Why You Shouldn’t Use Book Cover Images Straight from Goodreads

Why You Shouldn't Use Book Cover Images Straight from Goodreads

You’re about to start formatting a book review post on your blog and you need an image of the book’s cover. You hop on over to Goodreads, find the image, get the link, and add the image to your blog using that link. Today I’m going to talk about why you shouldn’t do this.

Using images straight from Goodreads (or another site) is stealing.

Using the image itself is fine, just don’t use the image URL from Goodreads. Upload the image to your own hosting and use it there!

Any time you add an image to your blog that is not hosted on your blog or an image uploading site (like Photobucket), you are stealing bandwidth. If you’re on WordPress, you’ve bought hosting. If you’ve bought hosting, you may have seen your site say “You get this much bandwidth per month”. (Note: Even if your hosting says “unlimited bandwidth”, it doesn’t actually mean that. Unlimited bandwidth is a marketing trick/lie.) Using images from someone else’s site increases the amount of bandwidth they use and can cause them to have to pay more money to pay off additional bandwidth usage charges.

So what is bandwidth?

Bandwidth is basically how much data you can transfer from your site. Every time someone visits your site, a bit of data is transferred. So, in a sense, the amount of bandwidth you use correlates to how many people visit your site. The more people who visit, the more bandwidth you use.

How does this relate to Goodreads?

Whenever you use an image from someone else’s site on your blog, you are using their bandwidth. Since that image is hosted on their servers, their servers have to transfer data whenever someone visits YOUR site. Now, that’s not fair, is it? You’re piggybacking on someone else’s web hosting to put things on your website!

What should you do instead?

Now, I’m not even going to get into copyright laws and things like that, since I’m mostly focusing on Goodreads.com and book covers, and using those in book reviews falls under “fair use”. But the point I’m making is that when you write up a blog post and want to use a book cover image, do not link the image from Goodreads.com! It’s not fair to them and their servers. In fact, this might even contribute to why they go offline so often (even if just a small, itsy bitsy amount). Stealing bandwidth (or image hotlinking) is considered very rude and even a bit malicious in the online world.

Instead, when you want to use an image, save it to your computer and then upload it to your own blog (or your Photobucket account). That way, when you put it on your blog, you’re hosting it on your own space instead of stealing it from Goodreads.

And it’s not just Goodreads..

This doesn’t only apply to Goodreads.com. This applies to EVERY website. If you have images on your blog that are hosted somewhere else, you’re using someone else’s bandwidth. Assuming you have permission to use that image, you should upload it to your own blog so that it’s hosted by you instead of by the other person. That way you’re using your own resources and your own site’s power to display that image.

Other dangers of hotlinking images

There are other risks involved when you decide to use an image hosted on someone else’s server. Let’s say Goodreads closed down one day.. guess what.. every single book cover image on your blog would BREAK. It would no longer exist. If Goodreads doesn’t exist, those images don’t exist. Hosting everything on your own space ensures that you can always have access to those files.

Be considerate and upload your own images!
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I'm a 30 year old California girl living in England (I fell in love with a Brit!). My three great passions are: books, coding, and fitness. more »

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    1. I’ve never used Picasa myself, but it’s a perfectly acceptable way of saving images!

  1. hotlinking is baaaaaaaaaaaaad. LOL. Have to admit when I first saw the title on the feed I thought you were saying “don’t use the book covers from goodreads at all” for some reason. As in, don’t even right click and save. πŸ˜€ Was a bit confused there. πŸ˜€

    Jaki recently posted: Wheeeeeeeee!!
    1. Haha sorry for the confusion! As long as you save them yourself, using images from Goodreads is just fine!

  2. I’m glad you explained that because, for those of us new to blogging, we use the pics NOT out of ‘rudeness’ or ‘maliciousness’ but simply out of ignorance. And I’m sure I speak for others when I say that I don’t want to be unfairly labeled for something that I wasn’t aware of. Thanks for the article/editorial.

    1. Yeah I know a lot of bloggers who do it and I know they don’t mean anything bad by it! Hopefully this post will be a little enlightening. πŸ™‚

      1. It did help immensely! I’ve been saving pics to the desktop then uploading all week. I enjoy the articles you write, especially WordPress specific:)

  3. Thanks for explaining all of that. I didn’t know what bandwidth meant or had any idea that using an image link was stealing. I thought you were saying don’t use GR at all for cover pics! hahaha

    Nette recently posted: Coffee Shop Talks #1
  4. Okay I’m guilty of this 😑 I used to upload the images onto Tinypic but then it started being a hassle so I just linked directly from Goodreads but now you’ve officially guilt-tripped me into uploading everything from my computer haha. Though I do hate saving covers, I try to avoid doing so as much as I can unless I can’t even find a good cover from Goodreads.

    Charlotte @ Gypsy Reviews recently posted: Review: Reboot by Amy Tintera (#44)
    1. Yeah I know it’s a bit of a pain in the ass, but I think it’s good to be into the habit! In general I just hate the idea of using content from anywhere else. I don’t like other sites affecting my site’s performance. Like if Goodreads was randomly offline for a few days then all the book cover images on your site would break.. and I know THAT would drive me nuts!

  5. Wow.. I’m blogging for over a year now and I never knew about this. Thank you so much for sharing this. I will make sure that I upload the covers on my own uploading site from now on!

  6. For this alone I’m glad I subscribed to your blog! This isn’t something I’d even considered, but I absolutely will now. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

    Krista recently posted: Reading Downstream
    1. Just out of curiosity, why do you upload to Photobucket instead of WordPress?

      1. Two reasons: Because I’m weird, and I think it uses up so much of my bandwidth. I’m trying to avoid having to upgrade hosting LOL And because I don’t want people to hotlink from my wordpress site. Do you think it makes my site slower? I use wordpress for my featured images and stuff like that.

  7. Hmm. But wouldn’t goodreads appreciate the traffic? Wouldn’t that make up for the bandwidth use? Plus, as a reader, I find it much more convenient to be able to click on the book cover and be taken to goodreads immediately to add it, rather than just be taken to an image file.

    Julia Rain recently posted: Results of the Winter Alliance Contest!
    1. But Goodreads doesn’t get any extra site traffic from hotlinking, at least not in the way that matters. One of the main things that helps keep a site like Goodreads alive is adverts. The more people who visit their site, the more pageviews they get, and the more money they get for their adverts. BUT, if you’re just using their image, they’re not getting a direct pageview. No direct pageview, no money for their adverts. So when you only use their image, they get no benefit, but they have to pay extra money in order to display that advert (bandwidth costs).

      I know it’s more convenient to just use the image from Goodread, but there are a lot of things that shouldn’t be done even though they’re more convenient. πŸ˜‰

  8. Great post, thanks! I have a question…sometimes I use the “blog this review feature” on Goodreads. Instead of having to format the whole post myself, GR gives me a nifty HTML code with everything provided (cover, rating, links etc.) Is it still hotlinking? (I’m stupid when it comes to techy stuff)

    1. It is still hotlinking, but if it’s code that Goodreads gives you (like that or the widgets), then they intended it to be used in that way, so it’s fine. I also think the code they spit out is loaded with Goodreads links (to the book, author, and maybe more), which encourages people to visit Goodreads (which is something that they want).

      Now, personally I still wouldn’t do it. I’m one of those people that doesn’t like to rely on third party websites in order for my blog to work, because websites are known to fail/go offline/shutdown. And I don’t want things on my blog to break because another website is offline (permanently or temporarily). So that’s one of the reasons why I host everything I can on my own blog.

      But ultimately, it’s up to you.

  9. You ARE so smart and I am confused.
    I do use Goodreads images, but then Blogger uploads them and I assume I’m using my 1GB Blogger photo allowance. I use Photobucket if I’m doing lots of book covers in rows. If I look at the HTML version of my posts, my image URLs are either blogspot or Photobucket. Is that okay?

    Jen @ YA Romantics recently posted: Best Books Ever Blog Hop
    1. Yep that’s perfectly fine! You can use images from Goodreads as long as you don’t use the Goodreads URL for the image when you post it on your blog. So as long as you upload the image somewhere else and the URL points to Blogspot, Photobucket, or your WordPress blog, you’re good to go! You just don’t want the URL to be from goodreads.com!

  10. I’m so glad I read this before I started reviewing any books! I’m technically not a book blogger – I have a site where I share pastries and confections I make at home, but am planning to review the ocassional food-related book as I finish it. I was pretty iffy on linking straight to a Goodreads image but was unsure what to do in place of it. I didn’t even think at the time to just upload the image to my own blog and use it from there. Silly me. πŸ™‚ I think I was just too excited about the prospect of reviewing a book, and trying to gather up what all I would need to do that.

  11. Ohhhhh this explains why some pictures are “broken”! Thank you so much for this post. I didn’t know anything about bandwidths etc. and I didn’t know getting images from Goodreads would affect them negatively. So is it bad to copy a picture cover from Goodreads then paste it on your website?

    Leigh @ Little Book Star

    Leigh @ Little Book Star recently posted: Beat the Heat Read-A-Thon
    1. You can save the image to your computer then re-upload it somewhere (to your blog directly or to your own Photobucket/etc. account), then use that image on your blog! So the URL is from your site rather than Goodreads.

    1. It’s perfectly fine if you save the image to your computer then re-upload it somewhere like directly to your blog or to your own Photobucket/etc. account. Then when you put it on your blog, it uses your URL rather than Goodreads. That’s totally okay!

  12. Ashley, please don’t whip me. OMG! Almost all my images are hotlinked not because I am intending to use another’s site bandwidth but because I don’t know this and I like uploading just the URL because I am way too lazy.

    I am cringing right now. Waaa. I have to edit all my posts and upload all images to my site.

    I am just so glad to have read this.

    1. I won’t whip you! πŸ˜€ But there are a lot of benefits to uploading your own images. As an example, then you don’t have to worry about them breaking. Like if Goodreads lost all their images, all the book covers on your site would break! But if you host them on your own site, you have all of that content forever.

      1. *facepalm me* I just realized that after I read this article, Ashley. I only comforted myself with the fact that this was posted on May 6, 2013. During that time, I haven’t yet discovered this blog or the whole book blogging world as I was pretty much anti-social and was contented on just interacting with myself.

        I’m lucky to have snooped around and stumbled upon this post. Anyway, I’ve fixed it all now. And sad to say, I have to forgo all the deviantart images because there’s so many of them. Haha.

        Thanks again, Ashley!

  13. Oh my Lord….I do this. I didn’t even know this was a no-no. I feel so terrible. I’m so glad I read this! Thanks so much Ash!

  14. I want to clear up a few misconceptions in this post. Hotlinking (the term for linking to images not on your server) doesn’t have anything to do with why GoodReads goes down occasionally. They have millions of users hitting their database every day, and linking to their images (which are served through a distribution network, NOT GoodReads itself) has zero impact on their performance. Furthermore GR is owned by Amazon, and they are certainly taking advantage of their impressive web infrastructure.

    Hotlinking isn’t evil, but a useful tool when correctly done. For instance, it keeps your storage low on shared, inexpensive hosting and can speed up your site. In fact you can legally link to book cover images from a site like Open Library. They actually encourage you to do so. Check out https://openlibrary.org/dev/docs/api/covers to find out how to display covers on your site.

  15. I learn something new every day. Wow. I had no idea that this was a bad thing, I just get stressed that book covers are going to eat up my image library quickly. I’ll look into Photobucket!

  16. Most of the time I copy the image to my own computer and then upload it to the blog, but there were a few that I was using the link instead. I have now changed that after reading this post. I had no idea that it was using the other person’s bandwidth.

    Currently I have tons of space for pics so it isn’t an issue (yet) but I have had a photobucket account for years and rarely use it. I must store some pics there. Never crossed my mind until I read this. I’m sure that’s why I got the account in the first place was to host pics for my “forum posting” days. Man, that seems like eons ago.

    Seriously, I learn at least one new thing daily from these posts Ashley!

  17. Thanks for this article, because I’ve been using links and never really known how or why it was wrong. Do you know if it’s still acceptable to upload your book covers to Photobucket and then link from your own account there please? The PB website has changed a lot since the old days (!) when I used to have an account and now it seems more geared towards people who want to buy prints of their own photos, which isn’t really what I would be using an account there for. Any advice would be greatly appreciated πŸ˜€

      1. Thanks for the quick reply πŸ™‚ I wanted to make sure as in their terms it says something about not uploading content you haven’t created (or something similar)

  18. this is really very helpful..I’m not a techy person and I hardly know much about these things. great post!

  19. Thanks for explaining this but I’m still a little confused. Sometimes, I post my book review on Goodreads and then it says ‘Put this review on your blog’. So I copy and paste the code given onto my blog and the image is there. Is that bad?

    1. If you’re using official code given to you by Goodreads then it’s not bad from an ethics standpoint. But I personally still wouldn’t do it. I think it’s better to upload everything to your own site. That way, if Goodreads deletes or changes the image for some reason, it won’t suddenly break on your site.

  20. Good post!! I was wondering if I took pictures of books could I use them on my blog that is monetized? I’m now extremely paranoid about using the wrong images and getting in trouble.

    1. As long as the images are being used for a book review and you’re not selling the images themselves, then it should be fine. For example, if you use book covers with a review but then have ads on your site to monetize, then that should be okay.

  21. And here I was with the question: how the heck are people getting promotional images on their blogs? Obviously, not much will come from publishers and the like when they’re just starting out like I am. So, how do they do it?

    Well, you gave me the answer and I’m super excited to finally be able to use book covers on in my reviews. Now, to leverage my existing GoodReads to drive traffic to my blog. It almost makes me wish I had just stuck to blogging about writing Speculative Fiction, but I love books too much! And writing Horror, Science Fiction, Fantasy etc. does go along with reviewing books in that genre after all. I just have to suck it up and get to work.

  22. This is a a good basic principle on any occasion, not just with Goodreads. One should always upload images to one’s own server. In addition to stealing, and the remote possibility that Goodreads will shut down some day, there is a much more remote possibility that Goodreads (or any other site) will do a complete redesign at some point, and the image URL structure will change. Voila! Broken links and missing pictures on your blog.

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