Bookish has launched with much fanfare. Some good. Some bad. Nate over at The Digital Reader had an amusing look at their terms of service. DBW has three reasons they will succeed and three reasons they will fail. Hedging their bets much?

So I decided to try using the site and assess it from a usability perspective.

The first thing I tried didn’t work out so well. There’s a big box in the middle of the page that says “Enter a Book.” I assumed I would enter a book title and get some recommendations based on that title. Failing that, I thought at least I’d get something. Let’s see what happened.

I’m currently reading A Memory of Light, the last book in the Wheel of Time series, so that seemed like a logical choice.

Hitting “Enter” did nothing. Clicking on the hands likewise did nothing. Maybe I’m doing it wrong? Let’s try an author.

That’s it? One book? The same search on Amazon yielded over 4,000 results. Okay, not a good start. Anyone else find it ironic that the banner says, “It’s Never Been Easier to Find Books You’ll Love?”

All right. Let’s try one of the other options. Like looking at a book review by one of their reviewers.

Lucy Hawking had a post on books she’d give to aliens as representative of Earth. One of the books was Abundance, discussing why the future is better than we think. Look at the paid ad in the bottom right corner.

I would have expected an ad for a book similar to the book shown, not an Onion review of 50 Shades of Grey. On the other hand, I’d probably enjoy the Onion review more, so maybe it wasn’t so bad.

By the way, note the e-book price: It’s priced lower on Amazon. Savvy readers already price shop, so that’s probably not going to help Bookish much.

On to try again to find a book. Ah, there’s a search box at the top of the page. Let’s try that one. Maybe I can find a Robert Jordan book there.


Oh, good. I can find some Jordan books. But wait. See that book with no cover? That’s a problem. If you click through, it’s for a paperback version that’s not available. Oops. That doesn’t look good.

Check out the ad. It’s more contextual than the Onion ad, and it looked like something I wanted to investigate. Off to click. Oh wait. The ad isn’t clickable? Seriously? There’s a book I’m interested in, and I can’t even click there to buy it?

But there’s a free extended sample, and I’m feeling generous, so I type it into the search field. Ah, it comes up. Navigate to the book page and try the sample. A nice screen comes up.

That looks pretty. So far so good. Let’s turn the page. What? I can’t get the ‘next page’ button to do anything!

All right. That’s enough. We’re done here.

* * *

I didn’t make this up. Basically, I wrote this story as I tried things. If they had worked, I would have said so. But everything I tried had issues. Some of them are the kinds of bugs that will be worked out over the coming weeks, I’m sure. But some of them are obvious design flaws.

My conclusion? It looks pretty, but as a reader, it’s not giving me what I’m looking for. I much preferred the Book Scout Facebook app we covered last week. It worked, and gave decent recommendations and easy buy options.


  1. I looked at the site via my iPhone, so maybe I missed stuff. But here are my results from books I read recently.

    The Last Lion: Alone 1932-1940:

    I got recommendations for books written by Churchill, but that is to be expected. And Dreadnought by Massie. I’ll give that a maybe.

    Still Forms on Foxfield:

    No recommendations, but it is an OOP science fiction novel from the 80s.

    Doubt: A History:

    No recommendations. They should have found something.

    Hydrogen Sonata:

    They gave me a Fire Upon the Deep by Vinge. Good, but common. But they also recommended the Brain Herbert Dune sequels. FAIL! FAIL! FAIL! Despite both being science fiction, Banks and Brain Herbert don’t belong together.

  2. “It’s never been easier to find books you’ll love.” Yeah, right. The Bookish website is nowhere near ready for primetime. What a rush job. I couldn’t believe the the books it was trying to tell me I’d be interested in. Talk about way way off.

  3. Oddly enough, if you enter A Memory of Light in the search box at top of the page rather than in the middle, it has no problem finding it.

    As for ads, on my visit to Bookish I saw a Google ad for Bookish itself. Curious, I clicked it, and was taken straight back to the front page of Bookish. So in other words, Bookish paid Google for an ad I clicked that took me to their website, which I was already on. Poor configuration of Adwords I suppose.

    I haven’t figured out yet whether the site will be useful. I’m all for recommendations, but I’m not sure I’d make a special trip to the site for them, especially when I read a lot of indie and small press books, none of which I tried could be found in its database.

  4. Unfortunately, neither of the recommendations sites we’ve reviewed recently will give recommendations on indie or small press books. Most of them don’t end up in the big databases. Word of mouth and Goodreads seem to still be the best places for those.

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