Recently there have been more and more alternatives to GoodReads showing up. There’s the other Amazon property Shelfari. Pinterest like Riffle. Blogging platform BookLikes. Slice backed by Google’s Eric Schmidt. I’ve poked around a few of these, and nothing really has caught my attention. Not enough to switch anyway. When I saw BookDigits on Reddit about a week ago though, I was interested.
BookDigits is a bit different from the other options, in that it really isn’t social. You can see your friends pages, but there’s no real interaction. The ratings are much more detailed, including a “commercial” to “literary” scale. This kind of detail makes the recommendations from BookDigits more accurate, or at least it seemed that way for me.
I spoke with the creator Bennett Gavrish on why he created BookDigits, the decisions he made on the project, and the direction it is heading.
1) You made BookDigits as an alternative to GoodReads. What do you think is wrong with GoodReads, and how are you fixing it?
Personally, I’ve always found Goodreads to be too noisy and cluttered. The site is also drowning in self-promoting authors (and I know, because I’m one of them). So with BookDigits, I set out to build a clean, simple site where the focus would always remain on books. I know there are people out there who love the social aspects of Goodreads, but if you don’t want another newsfeed, inbox, and friending system, then BookDigits is the place for you.
2) What sets you apart from other GoodReads alternatives such as BookLikes, Slice, and Riffle?
Ever since Amazon bought Goodreads, the “book discovery” scene has really exploded. Right now it’s filled with a lot of Goodreads imitators – like some of the ones you mentioned. What really separates BookDigits from the pack is our groundbreaking rating formula. We don’t use the five-star review system or traditional genre labels. Instead, BookDigits relies on innovative metrics and crowdsourced theme tags. We’re measuring and organizing books in a completely different way than other sites, and all that data helps us deliver high-quality, personalized reading recommendations to each and every user.
3) Why did you decide on an A-F grading scale instead of numerical, or stars?
We settled on the A through F grading scale for a few reasons. Our primary goal was to expand beyond the five-star system and give our users more flexibility. With plusses and minuses, you have 13 levels to choose from when grading a title on BookDigits. For me, even when I’m reading for fun, the idea of books still reminds me of school. So that’s why I decided to carry over the academic grading system to BookDigits. We’ve heard from some international users who are not familiar with the A through F scale, and we’re working on improving the BookDigits experience for them. Soon, we’ll be giving users the ability to switch between the A through F scale or a more traditional numeric scale.
4) Movie potential is an interesting criteria, why did you choose to include it?
All of the metrics on BookDigits grew out of my personal blog at bennettgavrish.com, where I’ve been posting alternative book reviews for the past few years. As I read fiction, I’m always envisioning a movie playing out in my head, and so when I finish a book, one of the first things I think about is how the story would translate to the big screen. And that’s how the Movie Potential metric was born.
5) I was rating Ready Player One, and wanted to classify it as nostalgic. When I went to do so, there was “nostalgia” and “80’s nostalgia” listed. Plus readers can add their own themes beyond that. Do you plan on limiting/combining themes?
We have an editorial staff that curates the themes on BookDigits and fixes issues like misspellings and tags that should be grouped together. The themes on your individual ratings will never change, but they may be adjusted when calculating the overall theme breakdown for a book. Beyond that, we’re letting the BookDigits community dictate how the theme system progresses. In our tutorial, we only ask users to keep themes short and descriptive, while trying to avoid traditional genre labels such as fantasy and young adult.
6) I’d classify BookDigits as “semi-social” as in I can see other people’s ratings if I seek them out, but they don’t influence my recommendations. Do you plan on adding this functionality?
All profiles on BookDigits are public, so you can view other people’s ratings and to-read lists anywhere that you see a username link. We don’t have plans to build in any sort of friend system or newsfeed, but we are considering adding a feature that would let you compare your ratings with another user. In terms of recommendations, everything happening behind the scenes is dependent on other users’ ratings. The books you see in your recommendation list are ones that contain themes that you like and that have been rated highly by other BookDigits users.
7) Have you thought of expanding your service to other entertainment mediums?
BookDigits is keeping us very busy right now, so we don’t have any immediate plans to expand into other mediums. But we do like the sound of MovieDigits, SongDigits, and TVDigits!
Overall, BookDigits is a fresh take on the virtual bookshelf. While most of the other services seem to be tweaks of each other, BookDigits actually feels new. I don’t think I’ll use it exclusively, I like the social aspect of GoodReads too much, but it’s incredible recommendation engine makes it worth using it in parallel. You can find me on BookDigits as PurelyNicole.
And as a complete aside, can someone please make virtual game shelf? Please?