Google Experiments and Fails with Book Discovery

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

google, google play, ebooks, data, amazon, kindle, apple, ibooksEven though you probably never stray from Amazon’s Kindle reader app, I’d like to encourage you to expand your horizons. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on Apple iBooks and Google Play, for example, to explore other platforms and keep Amazon honest. After all, Amazon’s need to innovate diminishes if ebook platform competition dries up.

When Google recently announced plans to add a “Discover” feature to its ebook reader app, I was curious to learn more. Google is the king of search, so I was hoping they could use their brawn and data to create a major breakthrough on the book discovery front.

I assumed Google would look at my Play ebook library and base some assumptions on what I’ve bought and read over the years. I figured they’d let me recalibrate their assumptions to better suit my interests. (For example, they know I like hockey books, but my Google purchases haven’t focused on my favorite team, the Pittsburgh Penguins.) Lastly, since Google monitors my Gmail inbox and search requests, I also assumed they’d use that info to fine-tune their book recommendations in their new Discover service.

My hopes were dashed and my assumptions were proven wrong when I saw the results. Google Discover is nothing more than a dumping ground of all things books. Google apparently assumes that if you read books, you’re interested in everything about books; that’s like assuming a 70s rock enthusiast is interested in all types of music including disco, jazz, classical and rap.

How could Google get it so wrong? Why did they simply mail it in, and why did they even bother? I’ve got to believe usage of Google Discover is pathetically low. If so, I hope the poor performance doesn’t discourage Google from going back and doing it right the next time.

Google needs to leverage all that data they have about us—more than Amazon has, by the way— and go back to the drawing board and come up with a Discover 2.0 service that really works and is deeply engaging.


This article first appeared on Joe Wikert’s Digital Content Strategies.


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2 thoughts on “Google Experiments and Fails with Book Discovery

  1. Danny Knestaut

    I completely agree. Google Play Books is my preferred eBook platform, so Google should be able to not only ply my searches and inbox, but to also see which books I didn’t finish, and which books I read quickly in a page-turner style. None of that appears to be in their new discovery feature. Furthermore, it recommends books to me from authors with books I’ve rated one star on Google Play Books. It really feels more like a dumb ad platform rather than a recommendation engine. I’d like something better, and given how much better Google Now had gotten recently, I’d like to think they could do it.

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