Dispatches from the Digital Revolution
Goodreads. Jellybooks. Shelfari. LibraryThing. BookMooch. BookNibblr. (I’d add Bookish if they’d just launch, already.) All are websites that attempt to solve the problem of online book discoverability—with so many readers shopping for books online rather than in stores, how are we supposed to discover new books and new authors to love?
Each of these websites has offered their own solution to the problem by pairing social media with book discoverability. Now, as Publishers Weekly recently reported, a new website called Riffle is entering the fray. But it’s not just an un-beige Goodreads or a gender-neutral Jellybooks (cupcake icons? eep). According to PW’s article, the site sets itself apart not just on reviews but on content: members might create curated lists, such as “the 50 books to read before you die or the books you hope your soul mate has read,” and so on.
Unlike other websites, Riffle emulates Pinterest in that it requires an invitation to join, and wannabe Rifflers have to fill out an application online that asks for your email address, the number of books you read each year, the number of books you buy each year, and your feelings on Amazon’s recommendations, among other things. PW’s article said that initially the people behind Riffle will invite avid readers, who they say are more likely to seek out expert opinions on books.
If Riffle lives up to what it’s promised, I am very much looking forward to using it. I have a Goodreads account, but lately (much like Pinterest) my involvement with that site has been relegated to the emails I get telling me a Facebook friend has added me on that site, too. (Bo-ring.) I just never really cared for Goodreads. Much like the reviews on Yelp, any schmo with Internet access and a bone to pick can write a review. And just like those reviewers, they’re often getting my angry fist. (Really, you thought Dracula in Love was a great book? You thought the burritos at Anna’s Taqueria tasted like something other than salt? Plebians.) Even algorithmic recommendations, like Amazon’s, can often be suspect. (You buy one vegan cookbook and all of a sudden they’re all raw diet up in your grill.)
Since many other book discovery websites already exist, I’m curious to see if Riffle lives up to the hype. What many of them lack is that expert touch that’s been missing from the online experience, and where many bookstores have a great advantage.