Everyone loves to hate on Goodreads, and for good reason. Amazon bought the website several years ago, and ever since then, there haven’t been any substantial updates to how the site looks or operates. It just feels old. That, plus all the ads, the Book Awards amounting to nothing more than a popularity contest, and so on, many modern readers are growing tired of the site. And while many new apps and book cataloguing sites have been launched, most die away, primarily because just how big the user base is, and what the user base primarily uses Goodreads for. AKA: keeping track of the books they’ve read.
For the first time ever, a new site’s been launched that seems like it could pull Goodreads’s user base out from under it. Have you heard of StoryGraph? If not, that’s okay. In today’s post, I’ll give it a little introduction and say what’s good and not-so-good about the site. (And no, this is not a sponsored post.)
Before I begin, I think it’s important to state what I use Goodreads (and now, possibly, StoryGraph) for. Because there’s several functions–bonding with other people about one’s excitement or disappointment over a particular book, using the rating system to determine which books are decent enough quality to read, keeping track of read and TBR books, etc.–I want to say what particular functions I’m looking for, which in turn is going to steer this site review in a particular direction.
First and foremost, Goodreads is a place for me to keep track of the books I’ve read. I’m a forgetful person, and as someone who wants to write informative blog posts about the fantasy genre, I like being able to flick back through my lists to jog my memory. Secondly, I really love the ability to set a reading goal for myself and to be able to see at any given time just where I’m at with that goal. Third, I’ve found that most books with a 4-star rating or higher are books that are, generally, really good quality, and if I’m in a bookstore, unsure if I’ll like a particular book, I usually look it up on Goodreads and see what the general consensus is.
That is… pretty much it. I rate the books I’ve finished, because it seems like something I should do, but I’ve never been into posting book reviews there. The quotes part of Goodreads is nice, on occasion, when I need to refer back to something. Sometimes, I’ll need to use the author page to check their published works, or I’ll look up a book to see the expected publication. But these are all minor uses.
What is StoryGraph?
Like Goodreads, it’s a database website for books. It allows its users to keep track of the books they’re reading or want to read, to rate and review. Like Goodreads, it also has a social element, allowing you to follow other people on the site, whether to help your friends stay on their Reading Challenge goals (yes, StoryGraph has a Reading Challenge function too) or to participate in other reading challenges. And, like Goodreads, it’s completely free.
Unlike Goodreads, there is not a downloadable app. Instead, they have what is called a “Progressive Web App” which works like an app but goes through your browser. It does indeed work like a regular app, though. The interface of the mobile app and the desktop site are remarkably similar: clean-cut and simple to use.
A More Comprehensive Book Review
When it comes to rating books, StoryGraph has several advantages over Goodreads. First, people who find the five-star system constricting may now actually rate the book in 0.25 increments, rather than just make note of it in the comments like you’d have to do for Goodreads. While the books I review will continue to get full-star ratings, I know that this particular element will be vastly useful to a lot of readers.
Secondly, StoryGraph offers more than just Rating + Review. It also asks its readers to identify certain book elements. The picture to the left shows the questions that StoryGraph asks its readers with every book they finish. Of course, it doesn’t force you to fill it out if you find some of the questions difficult to answer. But, especially for the drop-down menu questions, there’s an “It’s complicated” option for most and an N/A answer for all, which means no pressure if there’s no easy answer. Additionally, it asks if there are any content warnings that should be added, which is helpful for obvious reasons.
All this basically amounts to a more comprehensive review even before potential readers get to the actual written portion.
The BIGGEST reason StoryGraph trumps all other apps and sites that tried to compete with Goodreads is that StoryGraph makes it very obvious that you can export your GoodReads library, and makes it very easy to import it into your StoryGraph account. This means that although StoryGraph’s userbase is very likely still smaller than Goodread’s, any given book is more likely to have more reviews than previously launched competitors. Ultimately, that’s what drew me into StoryGraph in the first place. It’s all about statistics. The more reviews a book has, the more likely it is to have captured a more expansive, inclusive reading experience, and the more likely that a 4-star rating on StoryGraph equates to the same quality as it does on Goodreads.
What’s interesting to see is that the ratings of books from both sites are very similar to one another. After comparing about a dozen titles of books I’ve recently read, all but one of them were within 0.05 or 0.1 points difference. Even the one with the biggest margin of difference was only separated by about 0.2 stars. But after checking the numbers, the number of ratings of any given book is less than 10% on StoryGraph than it is on Goodreads. I’ll leave it up to you to decide just how much that matters.
The Beauty of the Stats: Not all Readers Enjoy the Same Books
I am not particularly good at math, but there is something rather beautiful in the breakdown of numbers. StoryGraph puts more focus on what moods the books fit into, and even what kind of plot and characters populate the story, than it does on the rating itself. This seems counter-intuitive, but the more I think about it, the more it actually makes sense. Books have specific audiences for a reason. Focusing on the rating suggests that a book should strive for the perfection needed for that full 5 stars. Focusing instead on the breakdown of the book allows like-minded readers to help one another find books that they will enjoy.
StoryGraph takes all that data–in the books you’ve read recently, what are the most common moods attributed to them?–and compiles it into an easy breakdown. I would not have thought to say that I liked slow-paced books, but then, as a fantasy reader, most of the novels I read do start off a bit slow to allow the reader to get established in the world. And I tend to like the intense, dark (but not overly gritty or horrific) type of books. The mood breakdown can help confirm, perhaps more accurately than a simple rating could, whether or not the book in question would be my cup of tea. I just think that’s really cool.
For quite some time, I’ve wished that Goodreads had a way to separate my TBR list between books I have already owned and books I haven’t yet purchased. StoryGraph actually provides this feature, forming two separate lists for them. There is, unfortunately, no way to manually organize the list so that you can put the books in the order you intend to read them.
StoryGraph uses its tailored breakdown of books to help curate a more accurate list of books its readers might like. I’m kind of surprised that it doesn’t offer a breakdown by genre–it seems just as willing to recommend science fiction or a more umbrella term of speculative fiction despite the fact that I do primarily read fantasy novels. Perhaps the recommendations list will get more accurate as time goes on.
StoryGraph also offers community reading challenges. This allows for readers like me to expand their horizons, and potentially makes it easy for friends to hold each other accountable for their reading goals.
Cons: A Slight Learning Curve
I have been using StoryGraph for several weeks at this point, and while most of it is easy to figure out, there have been a few features that I’m constantly tripping over. Editing your progress on a current read feels a little more complicated than it needs to be, and unlike Goodreads, when you mark a book as finished, it does not automatically ask you to rate the book. This can be slightly vexing at times, as the reading progress part of the site is probably the most used feature and so should be one of the easier tools to use. It’s not so difficult that I can’t figure it out after a minute or two of clicking, but often annoying nonetheless.
StoryGraph is not perfect. Then again, it’s new, and it’s clear that the creators of the site want to continue to improve it, unlike Goodreads, which remains forever locked in its old ways. Despite a few features that are perhaps more complicated than they need to be, or less refined than one would expect, StoryGraph offers several other features that more than make up for it. Specifically, the unique ratings breakdown for its books offers a more personalized outlook on a given reader’s preference. Additionally, though a small thing, I appreciate that StoryGraph offers a separate shelf for owned books, which makes my unowned TBR shelf that much less daunting.
Overall, I think that it’s a good alternative to Goodreads (especially since, again, it’s very easy to export all of your Goodreads data so all of your books can stay on one site). I’m interested to see if other people agree. If you’re also giving StoryGraph a go, I hope to see you there. My username (as seen above) is catiekat01. I’m looking to find some reader friends, so give me a follow and I’ll follow back. 🙂