How can we find books we want to read?
May 20, 2012 | 5:42 pm
Publishing Perspectives has an article discussing various new tools for electronic research. Though this isn’t directly connected to e-books, in a separate discussion seed post editor in chief Edward Nawotka draws a parallel between the problems of researchers sifting through reams of data to find what they need and readers confronted by a million zillion $2.99-or-less self-published e-books to find something worth reading. Unfortunately, those research tools in that main article won’t help.
The internet and digital age promised us tools that would help us find the perfect books to read. But with the proliferation of titles, from traditional and indie publishers, digital and hardcover, priced from $19.99 to $0.99 — the market is becoming saturated. Few discovery tools have proven to be “one-stop” for book lovers seeking advice.
After thinking about it, I’ve come to the conclusion that there isn’t really any one comprehensive set of tools for finding every book you might want to read. I mean, consider Sturgeon’s Law: “99% of everything is crud.” Assume that you might only enjoy 1 out of every 100 books that are published. Heck, take it further and say that only 1 out of 1,000 books would truly appeal to you. Well, hundreds of thousands of books are traditionally published, and millions are self-published every year. Even if only one in 10,000 self-published books met your standards, there would still be hundreds more books that you would enjoy than you could ever possibly find the time to read.
So forget about a tool that will tell you every book you might possibly like to read. I think we should be satisfied if we can learn about any books we might enjoy reading. And there are tools for that out there. AlexLit, which found me many books I came to love, is alas somewhat slow and dated by now—when it’s even running, which it currently isn’t. Goodreads, which seems to employ the same sort of collaborative filtering recommendation system Alexlit did, looks like a good (if somewhat graphically crowded) modern alternative.
And then there are the recommendations we run across on the Internet—curated lists such as this one from Digital Book Today that gather together the top reviewed books currently available (including, in this case, a number of free ones). They won’t necessarily tell you if the book will be to your taste, but they will tell you how many people reviewed it and what the star rating is.
People are always coming up with new things, of course. Maybe tools like Goodreads will get even better. But even if finding good books can be tricky, we should still celebrate the fact that there are more than ever before of them now available.