Looking for a user-friendly, well-designed, ad-free and Amazon-free platform to track your reading? The StoryGraph might just be the application for you!
If you happen to be a fan of ‘BookTube’, you may have come across several videos on a new platform called The StoryGraph. Marketed as an “Amazon-free alternative to Goodreads”, many are gradually making the switch for their choice of reading tracking site. A relatively new startup project that began in the summer of 2019, The StoryGraph gained popularity during the pandemic and now has over 1 million user signups as of June 2022.
Overall, The StoryGraph has well-exceeded my expectations; it is well-designed, with features such as a specified rating system, book recommendations, trigger warnings, book clubs, and a reading buddy system, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg! It is constantly being improved based on user feedback, making the platform an ideal space for avid readers. Most importantly, the platform was created with genuine intentions to improve the reading tracking experience and sense of community for avid readers, a rare find in today's technological world. Therefore, I believe an overall rating of 3 planets is well deserved.
Like other reading tracking sites, The StoryGraph allows users to rate and review books and view other users’ to-be-read, currently reading, and finished reading lists. While it may seem just like any other reading tracking platform, it is the little differences that truly make them stand out from its competitors. For instance, users are allowed to give half or quarter stars ratings to their book (seems like a minor change but trust me, this is a massive game-changer). Another example is their powerful search engine, which allows individuals to choose their next book not only based on genres, but themes, author, mood, pace, and even tropes that one enjoys reading! For all the data fans out there, the platform also analyses your reading patterns and habits, providing users with insightful statistics through a wide range of (colourful) graphs and charts. The StoryGraph also has a plus-subscription service of $4.99 a month which provides users with more perks, but regular users are still able to access most features even without the subscription.
However, what makes The StoryGraph truly different is that it’s actively improving as feature updates are specifically curated based on users' comments and feedback. The website showcases a public roadmap, where users can provide feedback, highlight issues, and comment on their ideas for ways the platform can improve. Updates would then be showcased on their Instagram page @the.storygraph. This may be the reason why I have yet to see a negative review of The StoryGraph, as they genuinely seek to improve for the benefit of the user community. Therefore, I believe that this section's rating of 3 planets is well-deserved.
The process of the creation of The StoryGraph was created is documented on their Instagram story highlights. After a series of alpha and beta testing, the platform officially launched its application for IOS/Android users. However, there is a lack of information on other processes, such as how the library database is sourced and kept up to date. I chose to email The StoryGraph in hopes of finding out more about the matter, to which they replied that due to the small size of the team, they had “no bandwidth to help with research at the moment”. Therefore, I can only assume that it is with the help of the volunteer librarians and avid users that new books are imported onto the website. Nevertheless, as the platform is constantly improving, I hope to see information on the process-making stage available on their website.
I believe the remaining components of The StoryGraph are crowdsourced. On the one hand, regular users can import books if they aren’t already on the platform, increasing the library database. On the other hand, they leave ratings and write reviews for books they have read, thus fostering a genuine community among avid readers. As most of the data on The StoryGraph is crowdsourced, this allows the inclusion of users from around the world, thus increasing the inclusion of all communities. If you are currently a Goodreads user and hate the hassle of manually inputting your reading data, fear not, The StoryGraph has a function which allows individuals to import your Goodreads data onto the StoryGraph – making the platform incredibly accessible.
What makes The StoryGraph stand out from other reading tracking platforms is how users themselves are able to flag up trigger warnings for every book, a function which I LOVE as this allows individuals to be well-informed of the potential disturbing contents before even starting a book. Overall, I believe that a rating of 2.75 planets is well-deserved for this section.
Hearing that The StoryGraph is an “Amazon-free alternative to Goodreads”, I was even more interested in finding out about the genius behind the platform. After doing some digging on their company website and Instagram, I was beyond pleased to discover that The StoryGraph was founded, created, and run by an incredible black woman, Nadia Odunavo. The core team is relatively small, with just two other members – Rob Frelow, the chief AI officer, and Abbie Walker, the admin and product support. The remaining team fully consists of volunteer librarians from all over the world, which I believe highlights the beauty of a true book community.
The StoryGraph is also affiliated with multiple book shop organisations and retailers. One of the earliest ones is Bookshop.org, which aims to connect readers to their local, independent bookstores at a time when an increasing number of people are buying their books online. Although self-claiming to be a climate-neutral company that is committed to operating sustainably initially raised some (greenwashing) suspicions over their pledge, I later found out that the organisation has publicly published its own greenhouse gas emissions – transparency at its finest!! Perhaps my favourite thing about Bookshop.org is how they have included in their governance document that “we will never sell the company to Amazon or any major US retailer”. Similarly, The StoryGraph is also affiliated with Libro.fm, which makes it possible for readers to buy audiobooks directly through their local bookstore. Not only does such affiliation encourage readers to reduce their consumption of physical books (which consume a significant amount of paper), but it also ensures that local, independent bookstores will be able to survive! The similarities between the values of The StoryGraph and its affiliates can’t get any clearer!
Overall, I’m incredibly impressed by not only the team that is behind The StoryGraph but also the choice of affiliations and partners. Therefore, I believe that this section's rating of 3 planets is well-deserved.