This last week was Prime Day at Amazon, which means we also had the (what seems like) annual Amazon Strike. I am all for Amazon workers getting better working conditions. Their workplace sounds like hell. I had no problem avoiding Amazon for two days. You know what was more difficult? Avoiding Goodreads.
Because yes, Goodreads is owned by Amazon. In the interests of disconnecting from Amazon for more than a couple of days, I started looking for Amazon and Goodreads alternatives.
The first one that many people think of is Library Thing, and since they bought out Litsy, which was one of my favorite social networks, they were my first thought too.
Unfortunately, Amazon has a 40% stake in Library Thing. Which also now covers Litsy. Tim Spalding has controlling interest, at 60%, and he’s honestly pretty awesome (the things he’s done for Litsy are fabulous) but it’s still all profiting Amazon.
So what can I use for cataloging books? I need something with a robust database, where I can organize my Read and To-Read shelves, along with multiple other lists of books. I don’t need a social media aspect to it, though that can be fun.
So I’ve started doing some research on alternatives to Amazon and Goodreads.
Biblio.com is a marketplace, like Amazon or Barnes & Noble, with a key difference: they source from independent booksellers. Searching for a book will bring up a page of results, with each result being from a different seller. The sellers set their own shipping, and the marketplace is worldwide, so it’s important to note shipping costs and looking for sellers from your own country if possible. You appear to be able to filter by country, though. Prices are slightly more expensive than Amazon I think, from searching a couple of random books, but not more than a dollar or so, at least on the books I checked. (That’s for US pricing. May be different for other countries.) It’s at least worth looking at before you nab a book off Amazon.
It IS a Used & New marketplace, so if you’re trying to pre-order a book, I’m not sure that’s possible here. Interestingly, I tried searching for The Dragon Republic – due out in August – and found someone selling an “Uncorrected Proof” copy. For $70. I’m…not sure how legal that is. Curious.
(Edit: Biblio has informed me it’s not illegal, just often disallowed on specific platforms so it’s unusual to find.)
Biblio does do a lot of charitable work, building libraries, donating books, and offsetting their carbon footprint in various ways.
RiffleBooks.com might actually be a good replacement for Goodreads. There’s a social feed, you can look up books and mark them read or to-read, and you can make lists – not unlike shelves in Goodreads. My only immediate quibble is that I can only add books to lists from the list; I can’t see a book I like, and add it to a list of my choice from the book page. There should be an “Add To List” button! I do like the lists, though; you have a choice of just displaying the books as a grid, or displaying them in a slideshow, with notes! I may work on moving my shelves over to Riffle. Riffle does NOT have the neat Reading Stats function that Goodreads has, which is unfortunate, but I could live without it if I needed to. Riffle also doesn’t have the widgets to plug into my blog like Goodreads does, or Reading Challenges, or Giveaways, but the Giveaways are really the only thing I care about there. I can maintain a To-Read list on Goodreads (so I get notified of giveaways from it) if I need to. It DOES have a Goodreads Import option, which is fantastic.
I’ve already imported all of my books, and you can find my profile here. I received an email when the import was done, and they noted that they could not find 510 books, but they don’t note which ones they couldn’t find, which is unfortunate. They DID, however, import all my ratings and reviews, which is handy. So I don’t have to go back through and input reviews from the blog’s history! I am quite intrigued to play with Riffle, especially the list feature, since I can add notes as to why I added a book to the list. On that subject, they did NOT import shelves other than my to-read, currently reading, and read shelves. So I had to sit down and re-do my Lists.
Things I wish Riffle did:
– Add To List button on book pages
– More detail on book pages – page count, publication date, ISBN.
– Collect things I have liked so I can find them later. (Especially other peoples’ Lists!)
– Let me fine-tune what shows up on my social feed. (Right now it’s all “Here’s a popular review of -book you’ve read-, what do you think?”)
– Have an “Add to to-read/read list” button on books on Lists.
– Have a mobile app, or a better working mobile site!
– Have an easy to find feedback function so I could tell them these things!
Libib.com is solely a cataloging app/site. There is an app for the phone, and a website interface. You can use it for free for up to 5,000 items, but for more than that you’ll have to subscribe for $9/month or $99/year. The subscription also appears to come with robust lending features – this might be actual small library software. (Up to 100,000 items with subscription.) I could see this being useful for cataloging the books I actually OWN, but for my to-read, read, and categorized lists? I’m currently sitting at 3500 items, so it wouldn’t last me for much longer! I scanned in several of my owned books, however, and it’s pretty nifty for that. (Just boot up the app on your phone and start scanning barcodes!) I’m a little annoyed that if the barcode doesn’t scan (some of my husband’s university textbooks have stickers over them) I have to enter the book via my desktop. Features are very different between phone and computer.
Libib would be very useful if you can’t remember if you own a book or not and need to decide while you’re away from your shelves. I’m not sure if I can add ebooks to this collection or not, but it would sure be helpful if I could. I’m constantly forgetting what I have on my Kindle! Regardless, I have started to scan my personal collection into the database, just for fun. It works pretty well for anything with an ISBN number, though it couldn’t find three of my Book of the Month books. I wrote down the ISBN numbers to take upstairs to my computer and input them, but not their titles, so I’m going to have to go back through my Book of the Month titles (they’re all together on a shelf) and figure out which three they were and add them by title. Next time I will write down both their ISBN and Title before heading upstairs to the desktop! I wish I could search by ISBN on the mobile app, but my options seem to be scan it in, or input it entirely manually without being able to search a database.
ThriftBooks.com is another marketplace for books, but this one is unique because they have a warehouse just across the train tracks from my house! I’m curious, looking at the reviews on Google Maps, if that means I can just walk in and browse their stacks. I wouldn’t expect so, but some of the reviews make it seem that way. It might be worth a phone call! Thrift Books has warehouses in multiple states across the US. They started in Washington, and have spread to nine more states. They’re all used books, and shipping is free on purchases over $10. It’s only $1.99 each book on purchases less than $10, so still a pretty good rate. They do ship outside the US, but the shipping rates vary. Like Biblio, Thriftbooks is mindful of their impact on the environment, recycles what they can, and does a lot of donating and charity work with literacy and prison library programs.
I’m still looking into alternatives beyond these, but these were all I’ve had time to thoroughly poke at. I may do a Part 2 on this if I find more sites I want to play with!