launches launches

Back in May of 2011, I wrote about

a site being launched by Hachette, Simon & Schuster, and Penguin, and AOL/Huffpo to provide readers with book discovery…possibly as a bid to provide an alternative to Amazon.

Well, it has now finally gone live.

I’d suggest that you check it out, and see what you feel about its  usefulness  to you.

So far, I’d say it looks good and seems to work well mechanically.

One big feature is the Recommendations search (which is still listed as being in beta…test mode).

You type in a book you love or one that you’ve recently read, and it makes recommendations based on that.

For example, when I put in The Transparent Society, it made at least one of the same recommendations Amazon has made to me based on it (Engines of Creation). That one makes sense: it is talking about the impact of nanotechnology, which is a theme of The Transparent Society. It also recommended two books by Vernor Vinge, another science fiction writer. It’s fourth recommendation was for a book on the Crimean War…I don’t quite see the connection.

Nicely, though, I could click a “more like this” link under any of them. Doing that under The Engine of Creation worked, giving me more of the same sorts of books.

The only real problem for me was that Engines of Creation is not available for the Kindle…which basically means I won’t buy it. Again, I think Amazon did the same thing.

At Bookish, though, I had already told it (you don’t have to create an account, but I did) that I read Kindle format books.

I also explored the site a bit.

Part of what is going to matter on this site is the editorial staff. The site will have its own material and flavor, and that’s going to help decide if people will want to take a trip away from Amazon to come here.

I will say that the brief bios seemed somewhat similar…I don’t think there was an editor over 50. I don’t hold that against them (there’s no reason, in my mind, that a twenty year old can’t like the books that a seventy year old does), but it indicated a possible homogeneity of hiring.

There were some clever articles. For example, there was one on

Standout Redheads in Sci-Fi and Fantasy

Neil Gaiman had a contribution as well…that’s all good, giving us a reason to visit.

Hm…digging into this more, I like the site more.

Clicking on a book let me to a lot of information on it, including reviews, which can (if you want) be separated into critics and readers.

You can buy books through Bookish…but it doesn’t look to me like I could buy them to read on a Kindle easily. It looks to me like they use EPUB as their format.

Update: a little more experimentation showed me that I could click the Buy link, and from there click another link to buy the book at Amazon, so that’s not an issue.

Well, this is it…battle lines are drawn. 😉

This list of partners:

  • Abrams
  • Hachette Book Group
  • Harlequin
  • HarperCollins Publishers
  • Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Inner Traditions
  • Independent Publisher Group
  • Kensington Publishing Corp.
  • Macmillan
  • New Harbinger Publications
  • Perseus Books Group
  • Penguin Group (USA)
  • Random House, Inc.
  • Scholastic
  • Simon & Schuster
  • Sourcebooks, Inc.
  • John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
  • Workman Publishing Company
  • W. W. Norton & Company

is directly challenging Amazon on sales to consumers.

I’m going to get back on my soapbox for a minute and say again that Amazon should get a lot more social. This site is using elements of Pandora, but also (the Movie Review Query Engine) and others that pull in both editorial and crowd sourced reviews. I recently recommended that Amazon set up something like BookAnd (where customers could set up their own “bookstores” to suggest titles to others). Bookish is much better executed than I thought it might be, but I do think people would rather continue to go directly to Amazon if they could get equivalent content.

Soapbox. Me. Stepping off now. 😉

Check out Bookish, and feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

12 Responses to “ launches”

  1. Harold Delk Says:

    “It’s fourth recommendation was for a book on the Crimean War…I don’t quite see the connection.”

    I see one connection: Florence Nightingale helped popularize the graphical presentation of statistical data. So sayeth the wiki.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Harold!

      Well, there really isn’t much graphical presentation of statistical data in The Transparent Society…it deals more with the impact on individuals.

  2. Ed Foster Says:

    Very interesting.
    I have been watching the terribly slow roll out of Zola books, for quite a while. They seem to be trying the same kind of a thing, with an emphasis on author access. I wonder though with them still having very limited functionality if Bookish hasn’t beaten them to the punch?

    I agree about Amazon missing a great opportunity by not increasing their social interaction. While I can see (every time I look at the customer discussions) the risks involved, the advantages could be immense.

    I played with the recommendations on Bookish a bit, and they are a lot better than the recommendations I am getting from Amazon at the moment. I put in three novels that I enjoyed very much, all of which have some similarities and the recommendations returned are mostly books that I would consider purchasing. It will be very interesting to see how this evolves as they include more books in the database.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Ed!

      Yep…the tradpubs (traditional publishers) are jumping into the pool with both feet. When we have a huge market disruption, that benefits the little guys for a while, because the big ones react more slowly. However, we are talking about companies that have been around for more than a century in some cases…so they’ve had to figure out how to survive and do well in some pretty big previous disruptions.

      I do expect Bookish will get better as more data becomes available…not just more books in the database, but I’m sure it will look at which books people click in the recommendations, and use that to improve the recommendations for later users.

  3. Edward Boyhan Says:

    “The Engines of Creation” is perhaps one of the most significant books of the latter part of the 20th century.

    It’s unfortunate that it’s not available on the kindle from Amazon….well I checked through Google, and a PDF version is available from what looks like the author’s web site:

    Best: it appears to be free — this PDF version is also available from numerous other web sites. PDF’s are nicely readable on KF’s

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      I’m only seeing an HTML presentation of it on the author’s website (rather than a downloadble pdf), and I’m hesitant to get a pdf from another source without being sure that it is not infringing.

      I hold your recommendation of it in high esteem, so I’ll probably investigate further. It could be that those pdfs are authorized, but I may have to contact the author to find out.

      • Edward Boyhan Says:

        Bufo, if you go to the link I provided (the author’s page), there is in fact an html version, but just below that on the page is a link to the “engines of creation 2.0”, which is all of the first version from 1986 plus some more recent papers and additions. This link will take you to:
        which has a download pdf button on it for the v2.0 book which is the version I looked at last night..

  4. becca Says:

    i may be in the minority, but social reading networks don’t interest me in the slightest.

    I went to the Bookish site, and tried to find other books like Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, and it couldn’t even find that book. bah.

  5. kmorandi Says:

    Went and checked it out, but their search is way frustrating. I couldn’t even find books I knew they had! And I never did figure out how to get recommendations. They’ll have to be a lot slicker than that to get me to even think about using them.

  6. Paging Dr. Page: your Amazon Author Central page Says:

    […] launches (three traditional publishers and others create their own answer to Amazon) […]

  7. Does Amazon need DRM? | I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] I wouldn’t see publisher B’s books. The publishers are trying to address that with Bookish, though, isn’t going to show me independently publisher books. It’s also not […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: