Readerly: What We Know About this New Independent Alternative to Goodreads

(Last Updated On: April 25, 2021)

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 The site’s interface is outdated and abuse on the platform is hardly ever addressed, leaving us begging for improvements and stuck without an alternative.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!

๐Ÿ’ฌ Related Post: All About The Bookly: get organized with your reading!

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.


Book Discovery

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!

This Mortal Coil adds!

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.


Groups

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.

In Conclusion

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 itโ€™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.

๐Ÿ’ฌ Related Post: All About The StoryGraph: a better goodreads, finally

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?

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Letโ€™s go on another adventure together!

35 Comments

  1. Yesha Soni

    April 25, 2021 at 1:52 AM

    This looks great! I like to the point reviews. Mine are long but definitely to the point. I would love to use this app.

    1. Kal

      April 27, 2021 at 10:28 AM

      To the point reviews are a blessing and honestly? Those who can craft them are magic, no one can tell me otherwise. If you haven’t gotten an invite code let me know, they keep giving them to me

  2. Pauliina

    April 25, 2021 at 2:07 AM

    I really like this idea! Readerly’s ig aesthetic gist reviews definitely seem useful ๐Ÿค” I tried storygraph earlier and it didn’t really work for me – I noticed how following others and seeing which books they have read is really key for me in a Goodreads replacement. Hope Readerly develops and then we can finally move away from GR!

    1. Kal

      April 27, 2021 at 10:30 AM

      I love the IG aesthetic, formatting, and to-the-point review style so much. It doesn’t replace my need for in-depth reviews but it really helps me know at a glance if this is a book I wanna look into or not.

  3. Tammy @ Books, Bones & Buffy

    April 25, 2021 at 7:13 AM

    This sounds like it has potential, and I do like the idea of gists๐Ÿ˜

    1. Kal

      April 27, 2021 at 10:30 AM

      I am having so much fun with gists, Tammy! Who would have thought? lol

  4. CJR The Brit

    April 25, 2021 at 9:51 AM

    I love this idea, will need to check it out when it’s live ๐Ÿ˜

    1. Kal

      April 27, 2021 at 10:30 AM

      It’s such a cool idea and I look forward to seeing how it develops!

  5. dany

    April 25, 2021 at 10:04 AM

    I just got on readerly yesterday and its been fun! the recs get better and on point the more we use it (when storygraph nails it in the first try with so many filters). And Gists are the best part omg. on point reviews and reminds me of feature are GOLD.

    1. Kal

      April 27, 2021 at 10:31 AM

      I’ve also been having a blast testing it out, and the latest updates they pushed as already so good! And I hadn’t checked the recs much but you’re right!

  6. Jorie

    April 25, 2021 at 11:08 AM

    Hallo, Hallo Kal,
    Thanks for this write-up about the new app for readers. I am personally struggling to keep up with my LT (as I love LibraryThing rather than GR) whilst I haven’t even put a dent in the secondary LT site I joined a few years ago. Whose name of course is forgotten for now. I know its quite popular to join different sites but I’m doing well with my blog and socially bookish twitterverse engagements for the moment. I sometimes feel stretched too thin if I join too many sites and I might reduce the number by exiting Reddit as I still really don’t get that place at all. Try as I might. Great breakdown though of this one!! Thanks! (ooh Litsy! That’s the site I forgot earlier! lol)

    PS: Ironic or no, I don’t use ratings myself – unless a publisher/review program calls for it — I was hoping more bloggers might discontinue using them because I never really went by those to sort out if I wanted to read a book. I’d much rather read a full or mini review of the blogger’s thoughts, takeaways and impressions on the story, character, setting, etc. That gives me more of what I can go by to make those next read choices.

    1. Kal

      April 27, 2021 at 10:37 AM

      Hi Jorie, thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts! I never got into LibraryThing… I kind of forgot that it existed oops. I think one of the biggest advantages that Goodreads has is we are all used to it & it’s the default. Kind of like how Google is the default search engine for people. It’ll take a lot to break the habit, and I think Amazon is banking on that.

      I totally feel you on stretching yourself too thin and am mindful of which apps/social media sites I use for the same reasons. I do like to test out new things like this though to share information with my audience. Not every app or Goodreads alternative will be something that I adopt for the long-term because that is unsustainable, but if it fills a hole or I can find value? I am so down to be an adopter! I think Readerly is different enough to not compete with GR and I don’t see it as a social media site either, so I plan on using it as a way to start my reviewing process and then link to the full review on my blog. (Oh yea I totally abandoned litsy too!)

      I also don’t use ratings on my blog! I found that people weren’t even reading my reviews or the final paragraph and just judging a 3 star read as “too bad you didn’t like the book” and ??? Ratings are far too subjective and I only use them when necessary. Thanks again for your comment!!!

  7. Meghan

    April 25, 2021 at 1:55 PM

    Thank you for this, I have been so confused all day about what this Readerly app is. This was really informative! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Kal

      April 27, 2021 at 10:38 AM

      Hahaha you’re welcome and I am so glad you found the post informative!

  8. imyril

    April 26, 2021 at 3:29 AM

    I’m liking it so far – the succinct review/rec is HARD but I’ve been meaning to get into TL;DR versions of my overlong thoughts ๐Ÿ˜‰
    Love:
    – the focus on overall audience approval rather than individual ratings (this reminds me of Litsy and I like it a lot)
    – the overall interface (although yes please to a dark mode, great call)
    – all the different elements of the gist (although I need to get my head around the tags, and it will be interesting to see how these evolve based on how people use them!) and the option to link out to your review, yay!
    Things I’d love to see:
    – being able to click on the username associated with a gist in the feed to see more of that user’s gists (rather than having to go search for them)
    – being able to specifically search my own gists / reads (you can’t filter your own feed – I’d like to be easily able to see what I thought about a particular book I read 12 months ago – or maybe I just haven’t found this yet ๐Ÿ™‚
    – hell yes to hiding authors, dark mode and a desktop version!
    – bug fixes (feeds crash a lot for me; I love that I can add Saved lists to filter my TBR, but I can only save to one of them…)
    – a better Add Book search – it currently presents vague fuzzy matches (so: the wrong books) with no tools to support specificity in searching. This means Readerly instantly failed the ‘support lesser known books’ test for me by failing to have them in the database and not having an Add Book tool that could find them. Oops.

    Overall impression: good first release. It feels that Readerly is single-mindedly about creating and finding recs for now – not curating your shelf, collecting your reviews, or having an easy way to find specific groups of books or look at what *you* thought about a book weeks/months later. So it’s an interesting proposition, but feels quite narrow – I definitely have the need for those other elements! But I’m open to using a combo of apps plus LibraryThing to get off Goodreads… and it will be interesting to see how Readerly evolves.

    1. imyril

      April 26, 2021 at 4:43 AM

      Okay, so you CAN click on a username in a gist to see the rest of their gists. I guess my app was being buggy yesterday ๐Ÿ™‚

    2. Kal

      April 27, 2021 at 10:46 AM

      Ahhh, thank you so much for your comment imyril! The succinct reviewing style is really difficult for me but I kind of like the exercise haha. I started my most recent review (it goes up tomorrow, Dustborn) by going to Readerly FIRST and then building my review around that. It actually was really helpful for me in honing and staying on track.

      I agree with you on the tags – I think there should probably be a set base to choose from in addition to adding our own. It’d help with book discoverability. Did you update the app yesterday? They pushed a HUGE update that I am still working through but am already impressed with the tweaks they are making!

      1000% agree with you on the Readerly being a place for creating and finding recommendations; as it stands I don’t see if being a competitor to Goodreads as it serves a completely different purpose. But I like that it’s different because I can use it alongside StoryGraph and not feel overburdened by TOO MANY APPS!

      1. Imyril

        April 27, 2021 at 11:59 AM

        Oh wow it looks like the update covers half my wishlist ๐Ÿ˜ Right, time to get playing…

  9. Clo @ Cuppa Clo

    April 26, 2021 at 2:07 PM

    As someone who would rather the review gets to the point…I love gists! I think they’re going to be super helpful, both in terms of allowing people to really think about what they want someone to know about a book. As well as just cutting to the chase, it’s been fun to see the ways people are writing their gists. What they prioritise for the gist and what they cut out. I would agree with you on the following thing, for all I like the feed being full of books that the app recommends me…I would rather it show me the gists from people I follow. OR it could be a toggle option? You can view just the gists from those you follow or toggle to see all gists it recommends.

    I think Readerly has a lot of potential, no star ratings, instead it’s shown as a percentage which I love. The fact we can hide books *chefs kiss* Also agree on needing dark mode and it could be fun to customise the backgrounds of the gists? Later on of course but it would be a fun way for us to customise the appearance and yes I also would love more organisation with shelves and tags.

    Wonderful guide Kalkal, I feel like I have a better understanding of this app now than before hehe ๐Ÿ’œ

    1. Kal

      April 27, 2021 at 10:50 AM

      As someone who would rather the review gets to the pointโ€ฆI love gists! I

      If I’m being honest, I thought of you immediately when I downloaded the app lol. A toggle option to see a feed for those you follow and other like-minded readers would be AMAZING!

      The one thing I have been thinking about since initially posting is how the recommend/wouldn’t recommend is a little limited as it isn’t necessarily tied to enjoyment of a book? Like I can dislike a book and still recommend it because it has value, but it feels weird to click a thumbs up in that case? LOL

  10. Louise @ Monstrumology

    April 26, 2021 at 6:34 PM

    This is so cool! I’m excited for any alternatives to Goodreads because the amount of notifications I get from spam accounts is starting to wear my patience thin ๐Ÿ™ƒ

    1. Kal

      April 27, 2021 at 10:51 AM

      Oh gosh, I would hate to get a bunch of spam account notifications YIKES. I don’t know that Readerly is a Goodreads replacement (I’d recommend The StoryGraph for that), but it is a lot of fun!

  11. Jenna

    April 27, 2021 at 5:37 AM

    Thank you for this review!!!! I was like … what is this app!? I canโ€™t wait to be able to try it to out (will probably have to wait for beta to be done or go on that wait list ). I feel like itโ€™s like a better version of Goodreads, having features Iโ€™ve wanted in Goodreads for ages now. Thank you once again!

    1. Kal

      April 27, 2021 at 10:52 AM

      Hahaha yea the app like appeared out of nowhere on Friday and it’s been everywhere since. I do still have invites (they keep giving me more lol), so feel free to message me on Twitter for one if you’d like to get in now Jenna! <3

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  13. Birdie @ Birdie's booktopia

    April 28, 2021 at 5:10 AM

    I completely fell in love with readerly but I’m really excited for it to get more features! It did an update yesterday though and it improved SO MUCH! Thank you for sharing this!! It was lovely to read haha!

    1. Kal

      June 7, 2021 at 1:03 PM

      I am loving all the updates that Readerly has been making, the app is already so cool! I just need to get into the habit of using it… Thanks for reading!

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  15. Marie @ drizzle & hurricane books

    May 1, 2021 at 1:47 AM

    Okay so this post is AMAZING. To be honest, I didn’t quite follow what was happening with Readerly on social media. I saw it a couple times and saw people asking for invites, but…. I didn’t take the time to check it out properly. This post is a life-saviour, really. Thank you so much for writing it! I’m not sure whether or not I’ll end up trying to join or/and will use it, because I feel like I might not keep up with it on top of everything else? I’ll have to consider it though! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Kal

      June 7, 2021 at 1:28 PM

      Glad this post was here to help you figure out what all the social media rage was, Marie. I swear it came out of nowhere and then started to clog my feeds haha. If you do decide to check it out let me know so we can be friends, but yea… I am having a hard time remembering to log into it myself oops

  16. thecritiquesofafangirl

    May 2, 2021 at 1:57 AM

    Iโ€™ve joined the app and Iโ€™m liking it so much ๐Ÿคฉ

    1. Kal

      June 9, 2021 at 9:41 PM

      Me too, it’s a lot of fun!

  17. Shruvi Karande

    May 4, 2021 at 9:07 PM

    I am currently on the waiting list for this app, and I’m so excited. I always felt goodreads constricting but it was the best option available. Readerly sounds promising and I hope it fulfills my expectations. The reader community really needs a goodreads competitor with better features.

    1. Kal

      June 9, 2021 at 9:49 PM

      Did you ever get into the app? If not I still have invites that I’d be happy to share! But yea, Goodreads really needs competitors to force it to update at least. But I’d prefer something not owned by amazon.

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