While a book lover can find a community for themselves on any social media platform these days, the sole website we have that is distinctly for readers is Goodreads and I’m here to tell you that it’s not the great website we all think it is. And actually, it’s pretty terrible.
“But it’s a great way to track your reading and log all the books you’ve read or want to read!” Yes, I agree with that; it’s a very good way to keep track of things. However, when you look at it structurally and logistically, it sucks.
My favourite argument for why I hate Goodreads is that when it comes to the rating system and how we’re allowed to shell out book ratings, there is so little freedom. Some might argue that a 5 star system isn’t a big enough scale and they’d rather have a 10 star rating system, and I get that. But my qualm is that regardless of how many people complain or yell and scream, Goodreads still does not allow us to award half stars. And I need half stars. Time and again I find myself reading a book and not wholly knowing how to actually rate it, knowing that 3 stars isn’t enough and 4 stars feels like too much, but Goodreads refuses to allow me that middle ground. But why? Why can’t we be allowed to fairly rate a book? You can let people mislabel a book and let that be the basis for what genre a book falls under, creating misleading chaos, but we still can’t get half stars? Ok, Goodreads.
That leads me to my second, albeit a potential conspiracy point, but a point nonetheless: Goodreads only cares about numbers. It doesn’t really care about your individual rating but rather the book’s average rating. If you can’t give the half star rating when stuck in between ratings, most people opt for the higher star. And that increases the book’s average rating to a higher number. The higher overall rating a book has, the more people are going to think that that book is good, and the more ratings the book gets. Haven’t you ever wondered why Goodreads allows you to rate a book before it’s even released? Everywhere you look on Goodreads, numbers are everywhere. How many books you’ve shelved, how many you’ve read, how many you want for your Reading Challenge, how many friends you have, and how many books and friends they have, and on and on and on. And it’s tiring.
Honestly, Goodreads is nothing more than a basic popularity contest but its users are too naive to actually realize that. The “Top New Releases” of each month are based on the number of people who’ve added it or already reviewed it, not because it’s actually a good story worth reading. The year end Choice Awards are based on the number of ratings and reviews it receives, not because the story, writing, or characters make it worthy of Best anything. Some users think the higher number of books they have on their shelves, the more friends they need or deserve. And still, Goodreads does nothing to address or prevent this kind of popularity contest. The one good thing they’ve done is allowing users to vote once per category for the Choice Awards but because they continue to nominate the same authors, or readers write in the same authors every year, the same people continue to win and rob the title from a book that was most likely more deserving. And if you already know who’s going to win, because they win every year, what’s the point in voting in the yearly popularity contest?
But most of all, Goodreads is a highly restrictive website in the matter of sharing and accessibility to content. Unlike websites like Facebook and Twitter, where you can easily post statuses, pictures, videos, and share things from other users, on Goodreads you can only “like” and “comment” and that’s about it. There are thousands upon thousands of users on Goodreads and unless you have a high friend list that give you a like for every update you post, very few people are going to see your reviews. Your home feed is based on your friend list and though you occasionally see other updates from people you don’t know based on friends’ likes, you don’t see much else outside of that list. And while that’s all fine and well, since you’re more or less curating the content you want to see, it can feel defeating to know you’ve worked so hard on writing a good review for a book and no one will see it or appreciate it. But another person with a higher curated friend list can write a two sentence, less meaningful review and get close to a hundred likes. And that leads back to the popularity contest concept. I mean sure, every social media platform is its own type of popularity contest, but Goodreads has always felt like its own different breed.
While Goodreads is good for tracking your reading process, it does so little for its users. You can’t really create the same type of social media friendships on it the way you can on other platforms, you can’t create a profile that feels like a reflection of your personality, and it’s very hard to interact with other users. I’m sure other people have no problem doing just that but in my 5+ years of being on the website, I’ve never felt that way. As a whole, Goodreads is the most detached platform of them all and is reflected in so many ways. I don’t know how many other people feel this way but I know, deep in my soul, that Goodreads is a terrible website. It should mostly be a platform for yourself but it’s become a wasteful popularity contest and it’s pretty sad.
But no matter how you feel about Goodreads, there’s one thing we can all agree on: the app for it 100%, without a doubt, sucks the most.