The StoryGraph, a website and app for bibliophiles to track what they’ve read and what they want to read, presents an alternative to Goodreads, the giant of book-related apps. Like everything, The StoryGraph has its pros and cons.
For many book-lovers, handing over data to Amazon, the ubiquitous serial killer of independent bookstores, isn’t tenable. In a world dominated by instant gratification and materialism, libraries have gone out of fashion, and independent bookstores haven’t kept up with the reach of online book shopping. As a result, well-loved local establishments have closed their doors to customers.
Founded by Nadia Odunayo and co-created by Rob Frelow, The StoryGraph offers a viable alternative to Goodreads that supports independent bookstores instead of Amazon and other big box sellers. Read on for the pros and cons of The StoryGraph.
What are the pros of the StoryGraph?
If you’re looking for another space to digitally organize your reading, The StoryGraph offers an experience that is on its way to competing with Goodreads. While Goodreads provides a more mainstream and therefore larger book-minded community, The StoryGraph has a tight-knit set of followers that prioritize community over profit and data. Goodreads links to Amazon, and The StoryGraph links to local bookstores.
The StoryGraph also empowers its users to help others find the right book for them through in-depth statistics and personalized settings. Users can sort and rate books by myriad qualities, including mood, pace, genre, character diversity, whether it’s plot or character-driven and whether its characters are lovable. When you click on a book, a handful of genre and mood tags appear beneath the title and author, reminiscent of fanfiction sites.
For example, Mieko Kawakami’s “Of Breasts and Eggs” reads “fiction” and “literary” in green for genre, and “challenging,” “emotional,” “reflective” and “medium-paced” in pink for moods. Ronan Farrow’s “Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators” reads “nonfiction,” “politics” and “true crime” in green, and “dark” and “fast-paced” in pink.
In an interview with “The Quill to Live,” Nadia Odunayo revealed why she placed emphasis on moods when creating The StoryGraph: “Moods are the main ways to characterize books on The StoryGraph because when I was researching how users discovered new books to read, they often spoke about books they loved in relation to how it made them feel and wanting to find books that made them feel a similar way. And yet — there was nowhere to plug in those feelings and see what came out the other end. Until now!”
Goodreads tends not to employ or encourage trigger warnings (often due to a widely-held opinion that TWs are spoilers), but The StoryGraph has reader-submitted content warnings that become visible with the click of a button. Because readers submit these, they avoid vague descriptors and rank the trigger as minor, moderate or graphic.
In each category there are various triggers, like physical abuse or homophobia, and a count of how many times a reader marked it as a content warning. For example, Natasha Ngan’s “Girls of Paper and Fire” has 43 graphic sexual assault warnings, 23 moderate sexual assault warnings and 7 minor sexual assault warnings. If you would like more context, you can click on the reviews with those specific content warnings.
Goodreads hands over a few bonus points to The StoryGraph when it comes to recommendations. Goodreads tends to fudge personalized recommendations, often suggesting a book based off of a user’s DNF (did not finish) shelf. The StoryGraph can seem occult, given that its recommendations are almost always spot-on.
Other pros include the ability to have a page number goal as well as a book number goal, and you can make sure it doesn’t recommend books already on your TBR (to-be-read). If you’re a loyal Goodreads user and you dread the thought of losing your data, you can transfer all of your book tracking over to The StoryGraph by exporting your “read,” “reading” and “want to read” lists. The StoryGraph provides instructions to export your Goodreads data, which, oddly enough, is offered by Goodreads. You can then import that file to The StoryGraph. Though the site says it may take up to 24 hours, it normally takes a matter of minutes to an hour, even if you have hundreds of books in your library.
What about the cons?
Like any developing app or website, The StoryGraph glitches, and its interface is, for the sake of alliteration, a bit bunglesome. The amount of checkboxes and options may confuse or overwhelm users. While its presentation is organized, navigation can be counterintuitive. Finding your current reads can take a minute, and there aren’t many features to track your progress, while Goodreads offers a wealth of interaction options for current reads.
Because it’s new and small, The StoryGraph falls short on community. If you adore interacting with your friends and fellow bibliophiles on social media and beyond, Goodreads provides an enormous community rooted in years of operation.
The primary drawback is that The StoryGraph does not currently have a downloadable app. They instead provide instructions to download their website on your homescreen. Once downloaded it behaves similarly to an app, but it’s still a con.
Our final point could be a pro or con depending on the reader. The StoryGraph has a paid service called The StoryGraph Plus, which includes various extra features. You can sign up for a trial membership for US$4.99/month or US$49.99/year. These additions include advanced statistics, unlimited recommendations, prioritized support and more. Though these features outshine Goodreads, it requires payment, which may exclude readers from participating.
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