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Book Recommendation Services
Posted On May 2, 2011
My family and friends have long been a valued source of recommendations for that next good read. We eagerly trade paperbacks back and forth and we don’t get bent out of shape if our preferences don’t always match someone’s recommendations. Amazon’s recommendations have proven helpful to me over the years (Customers who bought this also…), and sometimes highlight items I might not have thought of checking. But, with the increased interest in ebooks and the phenomenal sales of ereaders, it’s worth knowing about some other very helpful sources for book recommendations. There’s a growing number of them popping up—I was quite surprised to find so many when I started digging. Each has its own special strengths, so you might want to check out several.

LibraryThing is a fairly well-known cataloging and social networking website for serious book lovers—those who are willing to invest time and effort into their hobby. It helps you create a library-quality catalog of books: books you own, books you’ve read, books you’d like to read, books you’ve lent out ... whatever grouping you’d like. You can list 200 books for free, as many as you like for $10 (year) or $25 (life). Users can contribute tags, ratings, and reviews for a book. LibraryThing gets its book data from and from hundreds of libraries around the world, including the Library of Congress. It offers a forum system for group discussions. Recommendations show you lists of book recommendations automatically generated from LibraryThing data, recommendations from other LibraryThing members, and “unsuggestions” of books least likely to coincide with your library. If you just want to see some recommendations and reviews without committing to join, you can do a search by author, title, tag, etc. and pull some up quickly. LibraryThing has a strong presence on Facebook and offers Facebook and Twitter integration.

Shelfari is another community-based site that lets you add your library contents and reviews. But, it is also really helpful for just browsing lists (bestseller lists, award winners, popular series, etc.), reviews, and recommendations. It has good advanced search features. I also enjoy seeing some of the list extras: books that influenced this book, books cited by this book, and books that cite this book. Shelfari was officially launched in October 2006 and was acquired by in August 2008, so it is tightly integrated with one’s Amazon account.

GoodReads, which launched in December 2006, claims it is the “largest social network for readers in the world.” It says that other sites show random people’s reviews but its mission is to help you find new and interesting books by letting you see what your friends are reading. It is known for its excellent and interesting lists (the book was better than the movie, favorite historical mystery series, etc.). It also provides links to booksellers and to WorldCat to find in a library. GoodReads also has a very active app on Facebook, and claims 155,202 monthly active users.

Earlier this year, Goodreads acquired a company by the name of The announcement said, “With their deep algorithmic book recommendation technology, we’re going to be able plumb our database of 100 million book ratings from 4.6 million users to find general patterns of the kinds of books people read and to generate high-quality personalized recommendations.” Discovereads reportedly combines multiple machine learning algorithms and graph analysis techniques to analyze book ratings and spot trends. GoodReads is working to fully integrate the technology within the next few months and then will be shut down.

BookBrowse is a service that’s been around the longest—founded in 1998. BookBrowse’s reviews are written by a group of experienced paid reviewers, some in house and some freelance. It also includes readers’ ratings and reviews. BookBrowse offers hundreds of free reading guides for book clubs, listed by genre, title, and author. You can browse some of BookBrowse for free but it reserves a number of premium features for its members ($29.95 per year)—interactive online magazines with in-depth reviews, advanced browse capabilities, etc. It also offers a “BookBrowse for Libraries” subscription service.

A newer and much more limited service, launched in February 2010, is WhatShouldIReadNext. Its claim to fame is lookup by ISBN. It also says the “system has no commercial agenda at all (though you can buy the recommended items through Amazon, of course), and is purely based on items that real people actually like. We’re not trying to urge you to buy particular bestsellers or anything like that—we simply want to help people share their favourite items with each other.”

GetGlue is a large social network of people reviewing all kinds of entertainment—movies, books, music, TV shows, games, restaurants, and more. You can use GetGlue by visiting the site, by downloading the browser add-on for use on popular pages around the web, or by using one of its mobile apps. Registration is required to get recommendations. When you visit pages about books, movies, music, etc. you can click thumbs-up or thumbs-down on things you like or dislike. GetGlue will then suggest other things that you might like based on your personal tastes and what your friends like. is a social discovery and cataloging network that allows people to review and share their favorite movies, books, games, music, restaurants, and beer. I know the company as a deals site but it also lets you manage your books, review and rate, and find books that are popular with your friends. It lets users link to their Amazon wishlists and even import a list of ISBNs. It has a Visual Bookshelf app on Facebook.

If you live in the Facebook environment, you might like this list of “Top 20 Facebook Apps for Book Lovers” by Jason Boog.

And, don’t forget that your public or school library might offer free access to NoveList, an excellent readers advisory tool from EBSCO Publishing.

So, have some fun with these sites and happy reading!

Paula J. Hane is a freelance writer and editor covering the library and information industries. She was formerly Information Today, Inc.’s news bureau chief and editor of NewsBreaks.

Related Articles

7/8/2013Going Social: Top Apps for Best Recommended Reads
4/11/2013Amazon Buys Goodreads to Bolster Its Advice Portfolio
11/15/2012OCLC Expands Partnership With Goodreads
2/6/2012Social Review Site Goodreads Dumps Amazon’s Metadata
8/15/2011BookLamp Beta Testing Book Recommendation Service ala Pandora
6/27/2011Goodreads Ratings and Reviews to be Added to NoveList Products
6/2/2011Sources for Free Ebooks and Ereader Software
5/12/2011Bookish Wants to Help You Find Your Next Book

Comments Add A Comment
Posted By Nikki Ralston5/4/2011 6:13:32 AM

Great list and review.
Each service has its own unique advantages. I think it's really important to have a meaningful way to search and browse for new books, beyond just author and title. Having semantic tags is really important for discovery and for making the final decision about reading the book. Having rich information about the book and what friends have to say is a much better way to find something new to read. Finally we have a better alternative to just 'judging a book by its cover' when deciding what to read!

Nikki Ralston

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