Monday, September 11, 2006

More about LibraryThing vs. Reader2

Reader2 is back up now, and I've spent part of the morning evaluating the differences between Reader2 and LibraryThing (where I've already reached my limit of 200 books). Although the two websites offer much the same services, they do so rather differently.

The first notable difference is that the LibraryThing interface is rather slick, whereas the Reader2 design is rather basic. The same attributes can be used to describe each site's process for adding books to your list: LibraryThing automatically searches, the Library of Congress and for each title you enter and generally returns the correct information (pretty slick), whereas Reader2 searches its own listings (pretty basic). Reader2 lets you search Amazon for the book (by title only), but only displays the first handful of results. If the book you're entering isn't in the Reader2 database or that small set of Amazon results, you must enter the bibliographical information for it manually. It doesn't take a lot of time to do it, but it is annoying.

LibraryThing lets you enter the URL for, say, your Amazon wishlist, and imports all the items on that list at once. Reader2, as far as I can tell, has no such ability. LibraryThing runs its searches in a queue in the background, which means you can do other things on the site - or even sign off - while your books are located and your database populated.

LibraryThing also includes some Library of Congress information for each entry.

There are a few other places where LibraryThing shines: it's easier to figure out how to edit an entry (just click on the pencil), you can choose between multiple covers for each book (different editions), there is a nice book recommendation option, and a slick widget to put on your own blog. I also liked the Zeitgeist option and, although it's not a service I'd be likely to use, the ease of arranging to swap a book with someone else. There also seem to be some lively book discussion groups.

Once you get the books entered, Reader2 really comes into its own. As soon as you login, your tags are prominently displayed, as is a list of your authors. It's those organizational features that make Reader2 work better for me than LibraryThing. Other organizational features include "type" (fiction or nonfiction, poetry, children's, etc.) "property" (do you own the book, or did you rent it?) and "status" (finished, now reading, to be read, liked, disliked, I recommend). The only way to attach these characteristics to items in LibraryThing is by using tags, which both services allow.

Reader2 also offers the ability to sort books by date entered, quite helpful if you want to check your recent entries.

Overall, in a reversal of Friday's opinion, I prefer Reader2. I do wish, however, that Reader2 would integrate automatic searching of the Library of Congress, or at least allow auto-populating by an ISBN search. In other words, I want Reader2 with LibraryThing's ease of entry.

Library page in Reader2
Originally uploaded by JChristenbury.

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