Anderson is talking about The Reading Room, an online social reading site that also sells print and e-books.
“The premise of the site was to replicate the experience a reader has when they walk into an independent book store,” Reading Room CEO Kim Anderson told Teleread at BookExpo America last week. “The ability to browse is very important; the ability to get a custom recommendation and not just one that is algorhythmic is important. Then the ability to purchase without pre-meditating what you are going to buy.”
Anderson wants readers to come to the site and find recommendations based on the types of books on their shelves. If they show an affinity for historical books, they will get recommendations based on that type of data. But readers can also find recommendations on bookshelves of other users who have enjoyed the same books.
The recommendations should feel less like a computer marketing books from every best-selling author and more like a friend or a trusted indie bookshop employee giving their opinion, Anderson suggested.
“How do you scale that type of relationship? By knowing your product,” Anderson said. “These days it’s not hard to reach out to people who have all enjoyed the same books. The data we have is indescribable in the way we can sort it.”
The Reading Room recently announced it would begin selling print books in the U.S. market. It already has a reading app where e-books can be purchased and read. This came right after the site saw an influx of users from Goodreads. Many Goodreads users jumped to check out The Reading Room when Goodreads announced its acquisition by Amazon.“We had a lot of average readers come across with significant books on their shelves with three to four thousand books,” Anderson said. “Usually, they were bringing across a group of people as well.”
The Reading Room is not really a place for authors, which Goodreads has been a hub for marketing. The Reading Room does not allow author pages. It curates reviews from credible sites such as the New York Times and Guardian. Additionally, any user review must be at least 250 words.
“There is not a point in best-selling authors telling you their books are really good,” Anderson said. “What’s really important is for their audience to tell you that.”