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The Goodreads member homepage features a feed that lets you see what your friends have been reading. See more pictures of popular web sites.

Screenshot by HowStuffWorks.com

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What comes to mind when you read the word bookstore? Do you imagine a large, open room? Is it brightly lit with shelves spaced far apart and everything is in its place? Or do you imagine a dusty, dim shop filled with many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore stashed higgledy-piggledy throughout the room? Or perhaps you think of the Amazon Web site, where practically any book you can think of is just a couple of clicks away.

Searching a bookstore for a particular book is one thing, but walking into a store with no idea what you want is another. If you're lucky, the bookstore employees love to read and can help you find something that matches your interests. But if you're not lucky, you may find yourself wandering up and down the aisles, basing your purchases solely upon the cover art.

If you have a large book collection, you may even accidentally purchase a book you already own. It's frustrating to return home with a new book only to discover that not only have you read it before, but it's actually sitting on the shelf in front of you. Is there some way to leverage the technology around us to make the process of finding and organizing books -- as well as sharing your thoughts on them -- easier?

The answer is yes. There's an entire social network specifically geared toward bookworms and lovers of literature. It's called Goodreads, and its mission is to allow members to explore the world of books, discuss literature with one another, make contact with authors and even share some of their own work with the other members of the community.

Otis and Elizabeth Chandler founded Goodreads in December 2006 [source: Goodreads]. They envisioned a site where book lovers could make friends with others who shared their love of reading. Rather than rank books based upon the thoughts of strangers, the members of Goodreads can see what their friends enjoy reading. And like a book club, Goodreads facilitates discussions between members.