May 26, 2011

Bookish: The IMDB/Pitchfork of books?


Earlier this month, news of a mysterious new website for books (and book lovers) began to circulate. It wasn’t long before the hype followed.

Backed by the likes of Hachette Book Group, Penguin Group (USA), and Simon & Schuster, Bookish is slated to be the “one stop” book site that will contain book reviews, excerpts, author news, news of upcoming book releases, breaking news, interviews, personalized recommendations, and more.

But for all the fanfare, it’s hard not to be a bit skeptical (and even amused) when it comes to Bookish.  Take this New York Times article:

‘There’s a frustration with book consumers that there’s no one-stop shopping when it comes to information about books and authors,’ said Carolyn Reidy, the president and chief executive of Simon & Schuster. ‘We need to try to recreate the discovery of new books that currently happens in the physical environment, but which we don’t believe is currently happening online.’

Hmmm… call me crazy, but I get the impression that a certain company pretty much already has all that on lock down. Not that I want to toot Amazon‘s horn or anything, but isn’t it a little odd that the book giant doesn’t even get mentioned in the Times article? And will Bookish be in direct competition with Amazon?

It’s also worth noting that the primary motivation of Bookish isn’t exactly rooted in altruism. Unlike other major online book communities like GoodReads, Bookish was conceived with sales in mind. In addition to having ads, it will allow (or should we say encourage?) readers to purchase both print and electronic books directly from its site.

With major publications cutting funding to their book beat and book buying shifting to the online arena, there is a gap to fill in the wider book world, but is Bookish going to be the solution it is shamelessly touted to be? (And is that really the best name they could come up with?) It’s easy to talk big game — especially when the product is still months away from its launch date. I’ll certainly be interested to see how it pans out.