08 February 2013

Bookish: It's a start-ish.

Due to a series of unfortunate events I barely blinked when Bookish launched this week. The site's three publisher parents (Hachette, Penguin and Simon & Schuster) hope that it will become your new go-to for reviews and recommendations. At some point the site will also have its own app where you can buy e-books (as I'm checking on Friday afternoon, not yet though).

Here are the main challenges Bookish faces as I see it:
  • As a social-media space for book lovers, it is already running behind Goodreads and LibraryThing as gathering places for the literary like-minded. (Oh, remember Shelfari? Good times.)
  • Unlike the aforementioned three sites, you can't "friend" anyone on it, so its social dimensions are limited.
  • Because it's run by 3 publishers, one might suspect -- without any evidence in this case -- that negative reviews will be somehow demoted and positive reviews will be raised...
  • ...That is, where there are any reviews to begin with, and there aren't many on the site right now.
The idea that Bookish will tread the line between organic and paid content doesn't bother me as much (though you have to dig for its parentage) as the lack of interaction, especially that which popped out at me as I tested the recommendation engine. 251,000 titles and counting? Sign me up! I input the first book that popped into my head -- THE BELL JAR (probably because of that atrocious cover design that has been all over the blogosphere) -- and this is what came out:

I would not call this an optimal result. In tone and subject the closest of these is PROZAC NATION, but to read the latter after the former would be to see how much it imitates. As to the suggestion of VERONIKA DECIDES TO DIE, dark joke or accident?

Goodreads' first four results for THE BELL JAR in its "Readers also enjoyed similar books" section are Donald Kagan's THE ARCHIDAMIAN WAR, the complete poems of Anne Sexton, Charlotte Perkins Gilman's THE YELLOW WALLPAPER and THE PORTABLE DOROTHY PARKER. I'd give that a 75% hit rate.

Let's try another book I read more recently and liked a lot, Jami Attenberg's THE MIDDLESTEINS:

Just two suggestions? The easy get would have been FREEDOM since Franzen blurbed the book (you can kind of see it if you get really close to your screen). I've never heard of LOSING BATTLES and that looks like it has a lot of overlap, but what do the good people of suburban Illinois have to say to Cormac McCarthy?

I haven't signed in to Bookish yet; I want to see if they offer more features I would like and I struggle to keep up with Goodreads already. Have you tried it? Is it worth diving into?


jess s said...

I just started the sign-up process for bookish.

Number of books you read per year
0 - 5
6 - 10
11 - 15

really? is that who this website is for?

Ellen said...

That would explain some things...