Good luck competing with Goodreads

Every once in a while, I come across a book management and listing tool. This is a broad category – it covers lists of the books you’ve read/want to read, your book notes, a social network inbuilt, and perhaps even the ability to buy books through them. Sometimes this is in the format of an app, and sometimes it’s a web service. Never mind that I actively seek these out (hey, everyone should have a past time), I always come out exasperated.

Why? Well, do you really want to build your entire book library all over again? I’m on the low-end of a prolific reader spectrum, and I’ve got about 260 books in my lists; that’s over a hundred books I’ve marked as read, and over one fifty that I want to. Most people have a lot more books than that in their lists, and almost all of them just hope in the back of their heads that Amazon doesn’t ever decide to kill Goodreads. Amazon has already been cozying up Kindle and Goodreads – you can post your Kindle reads, reviews, and notes directly to Goodreads through the Kindle apps. What’s to say that in a few years time they don’t decide that they’re done collecting our data through Goodreads and can shut the service down?

Oh, but don’t worry, you can export all your Goodreads data!

Really? Thanks! What do I do with it once I’ve exported it?

Uhhhhh…

See, this is the problem. This is why I keep looking for alternatives. But every time I come across one, I immediately realize the blind spot they aren’t addressing. If you’re an app/service, what you need to jump-start your platform is data. The ‘elegant’ way of doing this is to ‘ask’ the user for it. I put that in quotes because it’s more mandatory than just a small ‘ask’. If I come to a service, spend some time poking around, and realize I need to input all of my books all over again, that’s an immediate turn off. Services like Goodreads aren’t like conferences, where you can slap on a name tag and wander around till you find someone interesting to talk to. They’re more like parties, where if you don’t know anyone, you’ll just end up bored and.

So, this is what I ask of you if you’re making a service to compete with Goodreads – ask the user to export their data in an ugly .csv format and import the entire file to your service. Then you’ve got the entire library the user has curated on your rival service since the dawn of time without lifting a finger. You don’t even have to have this as the front and center of your UX. Get your user onboarded, get them talking, and then somewhere along the way, gently tell them you’ve got this amazing import feature that’ll help them quickly ramp up. If they care about books, they’ll do it. Those are the serious users of your platform anyways.

But nowhere have I seen this happen. I’ve recently come across a few apps – Litsy (by LibraryThing), Reading List (which seems to allow CSV imports, but needs them to be in its own format, instead of the Goodreads format; you’re this close folks!), BookBuddy (again, imports only its own data, god knows why) and some web services which I’ve already forgotten about, none of which seem to understand this basic concept of stealing from the enemy.

But what am I saying? I wrote all the way back in 2012 about how useless exporting data from Internet behemoths is. Nothing has changed in the last seven years. Till today, companies and apps come and go, without realizing that using prior data is a jump-start, not poisoned fruit.

Indie services actually get this. If you install the Goodreads plugin on Calibre, it lets you quickly import your data so your library is complete. Similarly, if you use the WordPress Book List plugin, there’s a way to import your Goodreads data. Because people who care about data, understand reuse of data. That tells me that if you’re not reusing my data, you’re not building a platform for me.

So good luck competing with Goodreads. Unless you can get my data from them and reuse it, you’re just shooting yourself in the foot.

The Decreasing Value of Physical Goods

Today, most of us are spending so much time online and on our smart devices that I feel that the value of physical items in our lives has decreased a lot. A few days ago, a friend took me to a store in the 29th street mall. It was a toy store that opened just for the holidays and on that day, everything in the store was 50% off. Needless to say, most of the store was empty, toys and funny calendars having been bought by people taking advantage of the sale. I bought a nice glass chess set on the cheap and then had a chat with the store owner. Apparently, this was a seasonal store that was closing today. She told me that about eleven hundred such stores open across the country during the holiday season and this one was closing that day. Everything that was left today was going back to the factories. I looked around the store for a while. Most of the good stuff that I’d seen in the shop a few days ago was already gone, but a lot of really interesting games and toys were still there.

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A New Age of Windows Apps

Windows, for it’s spread across the world and it’s presence on every other computer you see, has for the past few years, suffered from a terrible lack of apps and widgets. While the rest of the world grew sudden mobile roots, Windows remained largely grounded on laptops and desktops. This meant that the apps that were making waves in the iOS and Android world were ported to OS X and Linux, but Windows was largely ignored.

With the coming of Google Chrome, making small widgets and apps became fairly easy. It was now not a matter of learning a complex platform dependent language like C# or a platform independent but newer languages like Ruby or Python. It was all about HTML, JavaScript and some CSS thrown together. Google Chrome handled the rest. Continue reading

Feedafever for ~Free

I’ve been reading Chris Anderson’s “Free” and while I pay for the occasional service or app, my endeavor is to get as much as I can, for free.

Fever, an RSS reader that’s clever, quick and time-saving, is a recent purchase that I’m finding to be just amazing. What’s more amazing is that the product is worth $30 but I found someone who didn’t need it any more so he sold me his activation key for much lower… Continue reading

Feedafever for ~Free

I’ve been reading Chris Anderson’s “Free” and while I pay for the occasional service or app, my endeavor is to get as much as I can, for free.

Fever, an RSS reader that’s clever, quick and time-saving, is a recent purchase that I’m finding to be just amazing. What’s more amazing is that the product is worth $30 but I found someone who didn’t need it any more so he sold me his activation key for much lower…

Anyways, the look and feel of Fever is great and despite the really small app ecosystem, I’m really enjoying the app. The only problem? I’m a fan of RSS and follow just about any blog or feed that I find on the Internet. That’s kind of why I needed Fever – it has features such as sorting the feeds based on their relative “hotness” and presenting it in a very coherent format. But all those feeds being polled so many times were causing a bit of a problem – too much storage and too much bandwidth.

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