I am a big fan of Amazon as a retailer. I think they do a great job selling things and their customer service is excellent. I’m not a fan of them as a publisher; I find far too many basic errors in their books (things that shouldn’t survive an editor’s pen), the quality level is uneven at best (I find it hard to imagine that they turn down much of anything, good or bad), and—to put it bluntly—they’re ugly.

I am not a huge fan of Goodreads, though I know many people like it and I do have an account there because it seemed the thing to do. It is too “facebook-y” for my liking. I don’t want a(nother) social network, I want a place to list, rate, and categorize my books and—when I wish it—to find someone to talk to about them. And I don’t even like FB itself, why would I want something that seems to operate pretty much the same way? I was not devastated when Amazon bought Goodreads, though I don’t like the idea of the consolidation of data points, but I don’t use GR enough to care all that much.

What I do use, and use extensively, is LibraryThing. I have two accounts there. One that’s public, one that’s private. The private account lists everything, including things that say “OMG SO FREAKING BAD” in the notes. But that’s not stuff anyone else needs to see. The public account lists, for the most part, things I’ve rated 3 or more stars. Occasionally lower-rated things sneak in because I am too lazy to switch over to the private account to put them there. It’s a way for me not to end up buying the same book twice, which has been known to happen, especially with re-releases.

As an aside, there seems to be some confusion, even among those who should know better, about whether Amazon also owns LT. To quote Tim Spalding, the founder and majority stakeholder,

…it’s well known that Amazon has an indirect but real stake in LibraryThing—they bought Abebooks, who were our first minority partner. People keep reporting that Amazon has 40%. That’s simply not true—it fails to take account of our second funder, Bowker. (I remain the majority; I can’t say how the rest divides up.) But this certainly muddies the message.


LT offers possibilities for readers to get free books for review, but doesn’t run contests the way GR does. It has forums for discussion, but they’re not super-busy and the code of conduct is fairly strictly enforced…not something I’ve noticed on either GR or Amazon. I find it, for the most part, quite civilized. Which may be its death knell, of course.

On my home page at LT when I log in, I see not only the most recent few books people I am connected to have added, but also local events going on at bookstores near me, and the most recent posts in the discussions I am following on the forums. Other stuff, too, but those are the main things. It’s clean, not cluttered. It’s not fancy or flashy, not even pretty, to be honest, but I don’t care about that. It doesn’t have a lot of money behind it, so changes happen very slowly there, which I quite like.

So if you’re among those who find the Amazon takeover of GR problematic, I encourage you to check out LibraryThing. It may not be for you, but maybe you’ll find a happy new home.