Finally, a formidable response to Amazon-owned Goodreads: Introducing The StoryGraph

The StoryGraph – an app that lets you track, rate, and review the books you’ve read amongst many, many other things – is something every book lover should have in their app library. Complete with beautiful analytics, personalized recommendations, and a 1.2 million-member community, The StoryGraph is everything Goodreads isn’t. We spoke with cofounders Nadia Odunayo and Rob Frelow to dig more deeply into everything we love about our new favorite book app.

As a devoted reader and someone who has been a member of the Goodreads community since 2013, I have found myself consistently frustrated with the app, especially in recent years, for everything that Goodreads doesn’t do and doesn’t offer. Aside from the fact that the app has barely updated since its inception – making for an antiquated user experience – there are palpable misses that would help me to better understand what kind of reader I am and, perhaps, what kind of reader I want to be. It’s within this space that The StoryGraph shines.

Designed for readers, by readers

Nadia Odunayo, founder of The StoryGraph, began working on the app in 2019:

I’d had the idea for years, but when I finally had time to work on the project in earnest at the beginning of 2019, I had so much fun and knew… that I wanted to somehow build a business in the books space.

Knowing that any successful product relies on customer research, I started talking to readers and learning all about their pain points with book apps, trying to see if there was room for something worth building.

I started incorporating their feedback into the product I was working on, and continually doing that over the last few years is what has led to what The StoryGraph is today.

Odunayo’s dive into customer needs and wants manifests in every feature of The StoryGraph; there isn’t a single thing that hasn’t been thought through, and as a user, I appreciate a continued dedication to what readers are looking for in a book app. The StoryGraph is so clearly designed by someone who is a reader themselves, rather than Goodreads, which hasn’t considered user experience in what feels like a decade.

In addition to taking its user wants into the app’s development, The StoryGraph also gives much-needed space to independent authors. Cofounder Rob Frelow:

If today you’re interested in a dark murder mystery set deep in the woods featuring a kidnapping, and tomorrow you’re in the mood for an emotional but funny romantic comedy set in a big city, you can find that on The StoryGraph. You aren’t stuck by your old ratings or past preferences. You won’t see any ‘promoted’ books, which indie authors can typically never afford. You have full control.

That The StoryGraph not only gives users a fully autonomous experience – but also makes room for independent authors rather than promoting books by household names – is the digital equivalent of walking into a Barnes and Noble versus your local bookstore.

The reality is that Goodreads dominates the book app market thanks to Amazon’s $150 million dollar acquisition back in 2013, and what that has meant is that it simply hasn’t had to innovate or improve its user experience because it’s owned by the largest online retailer in the world. The StoryGraph, on the other hand, has taken the time and the feedback from its users to create a truly personalized experience from which readers can actually benefit.

A clean look and an abundance of features

The first thing I noticed after downloading The StoryGraph was how beautiful it was. Simple and modern in its design aesthetic – and without clutter or advertisements – the app’s best features stand out with bright, bold colors, making it easy to navigate. In an astute move by its founders, you can import your Goodreads library into The StoryGraph; once you’ve imported your library, you then fill out a preference list (choosing not only specifically what you do like to read, but also what you don’t), and from there, the app begins to work its magic.

In regards to its features, there is nothing Odunayo and Frelow haven’t considered. Within The StoryGraph, a user can:

  • Rate, review, and track books
  • Engage in a “Buddy Read” with someone from their community
  • Keep a reading journal
  • Enter book giveaways
  • Set up reading goals by the number of books, pages, or hours
  • Browse book recommendations by mood, pace, type, or page number
  • View personalized analytics

While some of these features will be familiar to Goodreads users, The StoryGraph takes them one step further, improving the experience for the reader by personalizing each feature and offering choices specific to a person, rather than recommendations for an entire community.

The StoryGraph’s standout feature is, easily, the statistics. Odunayo says of them:

We use the stats to tell you what type of reader you are. For example: ‘You mainly read books that are adventurous, funny, and hopeful. You typically choose books that are fast-paced and 300-499 pages long.’ Users love this as it gives them a new way to describe the kind of books they love and help them discover new favorite reads.

While I am admittedly a newer member of The StoryGraph community, I have already shown my own analytics to everyone in my life who I know will appreciate their nuance, because the thing about being a reader is this: We gravitate toward books that are familiar to us. That could mean reading your favorite author’s newest book (or doing a reread, another feature of The StoryGraph) or, as is most common, remaining within specific genres or moods.

The beauty of these graphs is that in providing you with a visual audit of what you’ve read, you are now armed with the information needed to make different choices and/or to grow as a reader should you choose to do so. I had no idea that I read more contemporary or historical books than anything else, and as I move into 2023, I will be putting a focus on poetry – something I have loved deeply throughout my entire life, but do not read nearly enough as stand-alone collections – and sociology – something that has always interested me, but for whatever reason, also something I apparently tend to avoid.

Without the data that The StoryGraph provides, I wouldn’t know exactly the type of reader I am and would instead work under the assumption that I read mostly memoirs and true crime when, really, I typically read “fiction books that are emotional, reflective, and dark.”

Wrap-up

Whether you’re an insatiable reader, a sometimes reader, or a person who reads one to two books a year, The StoryGraph is an app that is truly designed with you in mind. From its beautiful, personalized analytics to its incredibly specific book recommendations, this is an app that every reader will love.

Check out The StoryGraph on Instagram here, Twitter here, and desktop here.

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