Considering the case for a Goodreads alternative

Building a book tracking Goodreads alternative is definitely a labor of love, but as readers desperate for something better, it was necessary.

In recent months there has been a steady drum beat of articles denouncing Goodreads.

"It's totally unhinged. Is the book world turning against Goodreads?" - The Guardian.

"Let's rescue readers from this online hellscape" - New York Times

"Goodreads is terrible. Why can't we quit it?" - The Walrus

These articles offer insight into a range of issues – review bombing, lack of content moderation, book marketing spam, meaningless numeric star ratings, and tiresome social media tropes – that have left readers and authors desperate for alternatives.

In her plea to rescue readers from what she terms "an online hellscape", literary critic Maris Kreizman cited Italic Type as a "promising alternative".

Tens of thousands of readers have left Goodreads for Italic Type. Here's why.

Why readers need a book tracking alternative to Goodreads

For one, there are a lot of avid readers and book lovers out there! According to recent YouGov data, 20% of Americans, or 66 million people, read 8 or more books a year. Put another way, there are twice as many readers as there are folks who do online sports betting - another popular hobby.

Today many readers experience barriers to fully enjoying their reading life. Some of these barriers are not finding time to read, getting distracted by tv or social media, or feeling self conscious about discussing books online. Others include not trusting reviews online, going through reading slumps, or not retaining something about a book you wanted to remember.

We use our phones and computers to keep track of what's important to us. But we don't need our online book tracker to distract us more from reading. And that's what marketing giveaways, sponsored posts, fake competitions, and nasty review battles do – they are distractions that make reading less fun and less meaningful.

Finally, another reason why a book tracking alternative is needed. Amazon owns Goodreads - and their monopoly position in the book world reduces their incentive to innovate and work to solve reader pain points.

It's not all bad! Italic Type is similar to Goodreads in a few key ways

Similar to Goodreads, Italic Type is an online platform to keep track of your books.

Goodreads serves many functions (which is why chaos and confusion reign) - but one of the most important ones is a central place to keep a history of the books you've read.

Readers track their books online to keep a history of what they have read and lists of what they want to read, or books they have particularly enjoyed. In our annual State of the Reader survey we found that readers also track books to remember and recommend them to others in the future.

On Italic Type readers have a personal dashboard of bookshelves displaying Currently Reading, Completed, Paused, and Archived. Plus - Context labels displayed with the book help you remember why you added it to your list in the first place .

Many readers have been using Goodreads to track their reading for years and worry about starting over. But don't worry! That's why we built a way for you to easily import your data.

Beyond book tracking - there are many (more) ways Italic Type can offer a different reading experience

Italic Type strives to innovate to meet readers' needs and develop technology that puts human-centered design at the forefront. Some things are changing fast, and some things about being a reader stand the test of time.

We don't do fads. We do technology for the modern reader:

*The best book recommendations come from the people who know you best - not algorithms

Hit Recommend, add a personal note, and voila: bookish goodness straight to your friend’s inbox. (And you’ll get notified when they start reading, so you can talk about it together.)

*The average star rating is the least useful form of book review and seeing the same book on everyone's feeds is a turn off

Average ratings aren't that useful when you don't know who else is reviewing. "One star. I don't like memoirs." It's like "oh thanks so much. very useful."  And when all the heavily hyped books all start to blur together.

*Once we discover new books, we need the space to really read them

Each book on Italic Type has a private space where you can record quotes, passages, and ideas that speak to you. No more storing photos on your phone, scribbling notes in margins, and jotting down thoughts in different notebooks. Keep your entire “book brain” in one place.

*As book lovers, the only thing better than reading a great book is getting someone else to read it, too

Invite friends to read the same book at the same time for a shared experience that’s not limited by geography or schedule - or as an easy way to start the conversation before you meet and keep it going it afterwards.

Why there aren’t more alternatives to Goodreads — and how you can support this one

Working on Italic Type has truly been a labor of love for a small team of three founders.

We built it out of our own necessity - as we were scratching our heads asking ourselves, "how hard could it be to build something better for readers that we'd actually want to use?"  

The answer is: very. Book metadata is a huge obstacle - both in cost and complexity. And it's very difficult to attract investment or develop strong revenue streams (w/o dipping into the UX degradation we're trying to solve for in the first place.)

Dozens of alternatives to Goodreads have come and gone. And today there are a few independent contemporaries as well as heavily funded startups. We each have our own twist to the Goodreads problem(s). And reader preferences will dictate which platform is right for them.

Like any under-funded, underdog, scrappy effort -  I'd be lying if I said the future is certain. Some of the biggest monthly expenses we juggle are server bills and the book metadata we have to purchase. So, the more people use and love Italic Type (and the more people support us with paid membership) the more we'll be able to do.

Share this post on Twitter or Facebook