In the bookish community, The StoryGraph is often touted as the Goodreads alternative. It’s not Amazon and it’s consistently updated, which is appealing to a lot of people – including me.
I decided to give The StoryGraph a try, transferring over all my Goodreads data in the process. Unfortunately, I was disappointed with what I found, and decided to stick with Goodreads.
A lot of the posts I’ve seen on The StoryGraph are much more positive about the site. I wanted to add my differing opinion to the bookish community so you can take all this information into account to determine whether the site is for you.
Personally, I believe that any Amazon-owned alternative needs to be able to stand on its own to be a good alternative, offering more than being “not Amazon”. At this time, I don’t think StoryGraph has enough to offer to be a fully-fleshed alternative to Goodreads.
The StoryGraph lacks information about many books
When I imported my Goodreads library to The StoryGraph, I found myself having to manually input a good portion of books. Even if the book was already on The StoryGraph, I was often one of the first few people to leave a review, add mood tags, add content warnings, and more. It just got tedious after awhile, especially when I knew I wouldn’t have to do this work on Goodreads.
And these weren’t super obscure books either. Take “A Murder Like No Author” by Amy Lillard for example. At the time of me writing this post, on The StoryGraph, it has 5 ratings and only 1 review with text. On Goodreads, it has 145 ratings and 76 reviews with text.
If you’re looking to find out more about a book – which is what a lot of people use a site like Goodreads for – a lack of written reviews isn’t very helpful. I also noticed that reviews on the StoryGraph tend to be shorter than reviews on Goodreads, which doesn’t help either.
Will this improve as The StoryGraph gains more users? Probably, but I don’t know how long this will take to happen or if it will ever happen. And honestly, I’m not patient enough to stick around waiting for this.
The way content warnings are included aren’t very useful
For every book, there’s a section where readers can add content warning tags and look through the content warning tags others have left. Content warnings can also be split into different ‘levels’ – graphic, moderate, and minor. The StoryGraph also enables authors to add their own content warnings if they’d like.
I know people have different thoughts about the usefulness of content warnings. But, for those who’re interested in content warnings, I don’t know how useful they are when they’re delivered in tag format. Because content warnings depend on what readers (and the author) includes, and people don’t always flag this information in their reviews.
For example, the tag “sexual content” can be used as a content warning on the StoryGraph, but it’s quite vague. Is the sexual content on-page or off-page? If it’s on-page, how explicit is this content? How often does it appear? What’s the difference between graphic, moderate, and minor sexual content?
I feel like content warnings are more useful when someone can contextualize them and elaborate on them in the review itself. Which goes back to the issue of the lack of written reviews on The StoryGraph.
On Goodreads, many reviewers will offer content warnings and explain why they gave the warning. Even if a reviewer doesn’t explicitly note something as a content warning, readers can easily search reviews for what they’re interested in learning more about.This is something that The StoryGraph doesn’t offer. Personally, I don’t find the content warnings on The StoryGraph useful and the lack of written reviews on the site doesn’t help.
How useful are mood and pacing tags?
Another thing that The StoryGraph has that Goodreads doesn’t is the ability to add additional information about the book. For example, you can add mood tags (eg. reflective, inspiring, funny, mysterious) and pacing tags (eg. slow, medium, fast). These tags will also show up when you search for books.
If this is something you think you’re interested in, The StoryGraph would be great for you. However, I question how useful these tags are for readers.
It’s a similar problem with content warning. People’s thoughts on a book are always subjective and a simple label doesn’t provide much information. Are all mystery novels ‘mysterious’ because that’s the point of the novel, or is ‘mysterious’ meant to evoke a different feeling? What does it mean for a book to be ‘medium’ vs. ‘fast’?
Also, according to someone who identified themselves as a StoryGraph employee on Reddit, the StoryGraph used (and perhaps still uses) a trained neural network to guess the moods based on the information it has… which could lead to incorrect mood/pacing depending on how good the neural network is.
It’s a nice idea but seeing how it works in practise, I don’t love it, and it doesn’t entice me to use The StoryGraph. Honestly, I’d rather not see them and I don’t think there’s an option to turn them off.
The StoryGraph lacks socialization options
Goodreads has many socialization options, including the opportunity to chat in group forums, friend people, direct message them, and more. I personally like that these options are available, as I find it a great way to connect to the bookish community.
On the other hand, The StoryGraph doesn’t really have any socialization options. This creators purposefully chose to create the site this way – no discussions, no ability to like reviews, no forums, etc. They do have a buddy read option that A Book Owl’s Corner and First Line Reader wrote about, but that’s the only big one I know of.
If this is what you’re looking for, then this will be a great fit. But, if you really like socializing with people about books, then The StoryGraph won’t be for you.
I know many people use and like The StoryGraph, but after trying it for a bit, it isn’t the platform for me.
Have you tried The StoryGraph? Do you think it’s a good alternative to Goodreads?