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Google Books “My Library” Vs. LibraryThing vs. Shelfari

I love to read. I always have and I probably always will. When people ask me why I read so much or about how fast I can, I usually attest to the fact that when I was a child, the household rule was no television on weekdays, so, lots of books and reading. I still remember the first book I was able to finish on my own without any help from my mother; The Mouse and the Motorcycle.

A few months ago when I was looking for a service to keep track of all my books (those I had read and those I wanted), the top two that I had come up with were Shelfari and LibraryThing. At the time LibraryThing seemed slow and clunky while Shelfari came off as fairly polished. Note that I really didn’t spend too much time at either during this initial assessment and that I ended up going with Shelfari.

Coming back to the present, I still use Shelfari and now that Google Book search has come out with the “My Library” feature, its time to do an assessment of this decision.

My Library
Launched on September 6th, this is the latest feature of Google Book Search. Normally I just go to Amazon if I’m looking for a book, but that’s more likely because that’s what I am used to. Check out my test Library here

Pros

  • Search doesn’t always return what I want. Sometimes I had to go find the ISBN and use that
  • Very fast searching
  • Once books are added to the library, you can search the text within those books and get a preview
  • Has List view and cover view. The list view has a link to Add Labels, Write a Review, and More Editions
  • Links to buy the book from Amazon, Barns & Noble, Booksense, or Froogle
  • Can look for the book in a library
  • Reviews from all over the internet (shows 10)
  • References from all over the internet (shows 10)
  • References from other books
  • Links to other editions
  • References from scholarly works
  • Can share list as an RSS feed
  • No need to sign up if you already have a Google account
  • Unlimited books

Cons

  • limited preview, I know other services don’t even offer a preview, but its such a tease
  • The library didn’t seem to be finding good results. I looked up a few books that I know are in the library up the street and it wasn’t finding them.
  • No user reviews
  • Only export format is RSS
  • Can only import by ISBN by typing a list or copy/paste
  • Need a Google account

LibraryThing
I had initially been turned off by this one because the UI seemed clunky and was sluggish when I first tested it out. A lot of this has changed. Check out my test library here

Pros

  • If you really like Amazon (me), then using that as the database is a pro
  • Good recommendations. The recommendations were pretty spot on. There are books on the list that I have been meaning to read for a while now (that I have not yet added)
  • Lots of “Find At” (buy) options: Abebooks, Alibris, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BookFinder, BookSense, Worldcat, and more
  • The size differences and bolding in the tag cloud make it pretty easy to spot trends
  • Reviews by users
  • I love the book swapping links
  • Good rating system (out of 5)
  • Links to related Wikipedia articles
  • Lots of options for blog cloud
  • Can link with other social sites: Facebook, Digg, etc

Cons

  • only searches Amazon of the Library of congress
  • You can only save 200 books. Lame. They charge $10/year or $25/lifetime to store unlimited books
  • The Display styles of A, B, C, D, E are confusing if you don’t go look up what they mean
  • The “click on cover” menu takes a little while to get used to
  • Blog cloud is static
  • Has a lot of social aspects, but no “Friends”

LibraryThing Blog widget:

Shelfari
This is the service I originally went with. Check out my main shelf here

Pros

  • Multiple shelves
  • Friends and groups, seems more social then the other two. (LibraryThing links to social aspects, but doesn’t have them as built in as Shelfari)
  • Quite pretty
  • Member reviews and Amazon reviews (linked separately)
  • Can write notes (different from reviews) about each book or a shelf in general

Cons

  • Requires Flash
  • Can only buy from Amazon
  • Tag cloud doesn’t have enough difference in size
  • Ads at the bottom of each page
  • Has social aspect of friends, but doesn’t reach out to other social sites

Shelfari Blog Widget:

All in all I think I may stick with Shelfari. Yes My Library was the fastest for searching, and did relate the books to the most external sources, but sometimes it took a little longer to find the book I was looking for in the list. My searches in Shelfari, while slower always had the book I wanted in the top 3 results. I really like the recommendation and book swapping features of LibraryThing. What sold me on Shelfari and continues to do so, is the multiple shelves. I have a shelf for books I own and have read, a shelf for books I own but have not read, and a shelf for books I would like to buy. I just really like breaking it up this way. The only thing that could make this aspect better, would be if I could like my third list to my Amazon wish list.

Published 19 Sep 2007

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