Using Goodreads

The first step in using Goodreads is to create a profile. All you need to join Goodreads is an e-mail address. When you register, you'll have the opportunity to add friends to your profile automatically by signing in with your member ID from sites such as Google, Facebook and others. This will save you time -- you won't have to search for all of your friends.

If you do add friends to your profile using this service, Goodreads will ask you to rate several book titles. This helps Goodreads determine your compatibility with your friends. For instance, if you enjoy reading bodice-ripping romance novels but your pal Steve prefers technically precise science fiction, you may not need to pay close attention to what Steve is reading.

Once you're through the initial phase of registration, you can set up your own virtual shelves. The default set of shelves are read, currently-reading and to-read. Your friends can see the books on your shelves and find out what you thought of the ones you've already read -- you rank books on a scale of one to five stars.

Goodreads allows users to create their own custom shelves, too. Do you want a virtual shelf that only lists books in the fantasy genre? It's easy to create one with Goodreads. Or maybe you are a parent and want to share your children's favorite books by creating a shelf just for them. It's easy to do.

Goodreads' search engine is tied to Amazon. To add a title to your shelf, you can search for it using the provided search bar. Goodreads will pull results from either its own database or Amazon's inventory. But what if the book you want isn't there? You can manually add any title to your shelf. Goodreads provides an online form. Simply fill out the form and the title appears on your shelves. You can even upload cover art.

You can flesh out your profile by uploading an image as your avatar. You can also list your favorite authors and quotes. If you've published any work of your own, you can add links to it on your profile. And you can create events and invite other members to attend. You can also join social groups on Goodreads -- these range from publishers to virtual book clubs. There's also a section that allows you to leave a comment on a friend's page.