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.
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?
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!