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Thanks to Amazon.com forcing my hand and removing the “I own this” icon for its books (unless you go and want to share a review with the entire world) I’ve been struggling with a way to keep track of the books I’ve read…and more importantly, have something that will help me figure out what I want to read next. For years, I’ve been using Amazon for this purpose. Although far from being intelligent – oh, you read Walden? Why then you’ll certainly love to read it again with a different cover, from a different publisher, brilliant – it did provide a starting point and once in a great while introduce me to a book/author that I might not have found on my own.
As I said, a year or so ago, Amazon seemed to change the rules and make it harder for people to “just” use them for research and tracking. Seems they actually want us to BUY something once in a while too. That, and they are forever trying to “add value” to the buying process by allowing us to communicate (and learn? GASP!) from others with the same interests…or at the very least those who have read the same book. My question though is weren’t their enough Ebert-wannabe’s out there already who actually WANT to share their wit, intelligence and pedigree with everyone by writing reviews of other peoples work. After all, is there a bigger platform for self promotion for literary types?
Thankfully, I stumbled across another option.
The website is called LibraryThing and it’s awesome. Not only can you catalogue your own library and get thoughtful recommendations, but the site is also able to actually connect you with other readers who have read one, some, or all of the books you’ve ever read. I can’t help but wonder if the site has been the genesis for online (and IRL) relationships of hundreds, perhaps thousands of people. After all, why do you need to fill out pages of questions when it often comes down to finding your perfect match by simply locating the unique individual who read The House of Sand and Fog AND Under the Tuscan Sun? Wouldn’t you think this is someone you could have a cup of coffee with? Start here.
In addition to user reviews, the site can also be called a hangout or virtual coffee shop for book lovers. Not only are there always author interviews and live chats, the site also offers FREE BOOKS for readers to get their hands on before they become available for sale. How cool is that? The caveat is that they encourage you to share your thoughts about the book after you’ve read it. After all, a few good reviews can sometimes make the difference between others passing by your title or checking it out for themselves.
This is a fundamental different approach to building a community from Amazon’s heavy handed method of forcing its users to play by its rules…or be left out. I’ve just started to explore all the features of LibraryThing, but so far I like what I see. It’s a clean site, easy to navigate and devoid of ads and other visual noise. Oh, and did I mention the company is actually run out of an office right here in Portland Maine, USA? Yessah!! If you love books, and like other people who love books, then check out LibraryThing. You’ll be hooked.