The social networking bug appears to have found a place in just about every niche on the Internet. Shelfari is one such network that has been receiving a fair amount of positive press over the past few months. As a former user of GoodReads and an explorer of services such as LibraryThing and Delicious Monster, I am very impressed with Shelfari’s capabilities.
PC Magazine featured Shelfari as one of its Sites of the Week in December 2007.
If you’re the type who haunts the library, spends all day browsing bookstores, or frequently checks out what other people are reading on the train, plane, or bus (and talks to them about it), then Shelfari is the social-networking site for you. It’s like joining one giant book club where you can interact with thousands of other people who share your love of reading—a place you can discuss and dissect every book you’ve ever read, if you want.
Shelfari is free no matter how many books you add or how much you use the site. Goodreads is also free, but LibraryThing limits you to 200 books for free (although the fee for more than 200 is nominal: just $10 yearly or $25 for a lifetime membership).
Users can add books to their shelf with an easy search feature using author, book title, keyword, and/or ISBN number. Once the book is located (and, I should mention, the search is very fast), users can add it to their shelf with the categories “I’ve Read,” “I Plan to Read,” “I’m Reading,” “Wish List,” “Favorites,” and “Own.” Those who have lists created on GoodReads or LibraryThing (whose lists have the ISBN numbers embedded) can be imported directly into Shelfari.
When the book appears on the shelf, it was appear with the image of the book jacket. Since their are often multiple publications of a book, users can select from among all the book covers and can even upload their own artwork if desired.
Users can customize their content by adding tags, personal reviews, and comments and can add the book to their reader timeline (i.e. When did you read this book?) Users can also recommend the book to others in their network, access the comments that other users have posted about the book, and see the shelves of users who have also added the book to their shelf.
In the Shelf View, the bookshelf display can be customized. Books can be moved around, viewed as large or small icons, sorted by books you’ve read, plan to read, are reading, are favorited, own, or are on your wish list. The books can be organized by date added, date read, rating, review author, or title. Books can also be displayed as a list by clicking on List View. The List View allows for quick bulk editing.
Since users can “befriend” other users through invitations and can share resources with their friend network, Shelfar is also social networking application. Members can send private messages to other members and can post comments to the user’s profile page. Shelfari offers several customized widgets to add your shelf to a blog, wiki, or social networking site. Shelfari also offers a Facebook application.
The networking aspects of Shelfari are enhanced through groups. Users can add books to the reading list of a group, see which groups have already added the book to their shelf, join groups, and create their own group.
When creating a group, users have privacy options that make it a terrific option for educational use. The group administrator can restrict membership to everyone or only to invitees. The visibility of the group, including the member list, book shelf, and discussions, can be open to all Shelfari members or restrict just to group members. The administrator can also retain control of who receives invitations.
Once the group has been created, the administrator can edit the group settings and manage group members. Users can post books to the group shelf and can engage in conversation through the discussion board.
Shelfari recently launched an Author’s Page feature that allows users (including the authors, themselves) to publish information about the authors.
To learn more about Shelfari, check out the extensive resources on their FAQs page.
To get started with Shelfari groups, I invite you to join the Discovery Educator Network Shelfari group.