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May 18, 2009

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The Latest Member of the Bookish Social Network: Readernaut

This is a Guest Post by Valerie Russo, the author of Literanista. Currently works at Hachette Book Group, scouts the ever-changing Web landscape & is working on her debut novel, among other things.

Late last Summer, a new contender to the literary social network arena, quietly moved into the somewhat already crowded space. Readernaut, joined the fray, albeit in Beta, attempting to perhaps rival the top three contenders, Goodreads, LibraryThing, and Shelfari, which was recently acquired by Amazon. Almost a year later, curiously there has been little coverage of Readernaut, which is still currently in Beta. We wondered “what’s the hold up?” and so here’s our attempt to change that and see if it makes a difference.

Currently, Goodreads leads the book set with 1.3 million unique visitors monthly, in the US alone, while Librarything is the eldest of the pack and probably has the most academic/professional cred. When Shelfari launched a couple of years back, it was touted as one of the prettiest and shiniest sites of the year but they’ve gone through various updates that have since drawn away from that aesthetic cool factor, at least for me. Of course, these are just the top three. There are many more in the book community space, such as; Booksprouts, Readingtrails, Weread, Filedby, Shortcovers, and even Barnes & Noble, the book retailer added social networking tools to their site with MyBN.com a while back.

So along comes Readernaut, created by developer and designer Nathan Borror (we learned after some Googling), who is quite active on the site, and it has the usual fare of book social communities: You can build your personal profile page, import and catalog your book lists, follow other members, add tags, write reviews or notes, see what others are reading or who owns the same books. Visually the site has gotten kudos for its simple and streamlined sparsity. However, I found it hardly made an impression on me personally, perhaps because I prefer content rich sites with lots of inter connectivity and easy navigation. It’s a lot easier to unearth all the features that way instead of needing to hover over or click on various items to see what’s being offered. At the same time, it’s refreshing to see it changed up and be taken out of one’s comfort zone.

While Readernaut seems to be lacking in the widget department (i.e., the ‘grab your bookshelf’ department) it does currently offer its own public API although I didn’t see that on the site itself. I also like the fact that it allows you to import books from other book social communities, such as Anobii or by ISBNs. As someone, who is an avid reader and owns hundreds of books and has read thousands, there is no way I am importing my book collection manually so this scores cool points. It would be nice to also see an option to import books from accounts with book retailers as well.

Readernaut, offers more socializing aspects than on it does on the books themselves. It’s main focus is on member activity, which can be viewed in Facebook feed status-like stream. As we have learned from Twitter and Facebook, this voyeuristic river of data can be quite addictive and entertaining. Members can see an overview of other members’ activity or view a timeline, which offers that sense of ‘knowing’ them. Another interesting insight is offered when you click on some one’s profile – you can see their stats; numbers of cataloged books, amount of lists they’ve created, notes, followers, comments and how many friends they have.

Perhaps my most preferred feature is the Reader Progress. Members are invited to manually update their reading progress on whichever book they are reading. While other sites have this feature, Readernaut goes one step further by offering a visual scale of the progress as a timeline, which also has specific book data. If you view some one’s progress you can see whether they’ve been on the same book or page for three months or read a book a day. If this feature was converted into a widget or app, I can see many book bloggers adding this to their sidebar or site.

I’d love to see some added features on Readernaut to make it really out of this world: Currently, I don’t see an option to import my friends or peers from any of my email accounts or any other social network, other than Twitter and Flickr. However, I do like how very easily I can find friends from those two, all you do is enter your username. It would be nice to get some interaction with Facebook or my blog, which is a literary blog. I also don’t see any features to distinguish authors from regular members. Book authors don’t have profile pages or a place to add any biographical information or blogs/twitter, etc., There isn’t anything offered to book clubs in particular or any book data associated with the books on their profile page such as book description, book website, reading group guide. There is an option to buy the book but only through Amazon.com.

You also can’t create groups or events nor can you list a book giveaway. That would also be nice to see. In addition, I don’t see any option for publisher or author engagement. None of the latest look-inside widgets are offered, which allows readers to ‘read’ an excerpt of the book online. I also don’t see a way to post any related media, like book trailers or author interviews.

On the upside, there aren’t any visible ads, ugly or subtle ones nor any sign of a business model. Unfortunately, there isn’t any contact information or “about us” either and none of the “press” or info links on the site work, making it seem like the just a forgotten pet project of the developer. We hope this feedback offers some useful data and we invite Nathan to give us an update on his plans for the site.

It would be nice to see all of the above needed features added and then also go beyond that beause otherwise it’s just another place to see what friends are doing online.

  • Orli Yakuel

    Blog Founder

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