Finally, social networks I see the point of

I’m not a sociable sort of person. I used to be the guy in the kitchen at parties. Now I just don’t go to parties anymore. I don’t join things. I’m resistant to wearing badges and  I won’t do anything that requires a wearing a uniform, (including black tie dinners). I’m not anti-social, I just don’t need as much company as other people do.

At one time, my need for solitude peppered with brief contact with like-minded people made me the perfect Internet denizen. I’m part of that generation that has been using the Internet before there was a World Wide Web. Back then, the Internet was a murky place where it was wise to assume that no one was who they said they were. It was a global masqued ball where we could all dance with whomever we wished and be someone else while we did it. Back then, mail accounts had numbers as addresses, everyone had a screen name and people only shared pictures of themselves in the murky depths of Usenet.

Now the Internet is dominated by social networks like Facebook, Linked-In and Twitter.When I first saw Facebook, I thought – why would anyone do this? The lack of privacy, the popularity-contest flavour of being “Friended”, the constant interrupt nature of the communication?

Yet now, under one name or another, I’m in most of the social networks, mostly for work.  I leave my profile as blank as I can. I use these media to search, not to be searched. I guess I still have a problem coming to terms with the social part of social networking.

So I was greatly surprised when I finally came across two social network sites that I actually enjoy being a member of: goodreads and LibraryThing.

As an avid reader, Goodreads is my natural home on the Internet. Here I can rate and review the books I read, check the reviews and ratings of books before I buy them, take part in discussions with other readers, interact with authors and follow the reviews of readers with similar tastes and interests.

Lots of authors also take part in goodreads. I first joined under the name I published my previous work under. The ISBN reference was enough to get me set up as a goodreads author, with a space to promote my stuff, share news and get feedback.

For example, I’m currently following Jana Oliver (author of “The Demon Trapper’s Daughter”/”Forsaken”). I enjoy seeing which books she likes or is intending to buy.

Goodreads also runs book clubs, lets you set up “friend” relationships and sends out “Books of the Month” emails.

Reading remains a pleasurable solitary experience but now finding someone to share your excitement with is much easier.

I joined LibraryThing last week. I was ill and bored and frustrated that I have so many books in so many places that I was losing track of which ones I hadn’t read. I went in search of some library index freeware and found LibraryThing instead.

LibraryThing is an online book cataloging tool that enables me to track and tag my books. It’s easy to use: you just enter the ISBN or the book name or the author name and the book cover and the book details pop up. You can them add them to your library. You can add tags to the books. You can rate them and you can write reviews of them. Afterwards you can sort books by author, tag, or rating and you can see how the book was tagged and rated by other users.

LibraryThing is free for up to 200 books and cost either $10 a year or $25 for a lifetime membership if you want to hold more books than that. I hit the 200 books mark on the first day and opted for lifetime membership.

Now I know exactly what books I have. I’ve often found myself standing in a bookshop going “Do I already have that Harlen Coben?” or “Which Ian Banks book am I up to in the Culture series?” or “What was the name of the woman who wrote the “Time Traveller’s Wife”. Now I can check on-line.

There’s a lot of overlap between the functionality of LibraryThing and goodreads. On the whole, I prefer the presentation of goodreads for review and discussing books but I am in love with the easy cataloging capability of LibraryThing.


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