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If you’re an avid reader of books like I am (though I don’t read nearly as many books as I used to, thanks to the Internet), there are a handful of useful social networking sites where readers can share and discuss what they reading.
The best part about each of these sites is they provide you a way to create virtual libraries, sharing with others what you have read, what you’re presently reading, and what you would like to read. Best of all, all these sites have free sign-up options with mostly unobtrusive advertising.
Perhaps the site that set the tone for book sharing and virtual libraries is LibraryThing. Touted as the “world’s largest book club,” it has well over 900,000 members and over 45 million books cataloged. LibraryThing allows you to use a tagging system to your organize your books. Previewing its Zeitgeist Overview Page, you can find actual authors who are members of the site. Many of them include their own virtual library for public viewing.
The member libraries can be viewed not only by titles but also by book covers, which is the best way to browse. The site includes a large assortment of literary groups and discussion threads, such as Science Fiction Fans, Young Adult Lit, Historical Fiction, and “Books that made me think.”
Adding books to your library page is as simple as typing in a book’s title, ISBN or name of the author. When you select a book to add, all the pertinent information about the book is included for you. If you’re a serious about maintaining your virtual library, you’ll want to keyword or tag your books so they can be grouped together by genre, year or month read, and any identity you want to give them. You can also rate, review, and make recommendations to other members.
Of the three sites introduced here, LibraryThing is the only one that lets you create RSS feeds for groups. I find this especially helpful for keeping up threaded discussions, because it means you don’t have to visit the site in order to view discussion threads, or be bothered with daily emails about updated discussions.
A free membership to the site allows you to catalogue 200 books for free, but the best option is to pay $25 for a lifetime membership.
Shelfari is a lot like LibraryThing but a bit more commercially designed, with a slightly easier to use interface. It also claims to be the largest social networking site for readers.
You build your virtual library the same way you do on LibraryThing. You can search for and add books, and you can go through the collections of other members and build off their list. It has a Facebook style to it whereby you can connect with your friends to see what books they’re reading. You can also rate, tag, and write reviews about books. Your home virtual library pages keep you abreast of what your friends are reading and the threaded discussions of groups you’re a member of.
Membership is totally free on Shelfari and the advertising is pretty unobtrusive.
There’s not much unique to Goodreads, but of the three literary sites I would say this one the most minimalist in design and approach. The site, unlike the other two, allows you to share your reviews on your FB page.
If you’re a literary writer, there’s also a place to share your own poems, short stories, and essays. This section can also be used to post photos of your home library collection.
Finally, Goodreads’s other features include a section of videos uploaded to author’s profiles, a way to swap books, and a searchable section for upcoming local to international book and writing related events.
Goodreads membership is free and ad-based.
I’m a member of all three of these sites with virtual libraries, but I can’t honestly recommend one over the other. To get the most out of any one of them simply means being active on a regular basis, building your friends list and participating in useful discussions.
If you’re a member of one of these sites, let me know what your experience has been as an active member. Has it made a difference in your reading habits?
Image credit: Let Ideas Compete