are lots of Goodreads users who have bought books from Amazon and don’t have Kindles (or at least, those specific devices). The import isn’t just for Kindle editions…it’s for p-books (paperbooks) also.

In this

Goodreads blog post

they announce that Add Your Amazon Books”…will be available in the next few weeks to members in the U.S., Canada, and Australia. ”

Other countries are expected to follow.

After giving you an explanation of what it will be like (it will be on My Books under Tools), they give you a link to where you can go ahead and do it now:

Early Access

They have a Question and Answer section there. I’ve asked this, but don’t have an answer yet:

“This seems to be similar to the functionality on the Kindle devices (for the ones which have it). It is only showing me recently purchased books, and I have something like a thousand which haven’t been imported. My guess is that there might have been a size limit the first time it did the sync, and now it doesn’t go back and re-query, just starts with books after the last sync (yes, I’m a geek). 🙂 Any troubleshooting for it not importing all of the books? Are there books which wouldn’t be imported (ones without ISBNs, perhaps)? Thanks! “

Why do this?

Mainly to “feed” Goodreads. It lets other people see what you are reading (if you choose that), helps you keep track for yourself…and strengthens the algorithms used by the system to make recommendations to you.

For those of you who are already Goodreads users, this simplifies things. If you don’t use Goodreads now (I do…you can follow me. I write a little review there on most books I finish), maybe this will get you to start. 😉

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

I’m using goodreads

March 16, 2014

I’m using goodreads

When Amazon bought goodreads (and that’s how it is capitalized on the site), I was one of those people who wasn’t really using it, but was using Amazon extensively.

Honestly, it was a question of not wanting to divide my attention even more. I already have a family, a full time (and then some) job, write at least an average of 1,000 words a day in this blog, have two other blogs (neither of which takes a lot of time), spend large amounts of time helping out in the Kindle forums as a Kindle Forum Pro, and, oh yeah, write a book every once in a while. 😉

Something has to show real value for me to spend time and energy on it.

As Amazon has integrated goodreads more into the Kindleverse, I’ve gotten into using it a bit.

I’m still no expert, certainly.

I just decided today to make some things more public. I’ve allowed people to follow my reviews, for example. When I’ve polled my readers here about features, reviews have not come out high on the list. Still, I enjoy writing them (and haven’t completely abandoned them here), and I figure somebody might like to see them. 🙂

My understanding is that my reviews have already been showing up on the Goodreads’ page for that book…I don’t think you can stop that. Now, though, someone can elect to “follow” them, and they’ll be notified when I write a new one.

I think you can do that (and ask to become my friend?) by going here:

I know some of you readers are well-versed in Goodreads. I’d appreciate some advice: will this somehow mean that I have a lot of things to which to attend? Am I going to be approving Friends frequently, for example?

Well, I thought you would want to know. 😉

Here’s how I’m using it:

I do add books to it as I get them, and at some point, I’ll add a lot more of the books I own in paper. That’s not as easy as it seems: I know you can scan barcodes on them, but many of the books I have seem to predate any useful scannable marks. 🙂

I wish there was some other categorization than “want to read”, “read”, and “currently reading” when you add a book. Maybe I can add a shelf of some kind and do that?

When I finish a book, I am marking it as finished and adding a rating and a review.

For me, that’s the sort of addictive part at this point. 🙂 It’s not the writing of the review so much: it’s my natural tendency to be honest and accurate. If I said I was currently reading it, and then I finished it, I want to change it.

Some of the books which say “currently reading” may be ones that I haven’t read in weeks…but which I am still in the process of reading. I have some books into which I just dip from time to time…maybe with text-to-speech during a car ride.

I plan to eventually finish them. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t abandon a book.

No doubt, the “currently reading” status on some of my books will outlast me: gee, do they have a setting for “was reading it, but no longer alive”? 😉

I find the interface, even at the site, to be a bit glitchy (or perhaps it works mechanically and is just not intuitive). For example, there is a listing on the homescreen (on the website) of books I’m reading. Every time I try and update one from there to “read”, I get a red “Error” message. I appear to have to go to my Books first, and do it there.

In terms of the integration with our Kindles, I don’t find I use that very much. I suppose that might change, now. I just accepted my first “Friend” request, and that person’s reading is showing up. That might be interesting.

The “Add Your Amazon Books” only seems to go back so far. If it would add all my books from Amazon (we have over 3,000 Kindle books), that  would  be great…but it doesn’t. It’s a decent help for adding new purchases.

Well, I think what I’ll do at this point is open it up to you. What’s the best thing about Goodreads for you? Do you find it effective on your Kindle? Are there any settings or activities you’d recommend for me? Any warnings? 😉 Feel free to let me know by commenting on this post.

Update: here’s another example of the difficulties I encounter using goodreads..

I recently bought a book, and wanted to add it to my goodreads books. There was a book there with the same ISBN and a similar title…but the entry was very incomplete. The author’s name was incomplete, and the publisher was different.

I first had tried entering it as a new book. It wouldn’t allow that, because the ISBN was different. That’s reasonable: cuts down on duplicate books.

I tried entering it as another edition of the first book, which is probably the case. It had a link for that, but wouldn’t let me do it. It wouldn’t accept it with the same ISBN, of course, but I had clicked “add a new edition”.

I tried editing the details of the first listing: I didn’t have the authority.

I ended up entering it as a book without an ISBN…so now, there are two listings for the book. I left in the note in the decription explaining the situation…hopefully, someone else can fix it.

Bonus deal:

Amazon does “Kindle Countdown Deals”. Those are limited time offers on Kindle books…you can actually see when they will no longer be on sale.

I checked it out quite a bit when it first started happening, but I was having trouble with discovery…I couldn’t find books I wanted.

Well, I’ve done something that seems to help:

Kindle Countdown Deals by average customer review (at AmazonSmile)

This sort will show you the highest rated books first. That can make it easier to find something that you’ll enjoy (and often for ninety-nine cents).

Amazon’s “average customer review” isn’t a simple averaging…there are a lot of books with a single review which is five-stars, but they don’t show up at the top here.

When I look at reviews on Amazon, I do take into account the number of stars…but I also consider the number of reviews. I would have more confidence in a book with a 4.8 rating and a 1,000 reviews than a book with a 5.0 rating (a perfect score) and ten reviews.

That’s not to say that my tastes and the tastes of the majority always match. It’s just that it is easier to manipulate the ratings when there are fewer people involved.

You also have to consider who tends to review books. More recent books are likely to have a lot more reviews than older books. I doubt very many people go back to their favorite books which they read years ago and add a review. I think that’s why you’ll see more reviews on something like The Hunger Games than on, oh, Tom Sawyer.

One other thing (and it’s a big one) about this sort: it’s a great way to find books you can borrow from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library! You’ll see that you can borrow them here, and even choose categories. Remember that you’ll have to actually borrow them from your hardware Kindle, but this at least is a way to find them on your computer. Enjoy!


Nominate a child to be given a free Kindle at Give a Kid a Kindle.


* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Round up #194: Detroit libraries, Kindle Fire updates now available from Amazon

August 9, 2013

Round up #194: Detroit libraries, Kindle Fire updates now available from Amazon

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

Barbara Mertz (aka Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels) has died

The mystery novels under the name Elizabeth Peters (including the Amelia Peabody books) have been very popular…as have been the books of Barbara Michaels, including the Georgetown series.  Those were both pennames for Barbara Mertz, who also wrote non-fiction about Egypt under her real name,

Barbara Mertz has reportedly died at the age of 85.

CBS News article

Update for Kindle Fires now available at Amazon

I wrote recently about being worried about my Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ 4G LTE Wireless 32GB updating to the 8.4.5 version, which was breaking Flash video in non-Amazon browsers.

I updated that post when I had heard that 8.4.6 was out there, and that it didn’t have the same problem.

Well, my Kindle Fire did update last night…and I’m happy to report that Flash video is working fine in Maxthon (my preferred browser). In fact, it seems like it is working better, but it’s too soon to really tell that.

If your Kindle Fire hasn’t updated, it likely will soon now. You can also get the update from

Kindle Software Updates

and install it manually (they have instructions there on it).

Since it’s on that page, we also know what they tell us it does. 🙂

  • You can now choose Brazilian Portuguese for your device language (Home – swipe down – More – Language & Keyboard – Language…that brings us to eleven languages and variants)
  • You can download new keyboard languages (Home – swipe down – More – Language & Keyboard – Keyboard – Download Keyboard Languages). That’s a fascinating change! There are thirty-seven languages there, and even with a linguist in the family, I can’t tell you what they all are (since they are listed in their languages. They do include Russian and Tagalog, Hinglish and Magyar…quite a few choices. While this will greatly expand the usability of the Kindle Fire, this ability to download the languages is what’s intriguing me. That suggest to me that we could possibly get the same thing with accents and languages for text-to-speech…not that we don’t likeSeptember Day‘s Salli, of course, but more choices there could again expand the language accessibility. Could this also suggest a launch of a Fire in even more countries? Well, last I heard, it was already available for 170 countries, so maybe not
  • Multicolor highlights (highlight something in a book with your finger or stylus, and you’ll now be given four different highlighting colors from which to choose)
  • Share notes & highlights from a Print Replica textbook. The particularly interesting piece here is that you’ll be able to share them via e-mail…that could be the start of something big for Amazon. Not just e-mailing, of course, but texting (in the future). I frequently e-mail stories to family members from my morning Flipboard read. I know e-mail isn’t the choice method of communication for many New Millenials (which is why I’m also thinking texting, in the future), but tweeting and Facebook updates don’t work for everybody either

All in all, I’m happy Amazon fixed the problem with Flash before posting the updates.

Update: here are screenshots of the keyboard languages available for download, and some best guesses (not all mine…my adult kid who is a linguist helped, as did someone else) as to what they are. If you can correct any of them, I’d appreciate it:






Bahasa Indonesia
Bahasa Malaysia
Catala – Catalan
Cestina – Czech
Dansk – Danish
Eesti – Estonian
Euskara – Basque
Galego – Galician (spoken in Spain and some other countries)
Hinglish – Hindi/English hybrid (although I believe some other languages are involved)
Islanski – Icelandic
Latviesu – Latvian
Lietuviskai – Lithuanian
Magyar – Hungarian
Nederlands – Dutch
Norsk – Norwegian
Polski = Polish
Portugues europeu – European Portuguese
Pу́сски;й – Russian
Romana – Romanian
Shqipe – Albanian
Slovencina – Slovak
Slovenscina – Slovak
Suomi – Finnish
Svenska – Swedish
Tagalog – Phillipino
Tiếng Việt – Vietnamese
Türkçe – Turkish
ελληνικ;ά – Greek
Казаk – Kazak
Україн;ська – Ukranian
Белару;скі – Belorussina or White Russian

Two varieties of Chinese (I’m assuming Cantonese and Mandarin)
I know there can be cultural sensitivities in some of these identifications…if there is something you think should be corrected there, please let me know. No offense is intended, and I freely admit I might be ignorant of some of the issues.

Summer Reading Snapshot: libraries and kids across the nation

This is a great

Publishers Weekly article by Karen Springen

which talks with children’s librarians in

  • Cleveland
  • Orlando
  • Cincinnati
  • Chicago
  • Denver
  • New York
  • Boston
  • St. Louis
  • Kansas City, Mo
  • Detroit

about their planned Summer events, and what the “Big Reads” are for the kids this Summer.

As we all know, Detroit has had a lot of issues lately. I liked this quotation from Lurine Carter, coordinator of children’s and teen service at the Detroit Public Library:

“Life is very serious, not only in Detroit but all over. We try to relieve their minds. We want the library and the reading to be a pleasant getaway.”

I recommend the article, particularly if you are looking for books for your own kids to read.

Google play making a big…er, play for textbooks

There are so many clear advantages to e-textbooks that it seems inevitable to be that they become the standard format.

  • The weight of paper textbooks, especially when students can’t get to a locker between classes, is genuinely a health issue
  • The increased ability to be accessible (text-to-speech, increasable text size) is important
  • The ability of them to be updated easily over the years
  • The fact that they don’t wear out…which makes renting a really viable option
  • The relatively lower cost
  • Annotation without degradation
  • Search
  • Sharing supplemental material
  • X-ray

That doesn’t mean that getting them to be adopted is easy, but Google is likely to make it a bit more attractive:

Google Play Textbooks

I don’t see that they are bringing any stand-out features that aren’t available in

Kindle eTextbooks

but just the fact that it is Google may influence some schools.

Hearing in the Apple “penalty phase” today

Judge Cote has been ruling incredibly quickly in the Apple e-book price fixing case. That doesn’t mean we will hear something today…but Judge Cote will.

There is a hearing today for the DoJ’s (Department of Justice’s) proposed penalties for Apple, according to this

The Verge article by Greg Sandoval

and other sources. I’ve written before about how far-reaching the DoJ proposal seems to be. The five Agency Model publishers think it’s too much…but they aren’t exactly uninvolved parties (they settled with the DoJ in the same case). Others think it’s appropriate.

It will be very interesting to see what Judge Cote does. I think it’s possible that part of it is approved and part of it isn’t, but we’ll see. I’m not sure if Judge Cote would then send them back to rethink it or what can happen.

Librarians in the Movies

This site was right up my alley!

Librarians in the Movies: an Annotated Filmography by Martin Raish, Brigham YOung University

It’s a pretty extensive list…given my love of books and movies, I did find it fascinating (and I had seen a number of them). It’s not being maintained anymore, but is still interesting. Let’s see…any movies this Summer with librarians in them? Hm…

Have any thoughts about these stories? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Comparing Goodreads, Shelfari, and LibraryThing

April 16, 2013

Comparing Goodreads, Shelfari, and LibraryThing

There has been a lot of reaction to the announcement that Amazon is buying Goodreads, an independent review site.

When I first heard about it, I speculated a bit that they might shut down Shelfari (another social reading site which Amazon owns), and fold it into Goodreads.

However, I also said I wanted to investigate Goodreads more, and my hope now is that they don’t do that without combining features.

The two of them actually function quite differently…as does LibraryThing. Amazon owns Abebooks, which has, I think, a 40% stake in LibraryThing…but LT has emphatically said that they are not owned by Amazon, which I think is a reasonable interpretation.

I wanted to go through here and compare the three. This isn’t to say that you (or Amazon) have to pick one…you can use all three. Right now, though, that would mean entering your books into each of them (although there is some possibility of importing), so you’d have to think about it.

With any site with a social factor, you also have to consider the “social capital” you have to spend on it to be a “good citizen”. That’s why I don’t use Facebook: I know I couldn’t expand my energy and attention to the point where I wouldn’t anger people with non-responsiveness there. I already have “real life”, my job, this blog, my other writings, and the Amazon forums. People who e-mail me realize, I hope, that I won’t always get back to them quickly. Being on Facebook, too? I just don’t have the bandwidth.

Before I get started, let me say that I’m going to look at different aspects. One key question: do you use the site to catalog and analyze and share what you are already own, or to discover new things to read? You could certainly do both, but my immediate thought for a site like this is the former. I want to catalogue my books, and record information about them. That’s probably not why Amazon bought Goodreads. They clearly want sites like this to drive future sales. Understanding you is helpful in that regard, but they probably don’t care that you put five different versions of the same book on your “shelves” to reflect your paper collections.

That said, let me first give you an overview:

“The right book in the right hands at the right time can change the world”

  • Members (all numbers per their website): 16 million
  • Books added: 525 million
  • Reviews: 23 million

Founded by Otis and Elizabeth Chandler, the site has been around for about six years.  The homepage emphasizes three key functions:

  • Add friends and see what is on their “shelves”
  • Rate books you’ve read to get recommendations
  • Add books to your own shelves

Clicking on a book gives you ratings and reviews.

There’s no question that one of the attractions of Goodreads is its sheer size.


Shelfari doesn’t make a lot of their numbers available publicly. It was founded in 2006 by  Josh Hug, Kevin Beukelman, and Mark Williamson, and acquired in 2008 by Amazon.

The homepage has three tabs:

  • Profile
  • Books
  • Community

“What’s on your bookshelf?”

  • Members: 1,666,713
  • Books: 81,133,380
  • Reviews: 2,146,228

Founded in 2005 by Tim Spalding, it’s actually the oldest of the three.

The homepage has

  • Profile
  • Your Books
  • Add Books
  • Talk
  • Groups
  • Local
  • More
  • Zeitgeist

Next, let’s compare a few specific books. After that,I’ll give you more of my sense of the sites.

A Popular Besteller:

The Hunger Games

I know this isn’t current right now, but it’s in the public consciousness. I also thought it was one where one could expect a lot of activity. I’m just doing the first book, not the series, for the sake of comparison. So, how does each site treat it?


The average rating is 4.45 out of five stars. There are 1,499,207 ratings and 114,780 reviews.

There is a lot happening on this page!

You can click Stats and see a line graph of activity (how many times it was added, reviewed, and so on) for about the past six months.

They list 146 other editions of it.

You can buy it a variety of places, and look for it in libraries (through a link with WorldCat, which I’ve written about before).

If you’ve designated “friends”, you can see their reviews. You can see public reviews.

You can see lists in which Goodreads users have put it. You can see genres containing it. You can see other recommended reads similar to it.

There is an author profile (and the helpful note that there are other authors listed with the same name).

The reviews often contain pictures…in this case, there was a lot of parody stuff.

There are videos from readers (“It completely took over my life.”) with comments on them.

There are sections for trivia and quotations.

You can share the book through a number of social media.

Certainly,  if you wanted to see if you’d like the book, and you wanted to discuss it, it’s covered here.


Weirdly, I”m not seeing an actual numeric average of the reviews, although I can see that on Amazon. It looks like about 4.5 stars on a scale of 1 to 5.  There are 22, 747 reviews, and I’m told that 110,324 members have it (I can see a list of members by clicking).

The first thing I see are the Book Extras: that’s where you can get a wiki type listing of details. Those sections include

  • Description
  • Ridiculously Simplified Synopsis
  • Summary
  • Characters (35 of them listed)
  • Popular Covers
  • Quotes
  • Settings & Locations
  • Organizations (in the book)
  • First sentence
  • Table of Contents
  • Glossary
  • Themes & Symbolism
  • Series & Lists
  • Authors & Contributors
  • First Edition
  • Awards
  • Classification
  • Notes for Parents
  • Subjects
  • Popular Tags
  • Links to Supplemental Material
  • Movie Connections
  • More Books Like This
  • Books Influenced by This Book
  • Books That Cite This Book
  • Amazon Customers Who Bought This Book Also Bought

There are also sections which are hidden by default: Errata; Books with Additional Background Information; and Books That Influenced This Book. I’m not quite sure why those are hidden. There is a “hide spoilers” checkbox which is selected by default (I really appreciate that!), but unchecking it didn’t make them show up.

In addition to the Book Extras tab, there are tabs for Readers & Reviews, Discussions, and Editions (Shelfari lists 258 of those).

You can buy the book, but it links just to Amazon or Abebooks (which is part of the Amazon family) for collectible editions.

You can share the book on social media.

There is a sidebar where members can ask questions, and get answers (by people voting yes or no).

Recent editors are shown.

Members, Group, and Lists with this book are linked.

You can read the first chapter for free.

This page has more of the geeky kind of detail about the book I find interesting than the Goodreads page. I’d say that Goodreads feels more modern and more shallow (outside of reviews), and Shelfari feels more scholarly, in a pop culture sort of way.


It’s rated 4.43. There are 2,358 reviews, and 29,350 members with the book.

Outside of the cover image, there are no images beyond icons on this page.

I see a ranking of 25 for popularity, but I’m not quite clear what that means. When I clicked on it, it said

“Popularity is position on a rank-ordered list of the number of copies of a works cataloged during a given period.”

It looks like it is the ranking out of the top 100,000. In 2008, The Hunger Games was #1,785: in 2012, it was #2.

I see

  • Members
  • Tags
  • LibraryThing Recommendations
  • Member Recommendations
  • Will you like it? (I haven’t rated enough books to get that to work yet)
  • Member Reviews (in a number of languages…you can narrow by language, which is nice)
  • Published Reviews
  • Other authors (these are contributors: translators, illustrators)
  • Work-to-work relationships (contained in, parodied in, reference guides/companions
  • Common Knowledge

Common Knowledge is like the Book Extras at Shelfari. The sections include

  • Series (with order)
  • Canonical (official) title
  • Original title
  • Alternative titles
  • Original publication date
  • People/characters (30 of these)
  • Important places
  • Important events
  • Related movies
  • Awards and honors
  • Epigraph
  • Dedication
  • First words
  • Quotations
  • Last words (with a spoiler screen…click to reveal)
  • Disambiguation notice
  • Publisher’s editors
  • Blurbers (including Stephen King)
  • Publisher series

Then there are sections for

  • References
  • LibraryThing members’ descriptions (amusingly, this includes haiku summaries)
  • Book descriptions (including Amazon’s)
  • Library descriptions

In the sidebar, there are

  • Quicklinks (including purchasing and getting it at the library through WorldCat)
  • Current Discussion
  • Popular covers (159 listed)
  • Ratings (broken down with numbers for each number of stars)
  • Audible
  • LibraryThing Early Reviewers Alumn (it’s a program where you can get pre-publication copies)
  • Is this you? (an author program)
  • Advanced

There aren’t as many reviews here, and I would describe the feel of this page as funky. 🙂 The “Common Knowledge” seems more fun than the Book Extras, but hasn’t been completed as much (a lot of things were blank).

Next, let’s just compare a couple of stats on a

Popular Classic

Pride and Prejudice

I went with one that’s a perennial bestseller. I’m curious as to whether it being an older, public domain titles is going to change how the different sites treat it.

  • Goodreads: Rating: 4.23; 942,848 ratings; 27,542 reviews (about 24% the number as The Hunger Games)
  • Shelfari: Rating: roughly 4.2; 4,818 reviews (about 21%)
  • LibraryThing: Rating: 4.46; 762 reviews (about 32%)

Based on that, LibraryThing seems to be the friendliest to classics.

The Somewhat Obscure

The Platypus of Doom and Other Nihilists

  • Goodreads: Rating: 3.5; 20 ratings; 3 reviews
  • Shelfari: no reviews or ratings, but the book is listed and eight members have it
  • LibraryThing: no reviews, but two ratings (averaging three stars): 38 members have it

Goodreads was the winner there.

Well, that’s actually probably enough for this post! If people are interested, I’ll do another one of these looking at features besides just the book listings.

Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Amazon buys Goodreads

March 28, 2013

Amazon buys Goodreads

Honestly, it was a bit of a surprise when I got this

Amazon press release

in my e-mail!

I doubt anyone has been talking more about the idea of Amazon getting more social than I have (although it’s possible), but I didn’t really expect them to buy

After all, Amazon already bought a readers’ social site:

back in 2008 (in the first year of the Kindle, which was released late in 2007).

Shelfari never had the cache that Goodreads does, though, so this is a big deal.

In fact, if this was a major industry, there might be a lot of scrutiny about the “merger”. Yes, there are others out there:


for one, and earlier this year, I suggested Amazon buy the BookAnd app.

Goodreads reportedly has more than 16 million members…when you think about the total number of “serious readers” in the USA, that’s a really sizable chunk (it wouldn’t surprise me if it is half of the people who buy, oh, more than 100 books a year).

Goodreads wrote about this in a

Goodreads blog post

and there are a couple of interesting things there. One, this means Goodreads is hiring, and two, they want to know what integration you want between your Kindle and Goodreads.

Now, I want to point out that this may not mean a lot of changes at Goodreads (outside of that integration thing). was the best movie reference site on the web (in my opinion) before Amazon bought it, and it still is.

The obvious question for me is, what happens to Shelfari?

I have an account there, and I have used it some. Social sites take a lot of work in you personalizing your use of it (ask the doomed Google Reader what people think when you take something away). Migrating to a new one is like moving to a new school when your are ten years old. It might be a better school, but it’s a still a hard adjustment.

Amazon just could keep running them both, but my guess is that they will migrate Shelfari accounts to Goodreads, and shut down the former eventually.

That’s going to be a bit complicated, because they aren’t the same, but there probably is a lot of duplication of features.

My guess is, though, that this is going to result in a better site for Amazon users. I do think they’ll lose some of the anti-ammys (People who are against Amazon…I just made that one up), but they’ll make up for it with other people.

The acquisition is expected to be complete by the end of June of this year.

I’m looking forward to it, but I know that might not be your reaction. I’ve been a Shelfari user, but not really a Goodreads one (I’m going to start exploring the Goodreads options). Part of that was because you could import your books from Amazon to Shelfari, and I assume they’ll add that to Goodreads later.

I’m also curious about what your involvement with readers’ social sites has been up to this point:

I’m not quite ready to poll about what features you would like this to bring to the Kindle service, but feel free to make suggestions by commenting on this post. I’m particularly interested in what you love about Goodreads. 🙂

Thanks to my reader, Ed Foster, for giving me a heads-up on this! I saw the press release first, but it’s always appreciated. Ed linked to this

Publishers Weekly article

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

BookScout app introduced…by traditional publisher

January 21, 2013

BookScout app introduced…by traditional  publisher

As I’ve written before, I think Amazon should get a lot more social on the e-book side.

Books should be as much a part of our lives as TV shows or songs. That’s going to be a bit controversial to say, I know. For many people, books (certainly some books) are an intimate, private thing. I recently wrote about whether or not it was good that strangers can’t see what you are reading when you are using an EBR (E-Book Reader).

However, in a world in which people freely share personal details that would have previously only been seen in their medical records, there are many folks who want to share what they are reading.

I think part of that is that we have to interact with and through technology so much that we want there to be a human side to it. If you had to sit down to spreadsheets for eight hours in a day (not that spreadsheets can’t be fun) 😉 with no possibility of that time including human beings, you’d be much less likely to do it. If you can do a quick e-mail, chat, or even just see strangers on YouTube, it much more closely fits what we Homo sapiens are comfortable doing.

I’ve had those conversations with employers who want to block all access to the internet (and personal phone calls) when employees are working. In my opinion, that’s a huge mistake. If people consider their “personal lives” part of their work lives, and vice versa, they’ll spend a lot more time on work. If you spend half an hour a day at work on family and friends, I can pretty much guarantee you that you will spend more than half an hour a day on work when you are at home. If a company draws a hard and fast line, the employee may not want to spend any time at home on work.

So, if we want to be social while we are doing other things online, I think it’s natural.

Companies can work with that truth, and make book reading (and therefore buying) part of our social lives and vice versa.

Let me give you an example (that some of you will likely reflexively hate). 😉

When I managed a brick and mortar bookstore, and especially when I was a customer in many of them, there would be times when conversations would begin in an aisle. One person might ask another person for advice on making a choice, or maybe say, “Oh, I love that author! Have you tried this one?” I’m sure that lifelong friendships (and romantic relationships) were begun that way.

Of course, you didn’t start taking to someone until you had checked out their body language to see that they would be okay with it.

What if, while you were shopping for a book on Amazon, you had the option to chat with someone else looking at the same (or similar, but that would be more difficult) book at the same time? That person would have to have chosen to be visible. Maybe you would see that there were two hundred people looking at that same book at the same time. Perhaps you could see where they were geographically located, and you might see them making comments (like overhearing them in a store). You could chose to privately or publicly chat with them.

You would see their screen names (like we do in the Amazon forums). If they wanted that to be their real names (I use mine), that’s fine, but it could be something else, which might indicate an interest in common with yours (“PlatypusOfDoomFan42”, “NutsAboutKnitsInMacedonia”).

I think people would spend more time hanging out at Amazon…just as they spent time (sometimes every day) in my brick and mortar bookstore.

Would there be risks? Sure. It’s easier to pretend to be someone else online for nefarious purposes. Might somebody spam you? You bet. It’s the exact same risks we have in the Amazon forums, and there are methods to report “abuse” which could be similarly used.

One way to do deal with that would be to have, as I have recommended, “circles of friends”…maybe “book buddies”? “Kindle Klubs?” that you have previously designated, and only see them.

That’s just one idea.

Random House, which has often led the way among tradpubs (traditional publishers), is releasing an app tomorrow called BookScout.

The New York Times article

I think this was the standout quotation for me:

“The app is the culmination of months of work by Random House’s digital marketplace development group.”

See? A tradpub with a “digital marketplace development group”. While I suspect they may not be eating lunch at the same table as editors who have been there for decades 😉 I think that’s a sign that some tradpubs will figure out the new market and do just fine.

It’s also important to note that this isn’t just an app about Random House books…it will include discovery for books from other publishers.

That’s another key point for me in business: you don’t have to eliminate the competition if you can grow the overall market. More people reading is good for Random House (as long as it maintains decent marketshare), even if they are sometimes reading books from other people. Social interactivity can increase the penetration of books into our lives…a “rising tide that floats all books”, so to speak. 😉

Will I be using the new Random House app?

Nope…it’s Facebook dependent, and I don’t use Facebook. I have nothing against Facebook (the third largest country in the world by population), it’s just that I have this feeling it would be like taking on another full time job for me.

Amazon could increase discovery among Amazon customers…and all of their customers already are that. 🙂

What do you think? Are you going to use the Random House app? Is your reading experience already social enough, thank you very much? 😉 Have you ever started a relationship (of any kind) with a stranger from meeting in a bookstore? Should Amazon have their own “bookstore clerks” who are available for live chat on the product pages? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

Update: thanks to reader and frequent commenter Tom Semple for pointing out an error in this post which has now been corrected.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

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