What’s in a Reading Goal?

Adam FortunaAvatar for Adam Fortuna

By Adam Fortuna

4 min read

We’re trying something different on Hardcover: allow readers to create multiple goals to spark motivation.

In the first round of research and development on Hardcover we focused on creating the baseline functionality that we’ll need for a book website. Things like a lot of books, the ability to track what you’re reading, write and read reviews, and to import your books from Goodreads.

Reading Goals

One feature I wasn’t expecting to be on that list? Reading Goals.

Turns out people reallllly love using the Reading Challenge feature on Goodreads. Almost without fail everyone we talked to sets a reading challenge for the year and works towards it.

After hearing this for about the 50th time, we realized we should try to get that feature into our earlier MVP. At least that way we could iterate on it.

On Goodreads, reading goals are simple. For the year, you specify how many “books” you want to read in the current year. As you mark books as read during the year, you’ll make progress on it. If you complete that number of books, it’s complete. That’s it.

As someone who reads books, listens to books, and reads comics, manga, and short stories, this hasn’t worked well for me. “Rhythm of War’ (1,232 pages) counts the same as a single issue of comic like “Monstress” (which is an amazing comic by the way).

We knew we wanted to do something a little more advanced – but while keeping the simplicity of Goodreads approach.

Here’s what we’ve currently landed on for our initial MVP:

Hardcover goals in the simple form

Just like Goodreads, you can just specify a single field – the number – and create the goal.

The feature readers wanted the most for Goodreads goal system? The ability to set a page number goal. Many readers were having my same issue. What they really wanted was a metric that couldn’t be gamed by picking shorter books. Having a page goal makes it more accurate.

Within that date drop down there’s also the option to specify a date for a goal. While we believe most goals will be for the entire year, teachers could use goals for giving students summer reading, setting your own monthly (or semi-annual) goals, or if you have a goal that’s going to take more than a year to get to.

Let’s Talk Advanced Goals

These couple of options will likely cover the vast majority of readers. But we’re building Hardcover for serious readers. The readers we’ve talked to want to do more than just read a lot of books: they want to read books outside of their comfort zone, discover new voices and genres, and even be reminded to challenge themselves.

I decided to have a little fun and create the system I always wanted. Something that will allow setting much more in depth goals based on exactly what I’m trying to read more of. Here’s a sneak peak:

There’s a lot to unpack here. Initially I shared this screen in the Hardcover Discord and people were very rightly overwhelmed. Having the “basic goal” setup to fixed that. But for people who want the full kitchen sink they can jump in and create a goal that’s just right for them.

Some of these drop downs are doing a lot of work. For example: the “From” option allows for choosing books from a list you’ve created (Summer Reading List?) or multiple genres.

The “Written By” option allows for filtering characteristics of the authors. This would have been helpful for me back in 2018 when I realized fewer than 10% of the books I read were by women (that was up to 30% in 2019 after I realized, which is a good start but there’s more room to go).

We’re still working on the wording and options in these fields. All of these would allow selecting multiple – multiple genres, multiple races/ethnicities and multiple sexualities.

There’s a lot to it, but we’re really excited to see how people use this!

Here are some examples of goals that you could set on Hardcover:

  • Read 12 books in 2021.
  • Read 10,000 pages in 2021.
  • Read 50 books on “NPR’s Top 50 Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Last Decade” by the end of 2022.
  • Read or listen to 25 books written by women in 2021.
  • Read or listen to 10 poems written by black authors in 2021.
  • Read 100 graphic novels by the end of 2022.
  • Listen to 10 books by LGBTQI+ authors in 2021.

While there’s an option to create multiple goals, we don’t think most people should need to create more than 2-5 at most. After that it can get a little stressful. Just remember: your time is limited, so setting a clear goal is better than setting 10 goals you’re not working towards.

That’s our biggest concern with this goal system: that it’ll distract people from finishing 1 goal and instead spread attention across multiple.

For now, we’ll trust the users and research we’ve done and iterate accordingly!

← More from the blog

Want to Read More?

Sign up to be notified of new articles, and be the first to join Hardcover when we launch.

We'll email you so you can snag your username on Hardcover before anyone else.