Top Ten Book Recommendation Platforms

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Learn more about how to best market and sell ebooks and what are the best publishing services to use at the upcoming Digital Book World Marketing + Publishing Services Conference + Expo.

shutterstock_94325839No one can deny the convenience of ebooks. A quick search, a few clicks to buy, then it’s on your e-reader. But that model only works if you know exactly what you want. I, like many readers, quite often don’t.

I find it very hard to browse online — if I knew what book I wanted, then Amazon was the place to go, but what could I do if all I knew was that I wanted another book? And this happens often; I read genre fiction almost exclusively, mainly romances, and I read them fast: somewhere between 300 and 400 a year, if I could afford it, and if I could find that many novels I want to read.

The solution could come in the form of the book recommendation websites — websites devoted to finding me the perfect book based on my interests. But, as with everything on the internet, it can feel like there is an overwhelming amount of them. So, let us assume I just finished one of my favorite regency romances. I would like to find a new book in a similar style. How can I find my next book?

To answer this question, I examined a number of book discovery platforms, rating them on a scale of one-to-five for my needs, one being workable at best and five being exactly what I want. The top ten are given with commentary in alphabetical order; those I did not like as much I simply rated.

(A caveat: many of these platforms have functionality other than recommending books, such as social networking. I am rating these based solely on the functionality, breadth, and usability of their book recommendation functions. Anything else was not be factored in.)

 

amazon.com_shop_all_departmentsAmazon.com: 4
I can search for the book I just completed and look at the “Customers who bought this item also bought,” but these novels tend to be by the same author, or other very big name authors. The covers are also very small, and for romances especially, covers are what draw the reader. When one finds a book that looks interesting, however, the convenience cannot be beat: editorial reviews, customer reviews, sampling, easy to purchase – if you’re on the Amazon platform. If I just want to browse, I can search by genre and then subgenre, and view dozens of covers, but this function is clearly not meant for idle browsing.
Check it out: Amazon.com

 

book-bub-homepageBook Bub: 2
Book Bub sends daily emails with deals on books in the genres you specify. This is great for accumulating free books, but each email only contains a few books, so you have to go through a backlog to find one that interests you, and by then the deal might be over.
Check it out: Book Bub

 

barnes-noble-logoBarnesandNoble.com: 3
Barnes and Noble is very similar to Amazon in form and function, with many of the same advantages and disadvantages. There are fewer “Customers who also bought…” books suggested, though the authors given are more varied. The book sample is less appealing. There are fewer subgenres available for browsing, but more books per page. Again, easy to buy but you have to be on the Nook platform.
Check it out: BarnesandNoble.com

 

Bookish_HomePage-1Bookish: 4
Bookish is one of the most attractive of the platforms. It allows for browsing through genre and subgenre with large covers and a summary in the mouse-over, or you can get recommendations by entering one-to-three books you like, which gives both big and small authors. There are also lists, sometimes by famous authors or people in publishing. The book page has a summary, reviews, and quotes. You can only buy through Bookish itself, for paperbacks, which might make the price sub-optimal sometimes; ebooks link to the store of your choice, though you’d then have to search for the title. The main downside is that there aren’t as many books on it: only twenty or so per subgenre.
Check it out: Bookish

 

Goodreads is now owned by Amazon. Logo treatment by Todd Goldstein.

Goodreads is now owned by Amazon. Logo treatment by Todd Goldstein.

Goodreads: 4
When it comes to Goodreads, the main advantage for most users is recommendations from friends but that only works if you have friends with reading tastes you like, which, for me, is a very small subset of people. Still, I can look at recommendations based on books I’ve already marked as read, sorted by genre, though I sometimes don’t agree with their genre divisions. Mousing-over one of the covers gives the first few lines of a summary, which is convenient. The book page gives a summary and customer reviews, but you have to go to a different website to get a sample or to buy. There are also lists of books, compiled by user votes, but finding the right list, then keeping track of it, seems work intensive.
Check it out: Goodreads

 

imageJellybooks: 3
With more or less continuous scrolling through a layout of large-sized covers arranged by genre, Jellybooks possibly simulates the bookstore experience the best. Clicking on a book gives a summary, a sample (with login), a link to buy through a variety of sites, the opportunity to share a sample with friends or on a social media site, and the request for a deal. There are no specific recommendations, and not all books are on it — the only romances, for instance, are those published by Harlequin.
Check it out: Jellybooks

 

riffleRiffle: 3
Smaller than Goodreads, Riffle is good for browsing in that it shows an attractive sheet of covers that you might like based on friends’ (mainly connected through Facebook) recommendations. You can also use lists to find books, but it’s even harder to find the right list here. The book page gives a summary and the likes or recommendations from friends, but no other information. And there’s no easy way to buy — you’d have to go to the retail website on your own.
Check it out: Riffle

 

sony-logoSony Reader Store: 3
Sony Reader Store has the same basic principle as the other stores: browsing by genre, reviews, and buying through the store. The store has a “You Might Also Like” section, but it’s often just the same author — when it isn’t, however, it has lesser-known authors. It is easier to find self-published books here: The first option on the Historical Romance page is a Smashwords book. Its browse function isn’t the most user-friendly, however, with the small covers and only ten books per page.
Check it out: Sony Reader Store

 

what should i read nextWhat Should I Read Next: 4
What Should I Read Next is unique in that you don’t need an account to sign in. You just type in a book you like, and it gives you a list of similar books. There are links to the Amazon page for each book. If you do get an account, you can make lists of books you’ve read for the site to base recommendations off of. No browsing, but for what it is it’s ideal: streamlined, easy, and accurate.
Check it out: What Should I Read Next

 

which bookWhich Book: 3
The fun thing about Which Book is that you browse not based on genre but emotion — you can set sliders on scales like “Happy-sad,” “Predictable-Non-Predictable” and “Short-Long.” That’s cool, but there’s no way to sort by genre — in fact, the platform does not include any genre fiction. The book page gives an extract, reviews, and parallels, as well as a link to Amazon. If it included more novels, this would be a great way to find books, but as it is, it’s not of much use to me.
Check it out: Which Book

 

Honorary Mentions:

Book Scout: 1
BookLikes: 1
BookShout!: 2
BookSlice: 1
Bookvibe: 2
Gnooks: 1
Library Thing: 1
Next Read: 2
Shelfari: 2
The Reading Room: 1
Your Next Read: 2

In the end, Bookish is the site I would continue using. The combination of attractive interface, browsing, and recommendations sold me on it, though its lack of breadth is a serious drawback for any recommendation site. There also doesn’t seem to be many self-published books on it, not nearly as many as are on Amazon or Sony, and in today’s book world, that’s a problem. It’s the self-published books that tend to fall through the cracks, both on the big bookselling websites and in print bookstores.

I also really like the unconventional sorting method of Which Book; by using that for recommendations, I feel more likely to get something a little out of my comfort zone, but also what I’m in the mood for. If that could be combined with the more usual recommendation methods, so I could do either, that would be ideal.

All of these ratings, of course, are based on my own preferences. I liked Bookish best, but I can see that for readers who prioritize convenience, Amazon might be better, or Goodreads for those who like lists or more generalized recommendations or reading what their friends are reading. I gave no fives because none of the sites had everything I looked for; even my favorites had basic things that could be improved on.

None of these websites have quite the same feel as going to a bookstore. That’s not necessarily a bad thing: The computer recommendations make the sheer amount of books out there more manageable, and there’s no reason not to use “Also Bought” capabilities when they are available, as they are often accurate. But until a website can give me the serendipity of walking past a display and happening upon my next favorite book, I’ll still stop by a bookstore occasionally as well.

(If there are any recommendation sites you liked that I missed, leave it in the comments and I’ll check them out!)

Learn more about how to best market and sell ebooks and what are the best publishing services to use at the upcoming Digital Book World Marketing + Publishing Services Conference + Expo.

 

Isabel Farhi

About Isabel Farhi

Isabel Farhi is a recent Yale graduate interested in becoming an editor or an agent and has previously worked at Penguin and SheWrites.com. Follow her on Twitter at @IzzyFarhi.

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8 thoughts on “Top Ten Book Recommendation Platforms

  1. I recently learned about a site called Bublish at bublish.com . I like the idea of seeing the book, being able to read more than the 10 pages or so Amazon gives you, and the look and feel is fun. I’m planning to load my books there, but as they are new I’m not sure if they have a good following yet. Has anyone else tried it?

  2. Readers don’t need to be registered with Jellybooks to sample books. We dropped that requirement about a year ago.

    Registration is needed though to use the “Send to Kindle” feature and once activated all books samples are sent automatically to the readers Kindle account.

    There are romance publishers other than Harlequin represented, but they get a bit drowned out at the moment given the number of titles Harlequin publishes.

    Currently emphasis is on making samples available early, I.e. per-publication date.

    Self published authors can join from next month, if they have invite which is available through VIP.jellybooks.com

  3. Hey! But just for this little problem there is my own online bookstore!
    I am a bookseller, and I decided to sell ebooks directly on Facebook too. ; )
    facebook.com / langolodellebuoneletture

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  7. Not a new site, Foreword Reviews has been reviewing books from indie publishers since 1998. You will find thousands of great books, mostly by little known or unknown authors in all genres. Well-written, honest and objective 400-500 word reviews written by professionals writers that have appeared in the Foreword Reviews print magazine over the years or on the forewordreviews.com website. Great recommendations!

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