Within the last month or so books have gotten a real boost. Maybe not in sales, but in survival. Google made a groundbreaking agreement with authors and publishers wherein the two would share in the profit of Google making books available online. For CreateSpace authors, Google makes it easy - just merge your cover and block PDF files into one, upload directly to Google, and watch the revenue roll in. For the casual reader, Google even added a My Library feature for book reviews.
Not to be outdone, Amazon released their Reading List application through OpenSocial onto LinkedIn. This is the only place I’ve heard of it - I can’t even find it on the main Amazon site - but it looks promising because you can see what your LinkedIn Network is reading/recommending as well as your whole industry.
RSS: Google offers an RSS feed of your book list, Amazon does not.
Stats: Amazon offers stats on how many people are watching your list, Google does not (where’s the Google Feedburner integration!?).
Books: Google links your books to their online counterparts on Google Books, Amazon links your books to other people’s recommendations and the Amazon store (where’s my affiliate income!?).
Location: Amazon lets you note if you’re reading the actual book, or of course, the Kindle e-book version.
Reliability: At least once during my test, the Amazon app spit out a generic error that I figure was related to timing out since a refresh of the page fixed the problem.
The Verdict: I’d hold off dumping your personal library into either service just yet. Google needs to offer more portability (is it an OpenSocial app?), and Amazon needs to work on reliability.
Will these two new bookshelf sharing applications be able to compete with the already popular hoard of similar applications like iRead, GoodReads, and Shelfari (with a combined market share of 737k monthly active Facebook users)? Without practical data sharing between the services, I anticipate that the big names will simply encourage more new people to share their reading tastes online. Google’s RSS feeds are a good step in that direction, but the service is lacking an import feature. I don’t imagine too many people being interested in re-inputing their libraries.
Update 9/21/2009: Google has added an import feature (text input only) and not to be one upped, GoodReads has added RSS exports and its own robust import feature supporting multiple formats.