The Intersection of Time, Books, and Building an Online Community


Hatched by Glasp

Aug 20, 2023

4 min read


The Intersection of Time, Books, and Building an Online Community


In a world where busyness reigns supreme, it's easy to lose sight of what truly matters. We bury our awareness of mortality under the weight of our never-ending to-do lists and convince ourselves that there will always be time later to live the life we want. However, as Seneca wisely observed, multitasking only takes us further from our ultimate goal. The tragedy of this world is that no one is truly happy, for we are all alone in our journey. Yet, amidst the chaos, there are those who manage to create communities and platforms that bring people together. One such example is Goodreads, a book community with over 2.6 million members, built by a quiet developer named Otis Chandler.

The Power of Goodreads:

Goodreads started as a passion project for Otis Chandler, who wanted to create a platform that would get people excited about reading. The use case of the platform was clear - it allowed users to keep track of the books they've read and discover new ones through their friends' recommendations. The platform's success can be attributed to its simplicity and focus on community. As Chandler mentioned, he wanted Goodreads to be a social network for readers, where they could browse their friends' bookshelves and see what they were reading.

Building a Community:

One of the key factors in Goodreads' success was its ability to tap into existing communities. English literature students, known for their love of reading, became power users of the platform. Additionally, Goodreads gained traction through word-of-mouth recommendations from bloggers and features on platforms like Mashable. By targeting niche communities and providing a platform that catered to their interests, Goodreads was able to establish itself as a go-to resource for book lovers.

Creating Compelling Content:

Goodreads recognized the importance of compelling content in engaging users. By focusing on what their users wanted - to see what their friends were reading and gain book recommendations - Goodreads built a platform that showcased user-generated content. Instead of displaying generic book reviews, the platform highlighted what friends thought of certain books. This personalized approach created a sense of community and encouraged users to interact with one another.

Engaging Authors:

Recognizing the struggles authors face in marketing their books, Goodreads provided a platform for them to connect with their fans and gain exposure. The platform allowed authors to advertise their books directly to the Goodreads audience, targeting users based on book genres rather than keywords. This targeted approach proved to be effective in helping authors reach their target audience and gain readership.

Taking User Feedback Seriously:

One of the secrets to Goodreads' success was its commitment to listening to user feedback. Chandler emphasized the importance of constantly monitoring user feedback and using it to prioritize new features and improvements. By prioritizing features based on traffic, revenue potential, and user stickiness, Goodreads was able to continuously enhance the platform and meet the evolving needs of its users.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Embrace the power of community: Identify niche communities that align with your product or service and cater to their specific needs and interests. Building a community around a shared passion or interest can be a powerful way to grow your platform.
  • 2. Keep content personalized and user-generated: Instead of generic content, focus on showcasing user-generated content that resonates with your target audience. Highlight what friends or influencers in your community think or recommend, as this creates a sense of belonging and encourages engagement.
  • 3. Listen to user feedback: Actively seek and listen to user feedback to understand their needs and pain points. Use this feedback to prioritize new features and improvements, ensuring that your platform continues to meet the evolving needs of your users.


In a world consumed by busyness, Goodreads stands as a testament to the power of community and the love for books. By recognizing the importance of personalized content and user engagement, Goodreads has built a platform that brings readers together and helps authors connect with their fans. The success of Goodreads serves as a reminder that amidst the chaos of life, there is always room for shared interests and meaningful connections.

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