BookLikes first impressions: an undercooked indie version of Shelfari

Not recommended.
The newly launched BookLikes.com is yet another free service for book lovers, and this one promises to make quality recommendations to you based on what people who share your interests are reading.

Right now it’s in public beta, which means you can sign up and start adding books, but be prepared for rough spots. For instance, the first book I searched for—”Foreign Bodies” by Cynthia Ozick—wasn’t in their database, even though it’s the most recent book of hers and was published in 2010. The mobile apps the service promises on the home screen don’t seem to actually exist, at least not on iTunes or Amazon’s Android app store. I also had some trouble with the rating system, where my star rating didn’t appear to be captured properly on a couple of titles, and I couldn’t find a way to delete books from my shelves once I’d added them.

Update: It turns out that BookLikes’ Facebook integration leads to the site putting a viral marketing status update on your Facebook wall without alerting you. Although you do agree to let it post updates when you link Facebook to BookLikes, in my experience most websites don’t try to post as you without at least asking you explicitly first. Several hours after I linked Facebook to my BookLikes page, I discovered that they’d posted an update to my Facebook wall that could easily mislead people into thinking that I was the author and not a third party app, asking everyone if they wanted to see what I was reading. To me, this is a warning sign that BookLikes may not take privacy very seriously, and therefore I don’t recommend them to anyone.

If you already have an established presence on Goodreads, Shelfari or LibraryThing, I’m not sure you’ll be that intrigued by what BookLikes has to offer right now. Amazon’s Shelfari is the strongest direct competitor—not only is Shelfari beta testing a similar recommendation system, but it’s clear that some of BookLikes’ main user interface elements were “borrowed” from Shelfari. On the other hand, the one thing BookLikes definitely offers that Shelfari can’t is independence from Amazon, at least at this early startup stage.

The dilemma of a site like this is that as long as there isn’t a large community of like-minded readers to help suggest books, there’s not much point in joining—but if nobody joins then there will never be that community. I’ll check back periodically to see whether it comes into its own as more users sign up. (I won’t be checking back periodically after all—see my update above for why.)

BookLikes

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