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BookSeer – is it for you?

August 27, 2009
Jane Austen (surely public domain!)

Jane Austen (surely public domain!)

What do Jane Austen’s Pride and prejudice and Cormac McCarthy’s The road have in common (besides the fact that I mentioned both authors in a recent post that is)? Nothing much, really, except that suggests that if you’ve read Pride and prejudice you may like to read The road. See, I was onto something when I said that Jane Austen could to some degree be described as a spare writer! But, truly, I don’t think that’s what Amazon was saying.

The site at which I saw this suggestion was not the Amazon site, but BookSeer. BookSeer is, apparently, “another literary web project by APT Labs”. What it does is present suggestions for reading based on what you’ve just read. The home page poses the simple question:

You there! I’ve just finished reading …….. by …….. . What should I read next?

When you enter your last read and then click the arrow you get suggestions from Amazon, the Book Army and LibraryThing. I hate to say it, but the algorithms for generating the suggestions leave a lot to be desired. To test it out I said that I had just read Pride and prejudice. Following are the first three recommendations from BookSeer’s sites.


  • Let the right one in, by John Ajvide Lindqvist
  • The Zombie survival guide: Complete protection from the Living Dead, by Max Brooks
  • World War Z, by Max Brooks

Do these selections look a bit odd to you? Well, the reason is that although I typed Pride and prejudice by Jane Austen into, Amazon decided that what I was really interested in (had read even) was Pride and prejudice and zombies. As my American cousins would say, Go figure! (BTW The road was number 6 in the list).


  • Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen
  • Persuasion, by Jane Austen
  • The power that preserves, by Stephen Donaldson

Now this looks a little more appropriate, doesn’t it?


  • Sense and sensibility (Penguin Classics), by Jane Austen
  • Persuasion (Penguin Classics), by Jane Austen
  • Emma (Penguin Classics), by Jane Austen

Now, this is SO sensible it is perhaps a little boring – after all if you’ve read Pride and prejudice you probably know of and already want to read her other 5 novels!

BookSeer then is an intriguing idea, but until the algorithms used by the sites they draw on are a little more sophisticated – and until I get through my TBR (To Be Read) list – I don’t think I will be a regular visitor to the site. What about you?

6 Comments leave one →
  1. August 27, 2009 21:31

    I tried BookSeer out for a bit of fun when it first did the rounds – and like you, I found it unsatisfactory. Actually, I don’t think there’s any better way of getting book recommendations than talking to friends who like the same sort of books:)

  2. whisperinggums permalink*
    August 27, 2009 21:41

    Agree absolutely. I’m not sure you could ever write an algorithm that would suit readers like us!

  3. August 28, 2009 16:17

    Totally agree with you two here.
    I’m often a little alarmed at some of the ‘individual’ recommendations for me.

  4. whisperinggums permalink*
    August 28, 2009 17:14

    Oh me too … particularly when Amazon is still recommending books to me based on my son’s purchases (using my credit card) of rather non main-stream graphic novels. He hasn’t used my card for several years but clearly like the elephant Amazon never forgets!

  5. August 30, 2009 18:18

    I’ve never seen that before – a great site with some quite interesting results.

    I hate using my Amazon acct just after Christmas when we’ve been buying gifts for other people. My recommendations just go haywire.

  6. whisperinggums permalink*
    August 30, 2009 21:22

    That’s the trouble isn’t it? If you (or your card) buys things NOT for you, how are they to know, On the other hand, you never know when serendipity – like these circumstances – will turn up something interesting.

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