Don’t Like Amazon’s Book Recommendations? Check Out These 2 Services

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So you know how Amazon has “Recommendations for you” plus the “Customers who bought this also bought…” suggestions? Two companies think they can do a better job of coming up with suggested reading material.

Goodreads

Goodreads is a simple, free service that lets you track what you’re reading, plus see what your friends are reading. The company has been around for a long time, but earlier this year, they acquired a company that “built a very sophisticated book recommendation system.” They just finished integrating it into Goodreads and it just launched yesterday.

In your Goodreads account, there is now a Recommendations tab at the top of the screen. When you click on it, you’re shown recommended books in categories that interest you. Here’s an example of what it looks like:

Goodreads recommendations

How does the recommendation engine work, and how is it different from Amazon’s recommendations? Well, according to Goodreads,

“It maps out the connections between books by looking at how often they appear on the same bookshelves [user-created lists of books] and whether they were enjoyed by the same people. On average, Goodreads members have 140 books on their shelves. With this information, the engine learns how your tastes are similar to or different from the tastes of other Goodreads members. “

In other words, it sees what you’re reading and rating, sees what people who have similar tastes to you are reading and rating, and then makes its recommendations. It’s sort of automatic crowdsourcing. Amazon, meanwhile, bases its recommendations on what you’ve looked at, what you’ve purchased, and what other people have purchased. The recommendation algorithm (click here if you want to read all about it) also to a certain extent takes into account what you’ve reviewed, but I personally never review things on Amazon.

So the Goodreads recommendation model is essentially like Netflix’s (your ratings and the ratings of people with similar interests), while Amazon recommends based off of people’s purchases.

I haven’t updated my Goodreads account in months and it never was very complete to begin with, so I can’t say how accurate its new recommendations are. I like the idea of a better book recommendation engine, though, so I’ll start using it more and will post up here in the future with my thoughts.

BookLikes

This is a brand new Polish company and uh, as far as I can tell, it’s trying to do pretty much the same thing as Goodreads, but without the massive amount of data that Goodreads has amassed through user ratings. In fact, I’m not sure what data or algorithm BookLikes uses to formulate its recommendations. Checking out the company’s About page only provides us with this:

BookLikes is dedicated for all people who love to read and discover new books. We know how hard it is to find a good book. BookLikes wants to help all book geeks to find just the perfect book match!

We want to spread the reading trend worldwide and change reading reality. With BookLikes reading is cool again!

Books do change people.Experience that with BookLikes.

Real helpful, guys. The startup was featured on TechCrunch a couple days ago, but I still don’t know what the point of differentiation is here. I just went through and used it a bit, but the recommendations seem general and the interface a bit… stale. Maybe there’s some secret sauce here that I’m just not seeing?

But hey, different strokes for different folks, right? Go check out their website, poke around a bit, and see if it tickles your fancy. I’d recommend starting with Goodreads, though.

  • Do either of these services appeal to you?
  • How do you find new books to read?
  • Do you ever buy books or other products based off of Amazon’s recommendations?