Friday 1 March 2013

But I Digress | On What Bookish Begot

Does the world need yet another website about books?

But before you lose interest entirely, it's actually quite clever. I told Bookish about my thing for China Mieville; it recommended I read Jeff VanderMeer. I fed it Tigana; Bookish responded with Tad Williams and Steven Erikson.

(Also Robin Hobb. Which makes me wonder if I should really be reading Robin Hobb. Thoughts?)

And all this while the engine's still in beta!

If the truth be told, though, I'm probably not in need of new books to read, and if I were, I'd really rather follow in the footsteps of a friend, or place my trust in one of the community's more reliable reviewers. But there are those, of course, without these fantastic facilities; without peers who share their interests, or absent access to (or tolerance for) certain social media.

And for those folks, Bookish could be brilliant.

If Twitter's any indication, however, news of the new resource has been met with a resounding meh. Why? I've heard the lack of user-generated content cited as a particularly singular reason why Bookish is irrelevant, or just utter rubbish. But even at this early stage, users can submit quotes, reviews, and I don't know what else.

Why the single-minded emphasis on user-generated content anyway? I appreciate the added value such integration represents at the best of times, but the cranky old man in me can't help but wonder, when are those? Where are those? In my experience of social media, opening the doors to all comers makes for a mixed bag of good and bad.

What's the problem with old-fashioned curated content anyway? Why does everything need to be about everyone?

Basically, why the hate for Bookish?

Does every medium have to be social to survive in this day and age? Let's face it: nothing is likely to supplant Facebook at this stage, so why risk ruining a good thing trying to put in hooks for users who won't care anyway?

But let's circle back to the first question I posed in this post: does the world need yet another website about books? Well no, of course not. But what's the harm in it, exactly? Indeed, when has the internet, and social media especially, ever been about need?


  1. You absolutely should be reading Robin Hobb. Start with the Farseer trilogy. The first book, Assassin's Apprentice, was the first book that showed me fantasy could be more complex and have more depth than the "literary" fiction I was required to read at school.

  2. It all looks quite complicated to me - think I'll stick to goodreads presently. And Assassin's Apprentice is brilliant. The later series I'm a bit more meh about - see how you get on . . .

  3. Well, I could never summon up enough interest in Goodreads to maintain an account and now actively avoid it. I really like LibraryThing, but unless you are willing break out the plastic for a paid account, its two hundred book limit cuts into how useful it is. I've got no problem with having another site.

    I tried using their recommendations thing and most of the time it didn't really work out all that well. I put Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis in the search with three other novels and got a bunch of comics and superhero type recommendations, even though CLV has nothing to do with any of that. Putting Don DeLillo in a search ends up dominating my list with more works by DeLillo and, for some reason, detective fiction from half a century ago. There are some really strange recommendations given for single entries, too, often lacking similarities in content and tone to the novel originating the recommendation. On the other hand, there are times when you manage to punch in the right combination of books and get this magical list of recommendations featuring the stuff your friends and trusted reviewers have been telling you to read for years.

  4. I agree with the others who say read Robin Hobb! Or at least, read the Farseer Trilogy. I read the next two series (Liveship Trader and Tawny Man) and wasn't quite as enamored with them, although Tawny Man does provide closure for the characters from the first books.

  5. Allow me to plant my flag in the No to Robin Hobb camp. I read through the Farseer Trilogy a few years back, and couldn't see what the fuss was about. The characters were annoying and the books were boring.

    I can't say as I'm all that fired up about Bookish myself. I'm much more likely to get recommendations from bloggers, or other trusted sources. It is kinda useful for putting a book on my radar, and then seeking out reviews of the title, but it hasn't been a go-to for me yet.