Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Why We Need Bookish

Book-ish by Sky Sloderbeck
Last night, a service two years in the making launched. The web site, Bookish, is the brainchild of three publishing powerhouses: Hachette Book Group, Penguin Group, and Simon & Schuster. That seems like a lot of big fish with hands in one little fish pie, so to help me remember who is backing this exciting start-up, I'm going to call this powerhouse Simon the hachette-wielding penguin.

The initial buzz on Twitter was positive:

I ran over to Bookish and played with it for a while, and sure enough, Simon the hachette-wielding penguin may have hit on a very good thing here. It's barely a day old, and there's already a great selection of books available, as well as some exclusives like a joint interview with crime fiction author Michael Connelly and suspense author Michael Koryta, an essay from Eat, Pray, Love's author Elizabeth Gilbert, and my favorite, a handful of book reviews courtesy of The Onion.

But what makes Bookish different from Amazon? Or Goodreads? A lot, actually. Amazon may have the lion's share of the market on book sales, but people value convenience, and if readers head to Bookish to look for recommendations, they may buy through Bookish since they're already there. Plus, Amazon isn't exactly known for making it easy (or fun) to find new books to read. Sure there are lists and "Viewed by Others," but those aren't tailored to your current reading style.

At Bookish, you can enter up to four books and get back recommendations on new books you could try. As the web site grows and more books are added, this part of the service will surely get better and more accurate.

And while Bookish may have shelves like Goodreads, the simplicity of those shelves suggests that they are meant as a place to keep track of books you've read so that you don't inadvertently purchase them again. Maybe (I'm hoping) Bookish will eventually use that data to deliver even better recommendations, in the same vein as Netflix: the more you read and rate, the better the recommendations are. But let's give that particular feature time. They are only a day old, after all.

So why do we need Bookish? Instead of thinking of it as a replacement for or competition against Amazon and Goodreads, it might be better to think of Simon the hachette-wielding penguin's digital baby as a tool to use alongside them. With a clean, fast interface, content-rich author pages, and author exclusives, Bookish is a nirvana for readers - a stripped down and beautiful way to find and enjoy books.


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