Shelve Shelfari until it matures

New book-sharing site looks too bright and cheery, needs more flexibility.

Candace Lombardi
In a software-driven world, it's easy to forget about the nuts and bolts. Whether it's cars, robots, personal gadgetry or industrial machines, Candace Lombardi examines the moving parts that keep our world rotating. A journalist who divides her time between the United States and the United Kingdom, Lombardi has written about technology for the sites of The New York Times, CNET, USA Today, MSN, ZDNet, Silicon.com, and GameSpot. She is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not a current employee of CNET.
Candace Lombardi
2 min read

As Nick Hornby once wrote, what you're like is not as important as what you like.

That philosophy seems to be spreading across the Internet as more and more opportunities for rating and sharing opinions present themselves. Now you can keep the late-night debates over pop culture going all week long.

Shelfari, a social-networking site centered on books, is like GoodReads in that you can add and rate books, post reviews and share your thoughts with friends.

The company just added a widget function that works with Facebook and other social-networking sites, so that other friends--maybe those who are not quite as literary-minded as your smug self--can see what you're reading and take a hint. Shelfari offers a blog paste-in, but Facebook seems to require that you add Shelfari's widget through its Application portal.

Sample book shelf in Shelfari
Sample book shelf in Shelfari Shelfari

The site looked really promising at first, despite the fact that the name and interface look as if they're geared toward children's books. But then I found its navigation a bit awkward.

Each time I wanted to update the status of a book, add a tag or rating or delete the book from my shelf, I had to deal with a pop-up window. After making a change, I then had to click "submit" and wait for the window to update. I could scroll from within the pop-up to other books, but the process was slow and the black interface over the rest of the screen ugly.

Even worse, the site would not let me rate my friend's books on the fly. Clicking on one of his books brought me to a completely new page with reviews and info dedicated to that particular book. I then had to add the book to my shelf before I could rate it. It did link directly to Amazon when I clicked up by from the mini menu that pops up when you mouse over a book. You also can choose which book cover you would like to display.

This is very different from GoodReads, which lets you both rate and add new books from either search-result lists or friends' libraries.

Shelfari widget in Facebook
Shelfari widget in Facebook Shelfari/Facebook

The widget tool, on the other hand, is very nice. Though you can't choose which particular books you'd like to display, you can customize the way they rank and the widget size and layout.

And for anyone who has used a scanning tool to organize their personal collection of books, you may be able to import that list into Shelfari. I personally had trouble importing a .txt file that included a list of about 200 books from yet another book social-networking site that I've tried. But in Shelfari's defense, I had converted it to a .txt from a .csv file.