About a year ago I discovered a wonderful online social networking site for book lovers; www.shelfari.com
The Seattle based creators of Shelfari made the site as a means to introduce readers to the global community of book lovers and encourage them to share their literary inclinations and passions with peers, friends, and total strangers.
And a more deliciously user friendly, fun site for bookies you could not ask for.
Once you create your own profile, you are away!
You can then load up the books you own so the friends you will soon be making can see what you like to read and own. Shelfari allows you to create an unlimited free catalogue of your books (unlike some other web based book cataloguing sites that restrict you to 200 books and then start charging after that.) Cleverly Shelfari links in with Amazon so you can find almost any title, cover art and edition available (including audio books) and display them on your virtual bookcase.
You can also sort your books into various categories: I plan to read, I am reading, Favourites, I own, and my personal favourite Wish-list which you can email the link to your beloved to buy you a gift from next time he or she is in the dog box.
To let others know your thoughts on a particular book, you can leave comments or a review, give it a rating out of five and leave tags – words that you associate with the book that might be useful to others (or yourself) to know what the book was about. And you can browse other members bookshelves to get recommendations or ideas for your next read. This of course can be hazardous to your bank balance.
And then there is the social networking side of the site. You can find friends or invite them to join Shelfari if you have an email account with yahoo, hotmail, AOL or gmail or you can just go hunting for people you think might already be users. Once you get comfortable using the site, it is really easy to make friends and either send private messages or leave a note on their personal message board.
A great way to make friends when you are new to Shelfari is to join some of the myriad of groups. With a click of your mouse you can join up to Shelfari groups and start chatting with like minded book lovers on the message boards, discover interesting books to read and if you are lucky, make some remarkable and lasting friendships in the process. The topics of the groups are vast; from the “50 books a year reading challenge”, “I love Chick Lit”, and “Moms who read to escape their weary lives” to groups on particular authors, genres, religions and locations.
The downside of the site is that sometimes it can get pretty clunky and slow to load or even go down altogether which can be annoying (or just plain hair pulling frustrating if you are using dial up). While such outages are (sadly) reasonably common, they are also usually short-lived and you can be back browsing your online library relatively quickly.
Also as it is an American based site, New Zealand titles are often sadly lacking and as yet there is no way to add books which they don’t have in their global catalogue.
But, those minor grievances aside, Shelfari is one of those sites that once you discover its joys, you wonder how you survived without it. I've wasted many an hour enjoying its many virtues - I hope you will to.
*Come find me on Shelfari: my username is Fairytonic. See ya online real soon!