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Tech Talk

Goodreads is keeping bookmarks busy


If social media is good for one thing, it’s recommendations. If you were to pull out your phone right now and ask your Facebook friends what to watch on Netflix tonight, you will get a slew of ideas. The problem with this method of soliciting guidance is that it’s a firehose. The inundation of possibilities you’ll receive will likely overwhelm you, and it’s just as likely that none will fit your taste. Thankfully for films there is a massive, longstanding Internet system (and in Cityview!) in place of critics and websites that give qualified suggestions tailored to your taste. tech goodreads

But films are easy to consume, and even the terrible ones only cost you a couple hours. Books, on the other hand, take a great deal of dedication to see all the way through. Pick up a book that’s terrible and you’ll throw it out. A boring book? You’ll probably drop it in a few hours. The world is full of mediocre books that everyone seems to recommend. Thankfully there are digital tools that try to separate the wheat from chaff.

Decades ago, The New York Review of Books cornered the market on discovering quality reading material. However, in the digital world it plays second fiddle to Goodreads. Started in 2006, Goodreads combines the best of the social media monster with the highbrow literary review world. With a database of more than 10 million titles, Goodreads offers users books, reviews and annotations, but it also generates recommendations based on the user’s Facebook profile.

Since its inception, Goodreads has exploded. In 2013, the site jumped to more than 30 million users reviewing and recommending titles. Taking notice was Amazon, the largest retailer of books and ebooks, which quickly acquired the site and folded in Amazon purchasing power to the site’s capabilities. That means Goodreads users can now find books that fit their tastes, get suggestions from reading friends, share what they’re reading and purchase their next book directly from the site.

Now, for some, Goodreads might sound like a repackaged Facebook where friends are kept in the recommendation loop. For those who want to completely separate their social network from their potential reading, a better service might be The Fussy Librarian. Besides invoking the nolstagic idea of an old school bookworm in its name, The Fussy Librarian will go one step beyond services like Goodreads and match content with readers. Whereas Goodreads uses algorithms and your peer group to make recommendations, The Fussy Librarian breaks suggestions down based on genre, content, tone and family-friendly material. These suggestions then come on a daily basis.

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While not yet 30 million users strong, The Fussy Librarian has 100,000 avid subscribers. Readers receive occasional emails, and The Fussy Librarian prides itself on delivering only the books worthy of recommending. While all books can be considered, to keep standards high, The Fussy Librarian requires 10 reviews and a 4-star rating on Amazon or Barnes and Noble and an accessibility caveat of a price of $5.99 or less.

Of course, as many readers know, books from quality writers can be hotly anticipated. The Fussy Librarian will include these in recommendations if authors have a previous work with more than 50 e-reviews and a 4-star average rating. The best part of subscribing to the Fussy Librarian is all it costs is submitting your email (i.e., it’s free).

So the next time a friend tells you to read the latest tween vampire craze, feel free to glaze over. Services like Goodreads and The Fussy Librarian will make sure those kinds of titles stay off your bookshelf. CV


Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. Follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb.

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