A competitor has arisen from the dusty corners of cyberspace to challenge the hegemony of Goodreads and Amazon.com. In the news this week is the launch of “Bookish,” the new website for bibliophiles.
One of Bookish’s selling points is its claim to produce better recommendations for readers. Whereas Goodreads and Amazon focus on the opinions of readers to create auto-generated metadata reviews, Bookish relies on the expertise of its specialized editorial staff and partnerships with book publishers to provide recommendations, much like one might turn to an experienced bookseller for advice. With considerable ease, you can enter the title of a book you have read recently and Bookish will generate suggestions based on information such as shared themes and topics.
To measure this new recommendation engine, I did some beta testing of my own. Here are my preliminary findings:
I started by entering one title at a time.
Enter: Harry Potter
Suggests: Twilight, The Mortal Instruments, The Scorpio Races, and Eragon
Enter: Gone Girl
Suggests: The Sea of Tranquility, Wild, The Beginner’s Goodbye, and The Cove
Suggests: Defiance, Truth, Unraveling, and Under the Never Sky
Enter: Paris, My Sweet
Suggests: Bitter Almonds, Immovable Feast, The Saucier’s Apprentice, and The Sweet Life in Paris
While I was horrified to see Twilight suggested for lovers of Harry Potter (seriously?!), the other recommendations appeared sound.
Then, I tried entering multiple books at a time (you can input up to four titles).
Enter: 1Q84, Gone Girl, The Light Between Oceans, and Anne of Green Gables
Suggests: The Forgotten Garden, The House at Riverton, The Sea of Tranquility, and The Guernsey Potato Peel Pie and Literary Society
Enter: The Heir, When Beauty Tamed the Beast, Heartless, and Must Be Magic
Suggests: The Seduction of Lady X, The Revenge of Lord Eberlin, A Secret Affair, and Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake
Overall, the multi-book recommendation engine produced satisfactory results. You can enter books of similar or disparate genres together (for example, a YA fantasy novel and a nonfiction history book), a feature which allows for more accurate results.
In addition to providing recommendations, Bookish.com regularly posts articles and reviews segregated by subject. Browsable options range from children’s, memoir/biography, and mystery/thriller to romance, sci-fi/fantasy, and YA/teen.
The first swath of articles on Bookish.com appear au currant and in-line with what one might find in the books section of a newspaper or high-quality book blog.
Under romance, A Peek Under the Kilt: What Makes Scotland So Sexy? searches for answers to the enduring popularity of “the Highlander” as a cult hero in romance novels.
Mystery/Thriller opens with a brief video interview, in which author Carol Higgins Clark questions her mother and fellow author Mary Higgins Clark about some of her favorite books and inspirations.
In YA, author Melissa Walker names some books which, like hers, revolve around “BFF Breakups.”
While these subject-specific article feeds seem like they will make content more accessible for readers, I was disappointed that historical fiction was left out of Bookish.com as its own distinct category.
Bookish.com is also a vehicle for selling books directly to readers, effectively cutting out middlemen like Amazon.com and bookstores. With sales, price cutting, and reviews, Bookish.com subsumes all of the functions Amazon provides readers. At the same time, you still have the option to buy books from other vendors, be they bookstores or Amazon. You can also “add books to your shelf” to read later, like in Goodreads.
Reviews on Bookish.com are further segregated into categories: everyone, readers, and critics. Other books by the same author, recommendations based on a given book, reviews, and news are all streamlined and made easily accessible on one page, effectively providing more information for prospective readers/book buyers than Amazon or Goodreads.
Even all of the advertisements on Bookish.com are directly book related.
In sum, Bookish.com was built by book lovers, for book lovers–a modernly designed internet biblionirvana. It’s a show of force, togetherness, and innovative thinking on the part of many of the biggest players in traditional publishing today, including Hachette, Penguin, Simon and Schuster, Abrams, Harlequin, Macmillan, Kensington, Random House, Scholastic, Workman Publishing, W.W. Norton and Company, John Wiley and Sons, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Sourcebooks, among others.
While Bookish.com is “editorially independent,” strong ties link Bookish.com to its corporate sponsors/partners and many of its editors used to work for these very same book publishers. This will likely help it to secure content from big name authors and other book titans to keep readers involved, but may have repercussions for the cite’s impartiality. Only time will tell if readers will take to this new internet hub and the impact of such a venue on the industry as a whole.