10 Things About Goodreads That Make Me Want to Tear My Hair Out

Posted February 11, 2020 by Amber in Bookish Things / 18 Comments


I know book blogger posts wailing on Goodreads are a dime a dozen.  We all use it, even though it frustrates us.  There’s really no perfect equivalent – LibraryThing, Libib, Litsy, FictionDB are all fine enough, but their design, functionality, and/or databases simply cannot compare to Goodreads.  Others, like Shelfari, have been absorbed by the giant gelatinous cube that is the Amazon conglomerate.  In as far as our electronic cataloging and social connectivity goes, Goodreads seems to remain our prime option.

But that doesn’t mean it’s perfect.  And we don’t have to pretend, either.  There are a lot of opportunities for Goodreads to improve their platform.  From fixes to expanding functionality, I’m sure we’ve all run into something we wish Goodreads would change.

For example….


No URLs in Profiles Since 2017

Goodreads dances around this issue, and there are several diligent users who have asked about this, trying to keep the issue alive… but…?  It doesn’t look like this is going to change anytime soon.  Back in March 2017, to fight bots and spam, the Goodreads team turned off URLs in profiles.  They’ve been up and down here and there, but mostly they’ve been consistently down.  For us book bloggers and those who use other platforms, this is devastating.  Essentially, Goodreads has turned off the opportunity to link our platforms.  They are not the only social platform to impose this restriction, but since we had it before, it’s a bit painful to have it removed.

While I respect their goal of reducing spam, this is a bandaid that also hurts the users and is not being addressed.  At the very least, the Goodreads team ought to put it out there they they are not going fix this and we will all move on with our lives. For now, we remain in will they/won’t they limbo.  As for me, I have typos in my bio and am torn between wanting to fix it, wanting them to fix things so I can fix those and add images, and wondering if anyone reads the bios anyway?


No Half-Stars

This complaint is new to nobody.

Most other ratings platforms offer half-star ratings, and those ratings are particularly useful for items when they are really good, but not perfect.  And then, what?  If you’re smack in the middle between two ratings, do you round up and give it more credit than it has earned?  Do you round down and penalize it because the system can’t accommodate?  I personally round up, but I appreciate systems that use a more precise method of rating.  LibraryThing does this and they are also a book review and cataloguing site – there’s no reason Goodreads can’t add it.


The Search Bar is Ridiculous

A month or so ago, Goodreads announced they were updating their search bar functionality.  While it’s a little better now, it’s still hilariously bad.  It only knows what you’re talking about it you type it exactly.  This is 2020 and there’s literally no reason the search bar on any website should behave this badly.

Aside – for some BookCommunity!Humor, check out the @BadGoodreads Twitter page.  There’s glorious collection of Goodreads fails around the search bar functionality and in a world of toxic Twitter hate, I needed a chuckle.  Let’s commiserate together!


Recommendations are Also Ridiculous

Speaking of things that often don’t add up… some of the “you’ll love this” recs I get from Goodreads illicit major eyerolls.  I’d be lying if I told you I never click on recommendations – I click them all the time, because I like discovering books outside the hype – but most the time, they are far and away from something I’d want to read.

Or, they’re like the image above. Listen, I’m always game for a Neil Gaiman novel.  But I sincerely doubt Anansi Boys has anything to do with Three Sisters, Three Queens.  Unless there’s a Tudor princess mingled somewhere in there with the American gods?  Unlikely.


Giveaways Add Duplicate Copies of Books to Your Shelf

Goodreads didn’t used to do this, and it vexes me a bit that they changed it.  I used to try for the Goodreads giveaways all the time.  After all, who doesn’t like free books!  I take my review copies very seriously as well, reading them carefully and reviewing them in a timely manner.  I rarely enter now.  In fact, I only entered the giveaway for The Kingdom of Back because I knew the book was on my TBR and I wanted to see if it was still happening.

It’s still happening.

Regardless of whether or not a book is on your TBR already, entering a giveaway adds another copy.  I believe it’s because the ISBN or something is different, but regardless it would behoove Goodreads to use some sort of algorithm to identify the books that already exist on the user’s TBR.  This could be used on the giveaways page as well to highlight book the user is already interested in, therefore targeting a better reviewer for the author and publishing house.

Organizationally, this drives me crazy.  I don’t need duplicate copies on my TBR.  Since I never win these giveaways anyway, I just gave up on the whole thing when this started happening.


Genres are Based on User Shelves

This is another huge organizational pet peeve for me.

Listed genres are not set by the publishing houses or by the authors… not even by the person who added the book in the first place.  Genres pop up based on how the various users have shelved them.  In fact, they’re not really genres… they’re “top shelves”.

I believe Goodreads has got to be using some sort of filter to pull common genre types from these lists, because check out Children of Virtue and Vengeance:

There’s got to be filters because more people filed this book under “2019 releases” than fiction.  The user-defined genres annoy me a little, because I see “science fiction” pop up a lot on books that are fantasy and vice-versa (including CoV&V – 30 people filed this as sci-fi-fantasy).  You get some incorrect designations and books end up connected that may not be related.  I think the top shelves affect the recommendations as well, so this could explain why we have some weird recs.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s kind of cool to see how people are tagging things.  But that’s what a lot of Goodreads’ shelves are: tags.  Not genres.


The App is Notoriously Buggy and Crashy

Screenshot from Bree (@alibraryforone) – I couldn’t get a crash error when I needed it. 🙁

I’m afraid I can’t speak to the Android version of the app as I use an iPhone, but my experience with the app over the years has been that it likes to crash.  It will also freeze on me and I’ll have to force close and restart.  Occasionally, a full phone restart.  At least once, a full app reinstall.

Sometimes we can go a while without bugs… but when they hit, they hit hard.  It would be nice for the app to have a little more stability.  There are also limited features on the app compared to the website, which can be a bit of a bummer in a world where at least half the users are mobile-only.

I’ve got to admit, the servers in general crash all the time as well.

It’s likely that the server and network issues also have negative impacts on the app that make it look like the app is failing out more often than is specifically the app’s fault.


The Ads on Web Version are The Worst

The ads you see on the screenshot above are not the worst ads you get.  There’s a couple things about the ads on Goodreads that drive me crazy.  First of all, often the advertising will overtake the entire page.  If they’re advertising a television show, you’ll get autoplay trailers and video ads.  Then, the ads load just a moment after the rest of the page and if you go to click something as the page starts loading, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll miss your mark and click the ad instead.


Obviously this is easy to avoid with an ad blocker.  But as far as popular websites go, Goodreads is so overwhelmingly stuffed with advertisements… more than I’ve ever seen.  It’s crazy.


Rankings Are Totally Messed Up

The comment depends on the category, but “top readers”?  The Top Readers rankings are absolutely ridiculous.  I suppose on one hand, I need to be impressed because obviously Melissa from TX did not read 2,118 books this week.  That’s just silliness.  The list simply doesn’t work and it very much comes off as a bot ploy.  I particularly love this comment:

I am reading it sarcastically as calling her out.  I’m sorry for casting some shade on this top reviewer, but honestly, all I see is that she lists an eBay page as her website and I’m not convinced this isn’t some sort of weird marketing ploy?  Either way, Goodreads, this ranking system is clearly broken?  So that’s a thing.

But, who knows?  Maybe she’s just remembered all the books she’s read her entire life and really wanted to add them all to her list this week.

Problem is these rankings mean a lot of users who are trying to build relationships with publishing companies.  Having this work properly to reward prolific readers would be nice.  I don’t have a solution, but you’ve got to admit, something is rotten in the state of Denmark.


Goodreads Rarely Listens to Its Users

Finally and most frustrating, there are many features users have been asking for, for years.  Additionally, there’s been all sorts of feedback that has been ignored.  Bugs that are put into jars to deal with later (maybe) instead of squashed  Do you guys remember a few years ago when a books that were not traditional novels were reassigned to the NOT A BOOK author? Fortunately, that was quashed in less than a week and there’s updated lists, but it’s examples like that which remind us how quick Goodreads is to make technical and organizational changes that a non-user may find useful… and users get enraged about.

Back in May 2019, Goodreads shut down their feedback function and reopened it in the guise of this Goodreads help site.  There’s been some community chatter about this and a lot of people have come to consensus that it’s their way of burying issues (the feedback about URLs in profiles appears in June’s Known Issues… and disappears afterward.

Will the new format be better?  Worse?  I personally think very little will change.


What things about Goodreads drive you crazy?  Do you think Goodreads will ever address them?  Lets commiserate together – let me know in the comments!

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18 responses to “10 Things About Goodreads That Make Me Want to Tear My Hair Out

  1. I love GoodReads, but I can see how all of these things are annoying. I tend to only use GoodReads for myself and very little for my blog, so maybe that’s why I’m not as annoyed as others. I do think there is seriously something broken with the genre lists and the top reviewers lists…That one person looks to be using GR to sell.

    • Amber

      Agreed! There’s a lot that Goodreads does right as well that we tend to not talk about. It’s a good tool, but not as loved and updated as it should be. ?

  2. Ugh I agree with so many of these! I’m glad Goodreads exists because it’s super helpful for tracking and seeing what everyone is reading. However some things should totally be fixed. Especially the freaking search bar. That thing is crazy. Sometimes the books that pop up when you’re typing a title don’t even have any similar words to what you’re typing. How is that even possible? ?

    • Amber

      Goodreads’ search is so incredibly illogical. I’m not sure why they aren’t just using the same logic as their other sites? Amazon’s search works fine! XD Oh well, maybe someday it’ll be better. 🙂

  3. Yes to these things. The outages, search functionality, and star rating system probably bothers me the most. I am notorious for assigning half stars, and I hate deciding if I round up or down all the time. I would love a sliding scale, then all those bloggers, who award ratings like 4.25 could be happy too. And, when I put the exact name of the book in, it should bring me books with that name. I don’t know if the search engine is looking at popularity or whatnot, but it makes no sense to me how the results are determined. I only use the app in a pinch, when I am not home. It’s terrible.

    • Amber

      Yup, all I do on the app is update the % or mark new books as currently reading – it’s nonsensical and unpredictable enough not to be relied on for tracking. ? Which is a shame really, because there’s so much potential! And that search bar… there is just no explanation. … Here’s hoping they get their act together on some of these things! ?

  4. I think the Genre thing is the worst! I use Goodreads to get all my info about books and use it as a source of truth because I don’t have a better one, but I have to still be careful because its not always right (Most notable it still calls Nevernight YA even though Jay Kristoff has specifically said it is very much NOT YA!!!!

    Brittany recently posted: Review: Blood of Elves
    • Amber

      Same! I look at some of those genres and go “that’s definitely not a fantasy” or whatnot. I’ve definitely been known to go rogue on genres in my reviews and backend because I just feel like the Goodreads “genres” are wrong. ?

  5. It’s 2020 and I still don’t understand why I have to use HTML formatting to bold text in my Goodreads reviews, lol. I agree with the ridiculousness of the recommendations (one time it was like “Since you’ve read One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest, we recommend Little Bear” which is literally a small children’s book and I was like WHAT) and the search bar is TERRIBLE. But there’s still nothing that quite compares to the functionality of GR so we’re all still at the mercy of its it’s quirks!

    • Amber

      So true – we are very much at its mercy! I think that may be one of the reasons that they don’t fix anything? They’re not exactly using users over it. :/ Oh well!

  6. Oh goodreads. When I first started using it in 2014 I remember loving it but it’s so frustrating to see how it looks exactly the same as it did 6 years ago only with some things removed, like being able to have links in your bio. The app on android crashes all the damn time. I know. I go through phases of downloading it because I want to update my reading progress as I go…and then the crashes start happening that it’s not even funny. I’ve never known an app to be so bad. I think what drives me crazy is that they have so many users, so many people use the site and they’ve had so much feedback but they just don’t do anything with it?

    I mean how many of us have asked for half star ratings to be implemented? How many of us have asked for it to just have a general update or the app to be fixed and not crash every time we go on it? Yet they’re sat there doing nothing about it *sighs* Loved this post!

    Clo @ Cuppa Clo recently posted: Monthly Rewind: February 2020
    • Amber

      It is so very frustrating! I personally believe they don’t update its because they don’t feel they *have* to? Goodreads doesn’t make any money for the Amazon conglomerate, and they don’t have any threatening competition, so they don’t have to up their game to keep from losing users. While all of this sucks and is totally rude customer service… that’s my guess. :/

      Thanks for commenting! It’s always good commiserate with fellow readers! 😀

  7. Tracy

    The emails. I have done everything I know of to stop them, but they keep coming. Also they could put information about length – hardback, paperback, audio.

    • Amber

      Agreed! I’d LOVE to the get time on audiobooks because they make up +66% of my “reading”. I’d like to know how much I listened to as well as physically read… and it frustrates on Goodreads to if you choose the audiobook edition it says you read 1 page (or thereabouts). I’m a stats girl and I want more. 😀 There’s a lot they could do to improve the system. Frankly, I’m on The StoryGraph’s beta right now and I have high hopes. There’s a couple wishlist items over there that I’m looking for before I move over my default activity to that site. I’d still likely post reviews on Goodreads to support the authors, but The StoryGraph looks so promising from a reader’s perspective. <3

  8. UD

    I’ve been seriously thinking about getting a predict manager job at Goodreads so that I can go in and FIX THESE DAMN ANNOYING THINGS

  9. Eleanor Whippet

    Speaking as both a GR author and reviewer, the site’s entire setup defeats the purpose of being the self-proclaimed “accurate catalogue” of every book in existence” it boasts. Pseudonyms and disambiguation are huge problems – GR has always claimed that it cannot merge author profiles together under one common name, even though they make an exception for “classic authors” (they don’t define classic). This becomes confusing for both authors and readers; books released under a pseudonym may not appear under an author’s preferred name, or authors who wish to keep their pseudonyms separate may have them linked together anyway by well-meaning librarian moderators, there are a ton of disambiguation issues, there are draft copies of self-published books posted to Goodreads because they have an ISBN, even if they were never officially published, VHS tapes frequently appear on Goodreads, fanfiction appears there even if it isn’t a book or offered in a book format (with the exception of Wattpad stories)… it’s just a mess. There’s also a problem with sock puppet accounts, with a large amount of Listopia lists all containing the same top books, with 1-star reviews being left by fake accounts on books that haven’t even been published yet (and if the author then decides not to publish the book, or if their draft becomes lost before the book can be published, Goodreads becomes unable to remove it because it has rating on it, even if it will never be published. Trans authors, authors who legally change their name and authors who decide to stop using their maiden name run into a problem of having an undesired name as their primary author name. The recommendations for readers are a joke. The Goodreads Choice Awards are very limited and there’s only so many times that Stephen King or Margaret Atwood can win before the GR community loses interest. Authors bully readers, readers bully authors, the Goodreads Giveaways feature now costs a ridiculously high amount of money for authors and requires a credit card and linked Amazon page, authors have duplicates added to their “to-read” shelves when they enter giveaways, the site is politically biased, and that the site is now owed by a corporate giant like Amazon has made it even less accountable to its users. It hasn’t been developed much at all in the past decade. Similar sites like IMDb have changed and updated with the times and remained dedicated to accuracy. Goodreads, not so much. I think it’s forgotten itself and its core values along the way.