How to export your GoodReads data as CSV

Summary in Finnish: Amazonin lukupäiväkirja-arkiston käyttäjä esittää kuva-arvoituksen varmuuskopiointia varten.

Introductory musings

It is a curious time to come back to blogging! People (re-)launch blogs here and there, except they are being luddites about it: they are turning back to old tried and tested technology solutions, that is, running email newsletters (to great surprise of everyone)! I, for one, feel like a modern person for deciding to buy me some WordPress-as-a-service.

In all seriousness, I have been writing two (quite unfinished) long post drafts to properly celebrate the Grand Blog Re-Opening. However, recently I heard someone to point out that one can export ones GoodReads library as a CSV, and today while updating my reading lists, I decided to try and find the relevant UI menu to point and click. Turns out, the relevant button is not exactly hidden but not as easy to find than as I thought either, and as I doubt not too many people are aware of this useful feature (I wasn’t!), I thought it would be worth someone’s while to document the procedure. (As an additional plus, this write-up is quick and simple compared to the other aforementioned drafts I am working on.)

So is the feature useful? Based on cursory checks, the CSV output is reasonably well-constructed (with commas as separators) and easily digested by LibreOffice parser. It contains GR book id, title, author information, your and users’ average rating, publishing information, date added (in US format, urgh), your bookshelves it is in (if you have any), and your review (if you did write one). I evaluate it looks quite useful for making backups! (Why backups? Maybe one day Amazon won’t find any utility from GR and turns it off, or will turn evil and use it for uncouth purposes! It is a good principle try to be your own master in matters concerning your data: I am glad I can say for once I am favorably surprised by a social media service.)

The tutorial

My first guess was to look in the Settings menu. It is not there! Instead:

  1. Navigate to My Books.

2. Good! Scroll down.

3. Locate the Import and export button.

4. Click the thing there, wait a moment, and you are ready.

5. Inspect the downloaded CSV at your leisure.

Yes, I know there are “better” tools than LibreOffice Calc, but (a) it has a GUI (b) it works reasonably well when you double-click the file in Nautilus in Ubuntu.

That’s all this time. Next time I’ll have something more highbrow.

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