Posted in The Bookish Life

Is the Goodreads Challenge Losing Its Charm? (More Data #SorryNotSorry)

Yes, I realize it is New Year’s Eve and I should likely have better, more entertaining or possibly intoxicated things to do with my time.  But here I am anyway.  In my previous post I talked about my reading accomplishments in 2016 in a very data-centric way.  I had every intention of being all mushy and romantic in this post and pine over my favorite books in the least analytical way possible.  Alas, I found more data so that is out the window.

This week I discovered that my average rating was higher in years I did not participate in the Goodreads Challenge.  It got me thinking about the success of the Goodreads challenge in general.  Goodreads provides some basic participation data on each years’ individual page.  It lists the number of participants, total books pledged, average books per challenge, total finished books and number of challenges completed.  Its only been around for a few years, so there isn’t a lot of data.  But we can get a little crunchy.

The participation in the challenge shows really impressive growth almost doubling in participants year after year.  This graph shows the total number of books pledged by participants compared to the total number of books finished for the challenge.


In general the rate of pledged books is increasing a lot faster than how many books were actually finished over the years.  In the first few years participants were on average finishing about 50 percent of their pledged books.  But by the last few years that percentage has dropped to about 30.  But even more interesting is that the average number of books per participant has also decreased.


What does this all mean? Over the years since the inception of the Goodreads challenge we find:

Far more people are participating year after year. 

But they are pledging fewer books per year.

And they are finishing even fewer of those pledged books. 

It could mean that the Goodreads challenge is losing its efficacy over the years.  Maybe people aren’t as interested, it isn’t as much fun as it used to be or perhaps its just burn out.  But it could be simply a case of general participant interest.

Think about it.  For the early adopters of Goodreads it was a case of OMG THE THING THE INTERNET WAS MADE FOR.  They are the core, loyal users that have a greater personal interest in their reading goals.  Later recruits to adopt the technology could be more casual readers with reduced interest in the challenge in general.  Without more information its difficult to test this theory.  However, if you look at the charts there appears to be a big bump in participation around the time Amazon purchased Goodreads.  It could be this acquisition exposed Goodreads to a new population of  a different kind of reader, one who is less…hmm…tenacious about their books that the earlier folks.

It would be hard to say without more detailed data that includes how long the participant has been using Goodreads.  I naturally will not be able to sleep until I answer that question.  I put out an email to Goodreads with my request.  I have a feeling I will be sleepless for a while.  Again, it looks like I’ll get Infinite Jest under my read belt.


Obviously it would be in Amazon’s interest to tap into these second and third tier adopters and figure out a way to find another challenge incentive to get them to finish more books and buy the next.  I always thought it would be neat to be able to pick a small list of specific books that I wanted to read in the year.  Naturally all that user data could be exploited to pick out the most frequently chosen books and promote them with sale prices.  Just sayin’



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