Sunday, 31 March 2013

Quarterly Challenge Check-In (1)

One of my goals for 2013 is to do a quarterly update so that I don't lose track of the challenges I've signed up for. I've listed all the books I've read, but I'm really behind with reviews so only some titles link to their review.

2013 Book Bingo Reading Challenge

Sign up: Here
Goal: 73 books to complete
Progress: 24/73

So far I'm doing pretty well with the Bingo challenge. I've been able to count 24 of the books I've read so far this year and completed my first row.


2013 Outdo Yourself Challenge

Sign up: Here
Goal: Getting My Heartrate Up (1-5 more)
Number to beat: 115

So far I have read 30 books so I'm working towards my goal. Fingers crossed I reach it! I'd say I'm roughly on track at this point.

2013 Paranormal Reading Challenge

Sign up: Here
Goal: 12 books (one per category)
Progress: 7/12 categories

I'm just going to list the first book read for each category here as they are completed to stop these posts from being unreadably long, especially as I'm counting books across challenges.

Vampires: Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
Werewolves/Shifters: Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
Fey: Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs
Demons: Blood Bound by Richelle Mead
Witches/Wizards: Bloodlines by Richelle Mead
Ghosts: Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs
Aliens: The Host by Stephenie Meyer
Other (sirens, unicorns, centaurs, time travel etc):

2013 Sookie Stackhouse Reading Challenge

Sign up: Here
Goal: Just a Drop (1-4 books)
Progress: 1/4

So far I've managed to just read (or reread in my case) Dead Until Dark but I'm looking forward to reading some more soon.

2013 TBR Pile Reading Challenge

Sign up: Here
Goal: A Firm Handshake (1-10 books)
Progress: 15/10

I've already completed my goal and even took part in January's mini challenge. I'm going to keep going and see if I can complete the next level up which is A Friendly Hug (11-20 books) because I'm loving working away at my TBR!

Frostbite by Richelle Mead
Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead
Blood Promise by Richelle Mead
Spirit Bound by Richelle Mead
Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead
Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
Into the Nightside by Simon R. Green
The Host by Stephenie Meyer
Renegade by J.A. Souders
Bloodlines by Richelle Mead
The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead
Deja Dead by Kathy Reichs
Sprinkle with Murder by Jenn McKinlay
One Bad Apple by Sheila Connolly
Rotten to the Core by Sheila Connolly

2013 Witches & Witchcraft Challenge

Sign up: Here
Goal: Initiate (1-5 books)
Progress: 3/5

I thought I'd made zero progress with this one until I realised that magic and witchcraft has been a key part of the Bloodlines series since the beginning :) So glad to be doing so well on this challenge!

Bloodlines by Richelle Mead
The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead
The Indigo Spell by Richelle Mead

Cruisin' Thru the Cozies Challenge

Sign up: Here
Goal: Snoop (6 books)
Progress: 3/6

One recommendation from a Goodreads Pick-it-for-Me Challenge and I went on a mini cozy kick meaning I'm halfway to my goal and it's only March!

Sprinkle with Murder by Jenn McKinlay
One Bad Apple by Sheila Connolly
Rotten to the Core by Sheila Connolly

Dystopia Reading Challenge 2013

Sign up: Here
Goal: 24 total, split over 4 levels
Progress: 5/12

I'm a little behind with this one as I've just not been reading many dystopians lately. I'm hoping to catch up and be on track before my next update at the end of June, especially as I have a few more waiting to be read.

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
Through the Ever Night by Veronica Rossi
Renegade by J.A. Souders
Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

Classic Double Challenge

Sign up: Here
Goal: Small (2 books/1 pair)
Progress: 2/2

I've managed to read both The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe and Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin and my comparison post (and review of Bethany Griffin's book) will be coming soon. I had so much fun I'm hoping to do another pairing before the end of the year.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Discussion: Amazon bought Goodreads

So news has been popping up all over that Amazon have purchased Goodreads for an undisclosed amount. Within minutes, threads started popping up all over Goodreads asking what this meant for users and lots of people have been leaving the site and deleting their reviews.
A fair amount of concern comes from the fact Amazon already owns a lot of websites - they own Book Depository, IMDB, Audible, Love Film and even other big reader sites like Shelfari and 40% of Library Thing. I use Book Depository and saw pros and cons to the Amazon takeover, although the majority of the site stayed the same. I honestly don't remember any big differences with IMDB, and didn't even know they were owned by Amazon, although it does explain the new "buy from Amazon" button on almost every page.
It does concern me a little that Amazon will own a massive chunk of the online book networking sites and it makes me start to question why they want so many. I know they each have pros and cons, and I use Goodreads as it's the one that suits me best. However there are readers who have been switching sites to get away from Amazon's influence and now will be leaving another network.
Before this, Goodreads was relatively independent. There was no preference to one retailer over another, but that could well change. Amazon have been slated a lot for censorship, with negative reviews rarely making it onto the site and reviews being deleted. I've not heard the same said about Goodreads before and so people now are predicting the same problems.
A lot of users are also very annoyed given that last year Goodreads stopped using Amazon data for the book catalogue and caused chaos in the process. I lost a bunch of books that were no longer recognized purely because the announcement came when I was away visiting family and had no internet. By the time I got home they were gone and replaced with "Unknown Book #..." I still haven't finished fixing that so I'm more than a little frustrated.
Some librarians (myself included) are reconsidering our position. Working for free for Goodreads to help improve the catalogue is one thing, working for Amazon for free is another. I'll be staying a librarian for a while, purely because I am a selfish librarian - I became one purely so I could adjust my own books to be accurate as UK editions are spotty and I hated constantly asking for help.
In some ways, this could be a good thing - Amazon's influence could lend itself to finally getting some of the major bugs worked out, particularly in the "recommendations" which haven't worked properly since they were introduced. It may also help with developing the catalogue to show more non-US editions.
Linking Goodreads and Amazon accounts could also be handy - purchasing a book and being able to add it to your TBR with a single click would be awesome. However I'm not sure I want my accounts fully linked (I like to keep social networking and shopping separate) and I don't want every book I buy added to Goodreads.
Essentially my concerns could all be answered through the following questions:
  • Will I be required to integrate my Amazon and Goodreads accounts?
  • How will this affect international users? I have both UK and US Amazon accounts.
  • How will this affect me as a librarian?
  • How will this affect me as a non e-book reader?
Will I be leaving Goodreads? I'm not sure. Until I know how this will affect me personally, I'm not making a decision especially as I can see potential pros and cons. I'm frustrated that Goodreads aren't being clear about what this will mean for users, and when they are talking they use phrases like "certainly will probably" (I wish I was kidding about that one) which leads me to worry more.
So do you use Goodreads and what do you think of the takeover?

Friday, 1 March 2013

Discussion: Battle of the Giants

When it comes to ordering books online, the first two companies that come to mind are usually Amazon and the Book Depository. I've been ordering online for the better part of a decade now and have experienced the pros and cons of each retailer so I thought I'd chat about my experiences. This is focused on Amazon UK specifically because that is where I have the most experience.

Oh, and the Book Depository is actually owned by Amazon. The takeover annoyed a lot of people back in 2011 (this article explains things) and it changed the company a lot. All my thoughts on the Book Depository below are from after that merger - there's no point discussing how they used to be (better in some ways, worse in others).


Pros: Amazon sell waaaaaay more than just books. You can order pretty much anything from them.
Cons: If you want a US edition of a US & UK published book, chances are Amazon will not stock it...even if it's available from the US months before the UK version is released. You have to order it from the US site. This also applies if a UK publisher has picked up the series, whether they've scheduled it for release or not.

Book Depository
Pros: Both US and UK options are usually available, which is perfect if you want matching editions or just a particular cover.
Cons: Just books.


Pros: Generally lower than retail. You also have the option of Amazon Marketplace where you can order items that are "fulfilled by Amazon" and third party sellers which can be cheaper.
Cons: Marketplace descriptions can be vastly innaccurate (like new books that are falling apart) and you need to be careful checking the origin of the book as many sellers aren't UK based. Shipping for these items is generally expensive.

Book Depository
Pros: Brilliant for preorders of US paperbacks in particular.
Cons: For UK published and already released books it's hard to find a price that beats Amazon.


Pros: The "Preorder Price Guarentee" which means you get charged the lowest price up to and including release date. If the price drops, so does what you pay but if it increases, you stay where you are.
Cons: Rarely dispatched before release date, especially if you choose the free delivery option.

Book Depository
Pros: Books tend to be dispatched so they arrive as near to the release date as possible. With their delivery method there are no guarentees but in my experience you'll get the book on release day or just before.
Cons: No price guarentee - if that price drops and you want the lower price you have to cancel your original order and place another.

Managing Your Account

Pros: You pretty much have full control and are able to change payment and delivery options right up until your order enters the dispatch process. You can cancel orders yourself whenever you need.
Cons: Any problems will be blamed on user error - I had an order switch from free delivery to next day without me touching it. Amazon blamed me and said the original confimation order stating free delivery must have been a glitch.

Book Depository
Pros: It's easy to control what emails you receive from them. You can also adjust your defalt payment and delivery options easily.
Cons: If you need to change anything with an order, you usually need to place a new order and have the previous one cancelled by staff.

Shopping Basket

Pros: Stuff placed in your basket will stay there forever. You have the option to "save for later".
Cons: Stuff stays in your basket forever - which means if you are anything like me, you end up deleting things or hitting "save for later" over and over whenever you want to order something else.

Book Depository
Pros: You can see estimated dispatch times before you place the order.
Cons: No save for later. Basket gets emptied spontaneously (sometimes things will stay for ages, other times it all disappears if you accidentally close the tab).


Pros: Lots of options - free delivery within the UK, first class, next day delivery and evening delivery. There is also the option for Amazon Prime, a subscription based unlimited next day delivery service.
Cons: Free delivery takes longer to dispatch than any other option and I cancelled my Prime membership when I realised the majority of packages were arriving late. The final straw was being told I had to wait three weeks before a "next day guarenteed" package was classed as lost. Delivery prices can be excessive.

Book Depository
Pros: Free worldwide delivery.
Cons: The dispatch estimates on the website can be inaccurate (I've had "usually dispatched within 48 hours" books take over a week to be dispatched). No other delivery choices so not good if you need something fast.


Pros: It's easily identifiable.
Cons: Packaging is very hit and miss. Sometimes it's too small and the item is crushed, other times it's vastly oversized and the item is damaged from rattling around. It's also usually filled with a bunch of junk flyers.

Book Depository
Pros: Occasionally you get a free bookmark :)
Cons: Books are usually dispatched and packaged separately (bad for the environment and annoying). Packaging can be hit and miss. Junk flyers are occasionally included.

Customer Service

Pros: You have three options - fill out a form on the website (tricky for older orders, especially preorders as it's done by newest date first, so that book you preordered last year is hard to find), call them or have them call you.
Cons: Pretty hit and miss - I've had helpful polite staff but I've also had incredibly rude responses. It's also common to have heavily accented call centre staff who put you on hold a lot and finding their phone number is awkward at best.

Book Depository
Pros: Staff are generally polite, helpful and respond in good time. Rapid responses from their twitter team.
Cons: All customer service is done via email. There is no phone number in case you need/want to talk to a "real person".

Damaged Items

Pros: You can file for a return by yourself without having to contact them first.
Cons: Damaged items are very common. The item must be returned AND received by them before you can get a replacement or refund. It's potluck as to which returns label you get - free through the Post Office OR free through a Collect Plus store which you can pay to return through the Post Office (Amazon can refund up to £2.75 but I couldn't find out how you apply for that).

Book Depository
Pros: Brilliant about damaged items! My experience has always been to send photos of the damage and be told to keep the damaged book and take your pick of a full refund or replacement. Damaged items are rare and they always apologise.
Cons: None that I've experienced.

So as you can see there are a lot of pros and cons to both retailers although I do prefer Book Depository on the whole. Their customer service is a lot better than Amazon's and being able to deal with an issue without causing more stress is enough to win my business most of the time. Occasionally I am seduced away by lower prices on Amazon or because I need to order something else and want it delivered with my books.

As a blogger Book Depository also means I can afford to do worldwide giveaways because of their free shipping, and using them is becoming more common which means I can enter more giveaways :)
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