We are all familiar with Goodreads – the social media platform that is all about books. I have been a member for over a decade and have been using it consistently for about six years. For a long time, Goodreads was kind of the only space for all of us book nerds to go and discuss reading. (I know there were others, but no where near the scale of Goodreads.)
But at the end of 2020, I started hearing about an emerging challenger to Goodreads: The StoryGraph. Goodreads is definitely not without it’s problems. I constantly see people talk about things they don’t like or are frustrated with. But because there isn’t a lot of competition, I feel like Goodreads isn’t too concerned about improving their site.
So, about a year ago, I signed up for The StoryGraph. There was a lot of hype surrounding it as a potential Goodreads replacement, and I wanted to experience it for myself. For the past year, I have been simultaneously using both sites to track my reading (plus my own spreadsheet, because neither site is capable of tracking all of the things I keep track of). The StoryGraph does allow you to import your Goodreads stats when you move over, which is awesome – they really want to make it easy for people to switch – so it was pretty simple to start using their site without having to abandon my years of using Goodreads.
Over the past year, I’ve been making note of the things I like and don’t like about each. I went into this thinking I’d see if The StoryGraph is actually better than Goodreads, and maybe after using both for a while I can come to a decision about which one I want to use going forward. So today, I thought it might be fun to share my thoughts and see where I’m at with this now.
what The StoryGraph does better
showing more detailed reading stats
While The StoryGraph doesn’t hold a candle to my own insane spreadsheet, it does track a lot of things (including some I personally don’t, like moods or pace). It’s kind of cool to see these things in real time as I finish books, and it can be useful as you’re looking to find your next read. If you’re in a slump and looking for a short, fast-paced read, The StoryGraph will tell you what those books are. They even have a recommendations page where you fill out a little survey (similar to their review page) about what you’re in the mood for, and it’ll give you suggestions. (Note: I have only used this a couple times out of curiosity and wasn’t too impressed with the options I got, but the idea of it is pretty cool).
The reading data on The StoryGraph is based on user input. If the majority of readers say that a book is slow, it’ll show up as a slow book. If you click on individual books, you can see the breakdown of those stats, so you’ll know if it’s slow because 52% of readers thought so, or if 97% readers marked it as such. So it’s fairly transparent in that way, but I’m personally not sure how reliable it is, just based on my own reading. But it is kind of cool to look at, and if you don’t want to spend three days becoming an expert in Excel and making the spreadsheet of a crazy book person like I did and still want to get some more detail on your reading stats, this is a decent option.
reviews include clear tags and content warnings
Like I mentioned above, The StoryGraph allows users to tag books in their reviews. Personally, I am pretty lazy and just plug in my ratings almost all the time. But it’s pretty cool that they let readers input information like the pace of the book or the general mood of the book or if the characters were likable in a way that is trackable and not just in the text of the review. So anyone can click on a book and scroll down and see how many people thought a book was inspiring or slow or sad or if the characters completely sucked without having to read through a million reviews. Kind of cool.
More importantly, The StoryGraph offers a dedicated space within each review page for users to attach content warnings directly to books. You can click on a link for each book and see how many instances each CW was submitted for each book. You can also filter these. So if there’s something in particular that you’re triggered by, or don’t want to read, you can go in and see those trigger warnings and ask The StoryGraph to filter those out. Additionally, they’re even separated into graphic, moderate, or minor, which I find very helpful. Sometimes, I am okay with some minor instances of trauma in a book, but if I’m not in a good place, it’s nice to know if that’s a major part of the story so I can read something else. I think this is a very cool feature that has the potential to make reading a safer place for users and help them find books they’re more likely to enjoy.
more rating options
If you use Goodreads, you know our rating options are limited to whole numbers (one, two, three, four, and five). But I guarantee you’ve seen a review where someone has written in “4.5 stars, rounded up”. The StoryGraph actually lets you add those .5 stars (or .25 or .75). So you fraction-star givers can finally track your actual ratings without having to write them in the comments! I’m actually shocked that Goodreads hasn’t done this yet since it’s such a simple thing to do and very easy to use on The StoryGraph (once you figure out how to get to that page, because it’s not super obvious when you first start using their site). Just a cool little way they saw something people didn’t like about Goodreads and came up with a solution.
ability to track reading challenges
As someone who is kind of an obsessively organized crazy reader person, this is by far my favorite feature on The StoryGraph. We’ve all seen reading challenges – PopSugar is a super popular one – and you might have come across the Goodreads challenge pages where everything just looks like a massive and complicated Reddit comment thread. There isn’t a way to track your own challenges unless you do it on your own somehow, though you can register as a participant and see what other people are reading.
The StoryGraph made this a million times better. You can actually add books you read to each challenge prompt and it will record it as complete if you’ve read that book (you can add them before or after having read them – and add multiple options for each prompt if you want). And then it’ll show you which ones you’ve completed and what percent of the challenge you’ve completed so far. Kind of hard to explain, but trust me, it’s amazing. You can also see if you’ve already linked books to any of the challenges you’re participating in. Brilliant, love it, game-changer. If you participate in any reading challenges, this is absolutely worth looking into.
what Goodreads does better
bigger community/more users
Both of these sites are designed to be a place where book-lovers can be part of a community. Which is definitely something Goodreads has going for it. A quick Google search tells me that Goodreads has approximately ninety million members, which is obviously a lot. It’s still relatively new, but The StoryGraph currently only has about a hundred thousand users. Goodreads has held the monopoly on this for a while, so maybe The Storygraph needs time to grow, but as of right now, there aren’t nearly as many ratings and reviews, so there’s definitely a smaller sample group for the stats on each book.
Also, one thing I enjoy using Goodreads for is having a larger group of friends who are users. I can see what they’re reading, or what someone who I know has similar tastes as me thought of a specific book. So few people are using The StoryGraph (as of right now), that I don’t really get that very much, if at all. Hopefully The StoryGraph will grow, but until then, the community aspect is kind of lacking. So Goodreads definitely gets points for that.
more intuitive and nicer-looking user interface
Honestly, Goodreads just looks nicer. The StoryGraph is very simple, which is fine, but Goodreads is just so much more enjoyable to use. When I’m researching books for blog posts or my own reading, I still turn to Goodreads every time. It’s simpler and faster to find the info I’m looking for, and it’s just more pleasant to look at while I’m doing it. I also like that the homepage feels like a social media site for books, rather than just “here is what you are reading and what you want to read”, which feels dry and kind of less personal and engaging.
The StoryGraph also definitely has a bit of a learning curve, and I personally found it less intuitive to use. I was kind of hoping they would develop this a little more over time, but I haven’t seen any changes in the year I’ve been using it. I also thought maybe I was just used to Goodreads, but I’m fairly used to The StoryGraph now, and still find it not as fun to use. I hope they eventually improve the graphics a bit and add some more interest to the page (and more obvious ways to get to what you’re looking for), but Goodreads definitely has the upper-hand on the pretty factor. (Note: I can’t fault The StoryGraph too much for this since they are an independent site and fairly new, but it’s definitely something I like a lot better about Goodreads.)
Also worth mentioning, you can’t just type in thestorygraph.com and go to a site you’re already logged into. You have to go to app.thestorygraph.com to actually use the site (the other one just prompts you to sign in or sign up). So just a weird quirk I find slightly annoying.
where The StoryGraph falls short
premium user-paid subscription instead of ads
The StoryGraph has zero ads and is completely free. Unless of course you want access to the full range of features they offer, in which case you’ll have to shell out $5 a month to use those. I haven’t signed up for their Plus plan, so I can’t share my experience with that. But, as of now, I’m not interested. First, I don’t enjoy their site enough to pay that much for a few extra features that I don’t think I’d use much anyway. A lot of their Plus features are community-based (such as buddy read suggestions and finding similar users), and I don’t think they have a large enough community yet for those to be that enticing. Right now, not enough is included for what they’re charging and it doesn’t seem that useful until they have more growth.
My other issue with this is that I have zero problem with ads. I know they want to remain an ad-free Goodreads alternative, but the ads on Goodreads don’t bother me AT ALL. They’re very specifically targeted to readers, so they don’t seem out of place. And they kind of add some interest and color to the homepage, which The StoryGraph is lacking. So I would honestly much rather they went that route, rather than having a paid membership (let’s face it, we all have way too many of those now). I also don’t think the Plus plan is worth $5 at this point, maybe once they grow some more it will be worth it for some people, but I don’t see myself being interested, and I feel like I’m their target for that market as a heavy reader and book blogger. So I feel kind of iffy on this concept overall.
different editions of books don’t seem to be linked very well
Yes, if you click on a book, you can browse the editions and switch or add the edition you are actually reading, similar to Goodreads. However, I have encountered a slight problem where the editions sometimes don’t switch if you’ve already added a book to a challenge. So you have to go in and remove the hardcover and add the paperback so it’ll actually record as completed in the challenge if that’s the one you marked as read. It also defaults to the audiobook a lot, which is weird (and slightly annoying since that doesn’t count for your pages read). Not a total deal breaker, but something they can definitely improve on.
adding/reviewing process is a bit clunky
I’m definitely nitpicking a tiny bit here, but I find their review process just kind of clunky. Goodreads is very intuitive in that sense, and The StoryGraph definitely didn’t improve on the Goodreads review process (or even come up with an equivalent). There is no “finished reading” button anywhere, you simply mark your “currently reading” book as “read” and it’ll automatically add the current date. Maybe I’m an idiot, but that took me a bit to figure out.
Also, on Goodreads, if you mark a book as “read” or “finished” it immediately takes you to the page where you can review and rate your book. StoryGraph is kind of just like “cool, you read this today” and that’s it. It does get added to your challenges and everything once you do that, but you have to click on the tinies little button at the top of the page to rate and add your review. And then if you want to update or change it, you have to click multiple through multiple pages to do so. I think the review features themselves are cool, but the process is just not as easy as it is on Goodreads, and I’ve definitely found it slightly annoying when I just want to quickly mark my book as read and move on with my day.
not clear if it’s moderated/how that works
I’ll talk about this more in a second, but one of the biggest problems with Goodreads is that some of their users don’t always have the best intentions and are not very nice. It’s the internet, that’s everywhere, it happens. It looks like The StoryGraph is small enough that they haven’t had any major issues with this yet. But it will happen. And it’s not very clear if their users are protected in any way or if there’s any sort of process for that. I haven’t had to use their support chat at any point, so I can’t comment on how responsive they are or how reliably they solve issues. The Plus plan does get you priority support, though. (Again, not super important to me, since I haven’t used it yet at all.)
On Goodreads, you can reach out to a “librarian”, which is just a user who has editing capabilities to fix little things like page numbers for a specific book edition, etc. I’ve done that a few times, and it was a pretty easy process. On The StoryGraph, that seems to be all one support system for everything. Which is fine. But it crossed my mind as a potential problem when I came across an edition of a book that was very clearly tagged “user added”. So I’m a little worried about how they are going to handle moderating those if anyone can just add whatever, especially once they get more users.
where Goodreads falls short
owned by Amazon
This seems to be one of the main issues people have with Goodreads. And it is kind of a fair point. By using Goodreads, we are inadvertently supporting a company we all kind of know isn’t the best. And if you make the decision to not support Amazon, it kind of sucks that by using a site that’s supposed to be fun and about books does support them. So it adds an ethical issue none of us want to think about when we just want to do what we love and share it with our friends.
Our reading habits and stats are being tracked by one of the biggest companies in the world, which is not my favorite thing (though I share all of my reading on this blog, so I don’t care all that much since I’m willingly putting it online anyway). The Kindle integration is a little weird – I like my Goodreads friends, but I really don’t need to see what you highlighted and made notes on while you were reading.
But mostly people seem upset that Amazon bought Goodreads almost a decade ago and has made almost no improvements and doesn’t seem to listen to its members. Maybe The StoryGraph’s existence as an alternative will help motivate some improvements, but I don’t think Amazon particularly cares about Goodreads anymore. It seems like just a thing they own. Which is kind of disappointing for the book community. I’m glad to see that competitors are starting to emerge to fill that gap, but they are going to have to massively step up their game to go toe-to-toe with something we have been using for so long and are used to.
Those of us in the book community are very aware that Goodreads is home to some nasty trolls. There have been multiple instances recently of both authors and readers being harassed to the point where the entire community was talking about it. There have been book editors lashing out at negative reviews, racist people flooding books by authors of color with one-star ratings, and probably a whole host of similar things I can’t think of right now. I’ve gotten multiple spam comments on my reviews/in my inbox (some of which were very inappropriate and made me feel uncomfortable knowing there’s probably some younger readers using Goodreads). In short, it’s not a safe space for readers anymore, and Goodreads isn’t doing a great job of handling that.
I’m sure I’m not the only book blogger who has noticed an uptick in some authors being a little (or a lot) pushy, and using Goodreads to do so. I get a ton of review requests (despite not writing reviews anymore), and I can’t respond to them all – I have a full-time job, run this blog by myself, and need my free time to be for reading what I want and relaxing. I do not have an hour every day to respond to review requests I don’t want to do, sorry. But so many (mostly self-published) authors have gotten in the habit of multiple emails, adding me on Goodreads, and then spamming my inbox there, too. Unrelated, but I’ve also gotten some kind of creepy messages from random people on Goodreads, too.
It just doesn’t feel like Goodreads is a good place for readers anymore. I know it’s the internet and this happens everywhere, but it used to be such a fun place to connect with other readers. Now, sometimes I don’t even want to log on knowing there’s a decent chance I will have six unwanted messages I have to mark as read to get rid of the notifications. I get friend requests from readers all the time, which I love, but now I don’t know if they’re readers, authors about to annoy me, or creeps and won’t find out until I accept. It’s just not that fun anymore. The StoryGraph hasn’t gotten to that bad place yet, and it’s nice to have a safer place for readers.
the final verdict?
For now, I will continue using both The StoryGraph and Goodreads. Maybe if I wasn’t a blogger, I’d eventually switch over to The StoryGraph full time, but Goodreads is a better place to connect with people, at least for now, and I do find it easier to use. StoryGraph has too many little flaws for me to use it exclusively, but I’m interested to see how they improve and grow over time. They have a fair chance at becoming a formidable competitor to Goodreads, but they’re just not there yet.
Have you tried The StoryGraph yet? What are your thoughts? Have you heard of any other, similar sites I should try?
If you are so inclined, you can add or follow me on Goodreads or The StoryGraph to keep up with what I’m reading. I will accept your request, but if you start sending creepy messages, you will be blocked, so just a warning. But it will be nice to have more friends on StoryGraph, so if you’re a user, add me!
And check out my bookshop, where you can buy books and also shop my curated collections of my personal favorites AND all of the books I’ve read for my reading experiments. Or you can just buy whatever books you want to. I get a small commission at no extra cost to you, and you get to support your choice of indie bookstores – it’s a win all around!