When I go to a bookstore to browse without any idea of what I’m looking for, I always have my phone out and the Goodreads app ready to go. It’s how I do the bulk of my book shopping because of the reviews, average ratings, and friend ratings for the book. I find books that look appealing and immediately check them out on Goodreads to see what reviewers are saying about it.
I have a whole system where I look at average rating, then scroll down to the reviews and see what most of them are rated. If an average rating is low or average, but I’m seeing a ton of 4 and 5 stars, it’s typically a controversial book or a popular one with a ton of low ratings because it contains something the reviewer doesn’t like. (Like a romance novel with a ton of low ratings from people who hate romance and are skewing the average rating by reading stuff they have no business reading.) If the bulk of the reviews are just average, I know it’s probably just an average book. Then, I look at what my friends have rated it. There are people I follow on Goodreads with reviews and tastes I recognize, and I trust their reviews as a result. If I’m looking at a genre, there are a couple reviewers who have similar tastes in that genre and if they rated it low, I find out why. I totally do this in the span of a couple of minutes and decide if the book I’m holding is a yay or nay book.
I’ve put down many books I discover I probably won’t like, even if they do have a pretty cover. I’ve picked up many maybe books when I see that people have positive things to say about it.
The other day, in the bargain section of Barnes and Noble, I picked up a book with a beautiful cover and amazing premise. Looking at Goodreads clued me into the fact that it was a Christian fantasy novel. Had it not been for Goodreads, I would have bought it, taken it home, and hated it because that’s the one category of fiction I don’t read. When I do on accident, I want to bang my head against a desk when I find out. I’m glad I saved myself the headache. There’s nothing worse than taking home a promising book only to find out it’s the kind of book you’ll hate.
Using Goodreads is even more helpful as a used bookstore for me. I find so many amazing books at used bookstores, but there’s a catch. I know when I take books to be traded, they are typically mediocre or hated books of mine. While other people may love them (and I hope they do), if anyone has similar tastes as myself, they’ll pick up my old book and hate it. There’s a huge chance that a majority of books I find in used bookstores are the kind that look great, but maybe aren’t. Goodreads helps me figure out if it’s worth buying based on my tastes. And this is why I love reviews that are detailed so I can figure out what people didn’t and did like about the book.
I’m not sure what I did before Goodreads and the book reviewing and blogging community. I find suggestions on what to read through social networking all of the time and I find that I have go to reviewers without even realizing it. There’s definitely a perk to having a lot of Goodreads friends who read and like similar books because Friend reviews are the first thing to pop up when you bring up a book. I feel like before I used social networking for bookish purposes, I was probably reading terrible books on accident all the time. I know I had favorite authors and never strayed from them or I’d read classics because I had a better idea about what to expect.
The only area where Goodreads doesn’t always steer me in the right direction is with self published books. The average rating for indie books is always much higher than other books, partly due to the smaller number of reviews, different expectations, and possibly other factors. Many blog tours don’t allow reviews under 3 stars. Many reviewers refuse to review books they didn’t like and elect to say nothing at all. Many reviewers, because of the nature of dealing with authors one on one, are probably less inclined to rate a book as low as they would if they were reading a traditionally published popular book where they don’t have to consider the author’s feelings. My Goodreads formula doesn’t work for self published books, but fortunately when I’m buying them, I’m at home on amazon and can spend a lot more time reading the reviews, maybe downloading the sample, and I can figure out if it’s a book for me.
Do you use Goodreads when you’re shopping for books?
Has social networking helped you buy books?
Do you read reviews before you buy?