Friday, July 19, 2024
How-tos

A Social Media App for Book Lovers (And an Alternative to Goodreads)


What to know

  • Fable is a social community app for readers with a heavy emphasis on book clubs and social interactions surrounding books.
  • While Goodreads has one of the biggest repositories, Fable is quickly growing as a social media app for book lovers.
  • On Fable, you can post and share reviews and opinions, join book clubs, read on the app, get AI-based recommendations, and much more.

As a long-time reader, Goodreads is the only place I know where I can find the book that I’m reading and keep a log of it. It is where I get most of my book recommendations, set reading goals, and check out what my friends are reading. But Goodreads hasn’t been keeping up with the times or the tech of the day. 

While Goodreads may have been the go-to social media hub for book lovers in the 2010s, it’s no more the ideal platform for social reading, discussing books and sharing it with a community. This is one of the many reasons why such things as Bookstagram, Booktube, and Booktok crop up. But with the amount of toxicity these platforms tend to bring, they’re hardly the ideal space for getting together and talking all things books.

The Amazon-owned book cataloging website has been in a stale and lackluster state for quite some time. A major Goodreads overhaul is long overdue, in lieu of which, several alternatives have come up, such as StoryGraph, Bookmory, and LibraryThing. Of these, the most talked about Goodreads alternative is Fable – a book tracking and cataloging app that is best known for its burgeoning community and state-of-the-art features, and I definitely recommend you check it out. 

What is Fable?

Fable is a social community app for readers with a heavy emphasis on book clubs and book discussions. Founded in 2019, Fable is like a cross between Goodreads and X (formerly Twitter) that lets you track books, purchase books and read on the app, and join book clubs for a more socially interactive book reading experience. You can review books, create book posts, and add your thoughts and comments on the content. 

Sounds like more of what Goodreads does already? To be sure, yes – they’re both book cataloging websites/apps after all. But the newcomer is much more socially driven, discourages review bombing for a safer, healthier space, and is more in line with today’s tech (with AI-based book recommendations and personalized feeds).

Things Fable does better than Goodreads

Because of its longevity, Goodreads is still a giant. But Fable is fast catching up. Although there are a few shortcomings (which we’ll get to in a second), there are several things that Fable does better than Goodreads. 

1. Clubs, Discussions, Posts, and Pictures

The highly interactive element on Fable is what sets it apart from Goodreads. The app encourages users to join clubs or start new ones and inject some social life into the solitary act of reading. 

Club moderators can take a poll on which book to read while members can share their updates, discuss what they’ve read chapter to chapter, find prompts and talking points for the chosen book, and even check out past discussions. If you can’t find actual book clubs around you, Fable will help you stay motivated and reading.

The Home feed on the app is also quite a lively space. If you’ve added a few books in your library list, you’ll find people reading similar books, updating on their own reading journey, writing reviews, and so much more. Posting on Fable is similar to Twitter (now X.com) with options to tag books and clubs, add images, and even include quotes to start a discussion out of the blue.

For a book lover, finding fellow readers is truly a heartwarming feeling and the app delivers that in spades. On the Home feed, you’ll regularly find people posting pictures of their bookshelves, their current read, their reading aspirations, what they’re doing to get out of reading slumps, and several other things that us nerds get excited about, including pets who always make for cute reading companions. 

2. Purchase eBooks or read classics for free on the app

Unlike Goodreads, Fable lets you purchase eBooks and read on the app. Even though you don’t really buy on the app – you’re sent an email with a link to purchase the book on their website – the book syncs and ultimately ends up in your library so you can read on the Fable app itself. The only downside here is that you can’t send the book to another platform, such as a Kindle.

But you can get several classics for free that are in the public domain. So if you’re only looking to get reading, and don’t mind doing so on your phone, you can get a lot of books on the Fable app itself. It’s also great for book clubs as members can start reading on their phones without having to really purchase the book. 

3. Share annotations with notes and highlights

Being big on sharing and the social aspect of things, Fable lets you share your annotations with others. Whether it is a note or a highlight, or even just a simple reaction, simply tap and hold on something that catches your eye and leave your thoughts. You’ll be able to see the highlights and notes of others right within the book itself.  

To be sure, Goodreads lets you share your highlights as well, especially if you’ve connected your Kindle account with it. But that is only if you choose to do so; whereas, your notes and highlights are automatically shared with others if you choose to read it with your club. Of course, if you like, you can read on your own for zero distractions as well. 

I find sharing annotations and reading what other people have noted (that I missed) better done for difficult books, such as non-fiction or literary classics. For most other types, it’s better to keep things simple and read on your own.

4. Goals, reading streaks, and reminders

Goodreads is well-known for yearly goals, tracking reading progress, and letting you see your stats. But Fable also handles goals and reading streaks quite nicely. In fact, it is one of its better features.

Like Goodreads, Fable lets you set yearly goals; similarly, it lets you track your reading and also see your stats. But what Goodreads doesn’t do is implement AI to give you a ‘Reader summary’ that defines what your reading habits tell about you. 

Fable’s breakdown into other stat cards like ‘Most read genres’ and ‘Most read Authors’ is also interesting. If you find yourself struggling to find time to read, a reading reminder might come in handy as well (from the Settings).

5. Explore personalized recommendations

The more books you add to your personal library, the better your recommendations become. The ‘Explore’ option on the app is rich with titles and lists by others that you might like. You can browse books by genre, check out recently reviewed books, new releases, and tons of whacky categories like ‘Rainy day reads’, ‘Call me Sherlock’, and ‘Life-changing nonfiction’, etc. to help find the next good read.

Fable also has an AI called Scout that you can ask for recommendations. Find it at the top of your ‘Library’. 

In comparison, Goodreads only throws up a small window of books recommended based on your lists, though they hardly ever stick. 

All this is not to say that I’m leaving Goodreads anytime soon. It still offers the largest book catalog, lets you choose from several different book editions, and sorts your books however you want. Fable still lags behind on these fronts. Lack of a functional website that has the same features as the app also hurts Fable. But Fable is only three years old, while Goodreads is seventeen.

New features and improvements are expected, though adding ‘Watch Lists’ for movies and TV shows to keep track of is not one of those, in my opinion. Competing with both Goodreads and Letterboxd at the same time does distract. But Fable is first and foremost a platform for book clubs and social reading and I hope they stay that way. 

If you’re not sure about Fable yet, download the app, sign up, and check it out for yourself. Of the several Goodreads alternatives that I’ve tried, it is the best by miles. Though reading is fundamentally a solitary activity, it’s the community surrounding books that keeps one reading and out of slumps. 

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