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Olivia Winchester tests The StoryGraph as an alternative method to keep track of your reading for the next academic year.

With its 90 million users, Goodreads has long been the place for book lovers to catalogue their reading, find recommendations, and become a part of a literature community. Goodreads was originally started by Otis and Elizabeth Chandler in 2006 with the aim of widening reading pools to include books by unknown or new authors with smaller budgets behind them. However, many remain unaware that in 2013, it was absorbed by the corporate fat-cat Amazon. Over the years, other competitors such as Shelfari have attempted to create new platforms but were speedily bought out by Amazon and left undeveloped in order to eliminate its competitors.

Are there any real alternatives to Goodreads that can leave users guilt-free to enjoy without lining the ever-expanding pockets of Jeff Bezos? This week, I delved deep into The StoryGraph and examined whether or not the platform was a successful alternative for book-lovers worldwide.

"Are there any real alternatives to Goodreads that can leave users guilt-free to enjoy without lining the ever-expanding pockets of Jeff Bezos?"

Independent and Black-owned, The StoryGraph was created by CEO Nadia Odunayo in 2019; existing as both a website as well as an app. Signing up is easy, and it even has a nifty feature that allows you to import your Goodreads library, so you don’t have to worry about losing all your data, or go through the hassle of potentially re-logging years of reading history. The design is clean and streamlined in comparison to somewhat cluttered Goodreads.

The whole service is tailored to your individual reading preferences, unlike Goodreads. On signing up you can partake in a survey that asks as much about what your reading tastebuds don’t like as what they do. Specific characteristics and genres are provided such as LGBTQ+ authors, multiple POVs, mood, pace, and more; allowing users to actually diversify their preferences, which produces recommendations accurate to your taste.

This approach continues with the “browse all books” feature which allows you to search for your next read. Once again, you can be very specific in what you're looking for – creating an experience that is very similar to that of browsing a book shop. It also allows you to browse books you already own, (very helpful to those of us that have so many books we can no longer remember what we have on our shelves) and filter out potential triggers such as sexual violence or abuse. There are also challenges that you can join by searching for prompts such as the “Read More Female Authors Challenge”. The much-loved “reading goal” feature of Goodreads is also offered here, however it offers both a book or page goal, meaning if you enjoy reading longer texts you no longer have to see your goal stuck at 12 because you chose to read a Russian classic that summer… 

"The much-loved “reading goal” feature of Goodreads is also offered here, however it offers both a book or page goal..."

However, The StoryGraph truly trumps Goodreads with its book rating and review system. Goodreads only offers a five-star rating and a written review, but The StoryGraph is far more comprehensive, providing not only a decimal point star rating, but an alternative pace and mood rating, a review box, potential triggers in the text, whether LGBTQ+ characters were included, and so on. It provides not only a far more detailed review for yourself, but helps the algorithm tailor others’ search processes in the future. Your reading statistics are far more aesthetically pleasing, provided in a range of chart and graph formats, allowing you to assess your reading biases in far more detail. 

The StoryGraph also appears to truly value its users and is very much community driven. The owners consistently ask for feedback and input, providing a public roadmap for features coming soon – including stats for languages read, user created groups, and social media invitations. This is a site that is consistently growing and developing based on what users want. There is a Plus Plan available for £3.49 a month in order to help the company stay independent and offer more features, however the free version is by no means a sub-par service and, personally, I’d much rather they offered this feature and still paid their taxes… 

Overall, The StoryGraph offers more than an alternative, but an actual step-up to what Goodreads offers, and allows you and me a new guilt-free academic year of reading. I hope to see you there!


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