Book Recommendations from the Book Psychic
Most library professionals have probably at least heard of LibraryThing, even if they haven’t tried it. The company encompasses both a social network that lets individuals create a catalog of their own personal library and tools for libraries, including both a service that enhances library catalogs and adds social elements to them as well as a mobile web solution for libraries called LibraryAnywhere. This week, LibraryThing debuted a new tool that they have been alluding to for some time.
Known as Book Psychic, this new tool aims to automate the process of finding the perfect next read by creating a book rating and recommendation tool. By its own admission, Book Psychic aims to be “like Netflix or Amazon, but all about what’s in and what’s popular at your library”. To achieve this, Book Psychic asks users to rate books within their preferred genre. Once a user has rated a number of books, Book Psychic displays a pop up message alerting the user to the “Just For You” tab that shows recommendations based on these ratings. This section of the site shows personalized recommendations across a range of genres (including genres from which the user may not have rated items) and across different formats, such as audiobooks and ebooks. Users can continue to rate these recommended books. Also, at all points from the beginning of the rating process through to the personalized recommendations, users can click on the book to read a brief summary of it and, if desired, to view it in the library’s catalog. If users opt to sign in (using Twitter, Facebook or LibraryThing), they can also save books to their account. Users can also import ratings from other accounts, including Facebook, LibraryThing and Goodreads to speed up the book rating process. A search option that allows users to search the library’s catalog from the Book Psychic homepage is also included.
Currently, Book Psychic is brand new and is being offered exclusively by the Portland Public Library. While the features detailed above are all currently available, the site is clearly still working through some issues. As an example, when I first tried the site, clicking on each book displayed a description of the book, but for some reason all of the text in these summaries was backwards. Having said that, I did find the recommendations to be fairly impressive. After rating only 9 books, Book Psychic was able to recommend several books that seemed like a good fit based on my ratings and were, in several cases, books that are already on my to-be-read list. I like the fact that you can use the tool even if you do not have a Portland Public Library account (or, in fact, without creating an account at all), but I also thought that it did a good job of integrating with the Library’s catalog so that users could move easily from finding a recommendation to reserving or checking out the item. For an automated tool, I think Book Psychic does a surprisingly good job of coming up with personalized book recommendations. I expect that it will be a hit with libraries and patrons alike.