IT: Technology, Language, and Culture

Exporting Your Books and Data From Goodreads

I like social networking sites for bibliophiles. I’ve tried most of them. The recent idiocies surrounding Goodreads has had me re-thinking my participation for quite a while. The latest Goodreads faux pas has Goodreads deleting reviews and user’s shelves based on arbitrary criteria about shelf labels referring to authors. There’s a certain irony in that the instructions in the My Shelves sidebar on Goodreads refer to a shelf label “gave-up-on” which could refer to a book or to an author.

While I don’t know that I’d call this censorship, I do know it’s poor IT policy. It’s also playing into the hands of authors behaving badly by engaging in the author’s big mistake; responding to reviews.

Reviews aren’t for authors; they’re for readers. Goodreads has very clearly moved from being a site for readers to being a site for authors, and most particularly, for Amazon Kindle Direct and Create Space self-published authors. Deleting “low” rating reviews but not “high” rating reviews is a poor but telling decision. So is deleting users’ shelves with labels that (i.e. labels for groups of books)

I’m probably going to delete my books and profile from Good Reads permanently. I don’t really see them engaging with readers/reviewers honestly, and I do see an increasing interest in exploiting self-published authors to the detriment of readers trying to find the next good book.

Consequently, I’ve been experimenting with importing to and from Goodreads. You can export your data from Goodreads in order to have a backup, or to move your data to another site. Here’s how:

To Export Your Goodreads data

  1. Log on
  2. Click My Books in the top nav bar
  3. Click Import/Export on the left sidebar
  4. Click Export on the far right

To Import Your Goodreads Data to LibraryThing

  1. Log on.
  2. Click More in the top navigation bar.
  3. Under “Features” click Import/Export.
  4. Click GoodReads import.
  5. Click “Choose file” and select the file you downloaded earlier.
  6. Click Save (or OK on some OSs).
  7. Wait for processing (which may take a while depending on the server load and your book).
  8. Select your import options regarding duplicates, tags, etc.
  9. Click the Import books button.

I’m a fan of LibraryThing; I paid the $25.00 lifetime membership fee, and have bought several CueCat scanners for libraries to make entering books a simply matter of scanning, then copying and pasting barcodes into the LibraryThing add a book field. I like the features of the site, I like LibraryThing’s emphasis on actually reading and thinking about books, and I like the attitude about community and giving back. Plus, Tim Spaulding, the developer and founder, is a medievalist.

Amazon owns Goodreads and Shelfari. Amazon also owns a minority chunk of LibraryThing via Amazon’s purchase of ABE Books, who own 40%. Tim Spaulding is still the majority owner of LibraryThing, and he strikes me as fiercely protective of his users (and that’s a very important quality).

There’s a fairly new European site called I’ve joined it largely out of curiosity, but it too accepts GoodReads exported files. You need to register, then look at your profile; on the far right of the top navigation bar is a gear icon; click it, then click the Import tab. You can import files exported from GoodReads or LibraryThing to Booklikes. There’s an interesting discussion of Booklikes at The Digital Reader; do read the comments and follow the links.

The import can take a few hours, so be patient. Here’s a post from BookLikes explaining the import process.