(Disclosure time: I work at CNET, which is owned by CBS, which is the same parent company of Simon & Schuster. I’m also published by Penguin. All opinions expressed here are my own, and I don’t have any insight into Simon & Schuster operations.)
Bookish is a site where you can save books to shelves, rate them, get book recommendations, read some original content, and, very significantly for publishers, buy books directly from the site in various formats. This is a big step for the major publishers into a direct to consumer vertical.
Right now the site feels like it’s in beta. There seems to be social sharing built in but I wasn’t able to get it to work yet, and even after adding books to my shelves I’m actually still not sure how to get recommendations except by just adding books to a very specific recommendation engine. There’s nothing along the lines of Netflix’s recommendations based on the things you’ve rated and told the site you want to read (at least, not that I’ve been able to find, and I suppose this could be coming).
I’ve been waiting for this site for quite a while, and had some conversations with people familiar with the direction of the site as it was being developed. Now that I’ve explored a bit and taken a look, I definitely think Bookish has promise. The design feels polished, the checkout path feels smooth, and I do think there’s some value in a good recommendation platform.
But the concerns I had as Bookish was being developed remains. Basically: How often does someone need to visit Bookish?
Aside from the original content, unless you actually need a recommendation for a book or find the book buying process superior there doesn’t feel like a specific reason to visit the site. How often do you find yourself needing a recommendation for a book? Maybe a couple times a year? And even if you do want a recommendation, is this where you’ll seek it out? And if you want to buy a book, isn’t it already easy to buy it through existing channels?
Perhaps more importantly, in the social book recommendation sphere, sites like Goodreads had a major head start and is growing in popularity. And it’s done this by being a fun part of the entire reading experience. In addition to saving and rating books, which you can do on Bookish, on Goodreads you can track your progress, organize your books into shelves, and there’s a seamless experience for sharing to Facebook.
But the crucial part of Goodreads is that it’s social. I can see what my friends are reading and they can see what I’m reading, which is extremely fun. Shelves are conversation starters. It keeps me coming back to the site.
I don’t see a similar reason to return to Bookish. As a platform it has promise. But unless they can find a way to become indispensable to readers it’s hard to see it as a game changer. I’m not sure what will prompt me to return.
My feeling: Bookish could become the basis for a Hulu for books, a place where readers can gain access to exclusive e-book subscription plans or be a place for exclusive free content. They could really leverage the participation of the publishers. Right now it doesn’t feel geared toward that, but the platform is there.
Or perhaps Bookish could finally be the place for something readers have clamored for forever: Bundled print and e-book editions.
Whatever it is, it seems to me that while it’s a good first effort, the site needs another killer ingredient.
What do you think? Have you tried out Bookish and what do you think it should be?