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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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All About Reading: Web Sites for Book Lovers

Chris O'Neal

Educational consultant and former Edutopia.org blogger

My friend Karen Richardson and I want to share two fun Web 2.0 sites: LibraryThing and Goodreads. Both are fantastic book-oriented and library-oriented social-networking pages focused on something simple -- the books you love to read.

I recently discovered Goodreads, a social site where users can keep track of their books, write reviews, connect with friends, and see what those friends are reading. It's a place for people to spread the love of books, plain and simple.

Why would you want to catalog your library online? For the same reason you have friends who are into books: You can discuss literature, get recommendations, and share your interests. It's a really efficient and fun way to further your passion for reading.

After you've signed up for your free account, the first step is to begin cataloging what you've read. Log in and start searching for your favorite books. The library database is already huge, so I feel confident you'll find most books are already on the site. This means that you don't have to type in all the information for each book. Previous users have already done that, or the site has pulled the information from internal databases. Then you add the books you like to your library shelf, your online book collection.

You can add books you've already pored over to your "already read" library, and you can give them a rating and a review for others to see. Or, you can add books to your "to read" list. Each time you add books to your shelves, you see other users who have read the same books, and you can begin to network with them online to have discussions, share book reviews, and make or receive recommendations. There is even a book-swap feature! Goodreads is very much about the social aspect of sharing good books. The site can notify you when your friends have added new book reviews or when a friend has read one of your favorite books.

According to Goodreads, "People are working too hard and not making time to read. People are watching TV because they can veg out and turn their brains off -- hey, we feel it, too! But every once in a while, you run into a friend who tells you about this 'great new book I'm reading.' And suddenly, you're excited to read it. It's that kind of excitement that Goodreads is all about."

Karen is a fan of LibraryThing. Here's what she had to say about that site:

"I am a bibliophile. My walls at home are lined with bookshelves stuffed two rows deep with books. I have often thought about cataloging my collection, but the idea of typing all the information into a database just seems too time consuming. Then, I discovered LibraryThing. It's perfect for a geek like me who loves books.

"First, the only thing you have to do on the site is type in the title of a book. LibraryThing then searches online databases and provides a list of books that match your query. Click on the correct book and the information, including a picture of the book cover, is moved into your catalog. You can check out my catalog. I haven't started entering the titles on my bookshelves yet; for now, I'm just adding books as I read them.

"Because it's a Web 2.0 application, it's much more than just an electronic card catalog: Users' libraries are connected through tags. In addition, visitors can subscribe to a library's RSS feed and get notifications when users update their libraries or add a review. You can join groups, and a new feature called LibraryThing Local helps you make connections to your community's book-related events. It's like being part of a huge book club. If I were still teaching in a middle school language arts classroom, I would definitely have a LibraryThing account for my class as a place for students to discuss the books they're reading.

"LibraryThing users are also involved in cataloging the libraries of famous people. A group called I See Dead People's Books is posting these 'legacy libraries.' The first was that of Thomas Jefferson, which included 4,889 books. You can view his catalog, and, if you have a LibraryThing account, you can compare your library with Jefferson's to see what volumes you share."

As you can tell from Karen's review, the sites are similar; I'd say the biggest difference is that LibraryThing is a little more technical and detail oriented. Goodreads is perhaps a little more focused on the social aspect of books and reading. In either case, they are fantastic finds for all of us book lovers. Let us know what you think about these sites and about how you might get your students involved with these online tools!

Chris O'Neal

Educational consultant and former Edutopia.org blogger
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Comments (8)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Cheryl W's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I like Shelfari too! That is a neat site that displays the books on a bookcase.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I recently discovered Library Thing and am still exploring. It is fun!
Is that the same Karen Richardson that used to work at SCW?
Karen V.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Sites like these are wonderful resources in the K-12 classroom as they can encourage reading. Has anyone tried bringing these sites or similar ones into their classrooms to promote literacy and a love of literature? This looks like a great resource!

Karen R's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am the same Karen from SCW...and is this the Karen I think it is?

smckay's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Chris,

Wow! Two web sites for people like me and for my students. I teach 7th and 8th grade LAL and am definitely going to check both out and see which site would be more conducive to my students. I would like to see an interactive dialogue going on about the novels we read in class. The Library Thing account for class as you suggested is a wonderful idea for discussion. Thank you for ideas and your enthusiastic description.

Susan

Aeriel's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Cool! I can't wait- I am in 8th grade and LOVE to read- my favorite book is The Lord of the Rings. I hope to find other people of my age group there- maybe not. Not many teenagers like to read. Can't hurt to try!

BigMatt's picture

Library Thing is cool - especially as a search engine. I was able to get details on books in my library, and info on many other out of print books. The one limitation to note is that the free catalog feature is limited to 200 books, after which you must pay either a monthly ($10/mo) or lifetime ($25) for use. Not knowing if this site will be around a year or 10 from now, I decided to continue keeping my library records on an Excel spreadsheet, and use Library Thing to determine date of publication, DDS number, and other details that may or may not be visibly apparent in the book itself.

My catalog (before I ran out of catalog space): http://www.librarything.com/catalog/MattLittle

Sue Grodek's picture
Sue Grodek
Title 1 reading and math for Kindergarten and first grade in Brooklyn, Oh

I've been using Shelfari for about a year and a half and love the site! It is a great way to keep track of what I've read (after they all start to blend together) and more importantly, what I plan to read. My TBR list has never been so long and organized. The site is also great for looking up books. Often I'll have Shelfari, Amazon and my public library sites all open comparing, listing, reserving printed and e-books.

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