Readerly: What We Know About this New Independent Alternative to Goodreads
2021 is the year of blessings for the book community! Amazon bought Goodreads back in March 2013 and hasn’t provided a meaningful update since. The site’s interface is outdated and abuse on the platform is hardly ever addressed, leaving us begging for improvements and stuck without an alternative. And then… innovation began. The StoryGraph fully launched in January and provided us with an alternative platform to review books without the social media component (and a much needed UI upgrade), and now we have a brand new app entering beta testing: Readerly!
I’m always on the lookout for new and exciting apps and services that the Reader Voracious community would enjoy, and am happy to bring you a first look at Readerly, what you can expect, how you can get in, and my hopes for development.
What is Readerly?
If you were on Twitter on April 23, 2021 it is likely that your timeline was flooded by two things: people asking for Readerly invites and Shadow and Bone Netflix discussion. (I am so happy for fans of the Grishaverse… but I DNF’d Six of Crows four times so… I’ll just be over here).
Readerly is a new independent, reader-supported alternative to Goodreads. It’s currently an app in beta testing with a waitlist, but invite codes are available from existing users. (Check my thread to see if I have invites available.) I was able to get an invitation and have enjoyed playing around on the app for the last day or so.
- Instead of using star ratings, Readerly uses the percentage of readers who recommend the book
- Instead of full review formats, Readerly has “Gists” which basically makes you get to the good stuff.
The founders are a publisher, a writer, and a programmer who are committed to providing a service where readers can share their experiences on the transformative power of stories. The app’s goal is to help readers discover books and all recommendations you see on your feed is from a like-minded reader.
What’s the Gist?
Gists are the app’s review format. We’ve all read reviews that spend far too much time rehashing what is available in the synopsis or giving a book report of what happened in the book. And I’m sure we’ve all thought more than once “get to the point!”
Gists are a dream because it gives you the gist of why you should read it or what you should know… in 200 characters or less! Believe me, I screamed when I saw this because we all know how being overly verbose is basically my brand… but you know what? As a reader wanting to know at a glance, I love it. As a reviewer, it forces me to concisely write a TL;DR version of my review. Which I honestly already do with my book reviews anyways.
As you can see by the above slideshow, Gists are automatically formatted similarly to IG stories. When you write a Gist you have the option to add slides with additional information, even a link to your full review on your blog!
Writing your first Gist
It is incredibly easy to write your gists… barring coming up with the right 200 characters! Readerly’s onboarding is really good and succinctly lets you know how to get started. Gone are star ratings and the subjectivity they invite, now it is just whether or not you recommend the book (more on this later).
After selecting recommendation status, you add your 200 character shout line. Think of it as the most important TL;DR part of your review, and elevator pitch to convince someone to pick it up (or not if you didn’t enjoy it). You can then add additional slides like my example for This Mortal Coil.
- To Know: genres, age range, and general tags you might want to include (beautifully written, fast-oaced, etc)
- Favorite Quote: you can include one quote from the book to highlight
- Read this…: an area to say who should read this book (if you’re looking for a fast-paced post-apocalyptic story, etc)
- Reminds me of: you can add book comps here
- Character: Add a character name and description (can add multiple)
- Warnings: content warnings and other things to watch out for
- Link: Click the +Link text to add a link to your full review or add a shopping link
You can add as many slides as you want, or none at all beyond your shout. It’s up to you! I like the freedom to add information that people may find useful without having to worry about format.
Readerly serves Gists to you from readers with similar reading tastes and let me tell you, I love the visual and uniform look of the feed. I wish I had taken a screen recording early… right now my feed has a bunch of Grishaverse (there is no escape lol), but here’s how it looks — and how easy it is to hide a book!
When you mark a book read or hide it, the app removes the book from your feed to “dampen the dominance of bestsellers [and] creating space on the platform to widen your choice by showing you books you may have missed and hidden new gems.” As someone sick of seeing bestsellers all over my feeds, I love this. GOODBYE Grisha, GOODBYE Illuminae!
One of the things that warms my heart is you can see how many people added a book based on your gist! Honestly, my kink has been people tagging me in the Goodreads review for recommending the book, so this gives me the same serotonin boost.
Saved Book Lists & Up Next
Readerly’s version of To Read is Saved: whenever you see a book that you want to read, click on the yellow “save” button to add it to your list. When you save a book from someone’s Gist directly it is recorded on the Gist, so you can easily see how many people TBR a book because of you!
I’m primarily using my Saved for my pending ARCs, and I think I will get a lot of use out of the Up Next feature. (To add a book to Up Next, hold the Save button instead of tapping.) I’m using Up Next to prioritize my ARC reading in conjunction with my reader spreadsheet because it helps to have the visual component and an easy way to click through to the book info.
There are groups for sharing Gists, but I am still testing this feature out.
Wanna help me play around with this feature and share your favorite books with other readers? Join the Voracious Readers group by clicking this invite link!
My Hopes for Future Development
I think the app is already strong with a fresh perspective on reviewing books that de-centers Amazon and the impact of star subjectivity, but I do have some things that I’d like to see added as the app works toward launch.
- Dark mode: my eyeballs legit can’t handle the whiteness anymore, please help
- Notifications: right now, there aren’t any notifications or inbox available so you don’t know if you have a new follower or someone adds a book from your gist.
- Gist likes & activity feed: I’d love the ability to like Gists and push it out to my followers. Right now when you add a book there isn’t a notification and the “homepage” serves Gists to you based on your reading preferences that it thinks you’d like. Right now there isn’t much of a reason to follow.
- Hiding an author: I love that we can hide a specific book and never see it on Readerly again. I’d like to be able to do this to authors as well instead of needing to add all of their books individually. (Please save me from Jay Kristoff.)
- Grouping books in a series together: right now we have to search each book individually.
- Custom shelves & tags: I am obsessed with organization, please facilitate this.
- Right now, you have to search for the book and hold down save to add it to up next, and I’d like the ability to upgrade a saved book to Up Next.
- Reordering books on Up Next: If you want to have more than one book, you have to add them in reverse order on the list to have them in your desired reading order. Please let us hold down the book and then reorder.
- Develop a desktop version: I love the app but will be sad if there isn’t a partner website available.
I am so excited to see how the app develops and love being part of beta to help shape it.
Whether or not this app takes off, I’m excited to see another new Goodreads alternatives in development. Ultimately, the more options we have, the better it’ll be for the community. Amazon has been complacent and let Goodreads stagnate for years, and we’re finally getting a UI facelift following The StoryGraph’s arrival in January. Competition fuels innovation, and I am more than ready for new ideas and technologies for us that aren’t treated as a pipeline to Amazon sales.
I don’t see Readerly as a replacement for Goodreads or the StoryGraph, but more as a new creative outlet to share a love of books and discover new recommendations. I definitely see myself using it to share quick thoughts of books, hone a skill of specificity long atrophied, and discover new books without the noise of bestsellers cluttering my feed. I plan on using Readerly in conjuction with StoryGraph moving forward.
What are your thoughts on Readerly? Do you have an account yet, or are you on the waiting list? Is this an app you see yourself using?
Let’s go on another adventure together!