A couple years ago I was on the hunt for a site to keep track a small bit of information on all the books I read in a given year. What I eventually settled on was a service called LibraryThing, that I’ve been using for quite a while now. When I started looking for this tool, my needs were very simple (and still are). All I wanted was a service or tool that would let me track very generic information about books, along with when I started, and completed reading them. The main thing I wanted to track was how many books I completed in a year, and whether or not I liked a book. LibraryThing did all of that and more. The “and more” part of that is what I’ve become increasing interested in lately. A few times a year, I make a larger order of used books (usually from wherever I have the most gift cards). Between my purchases, I try to keep a list of “want to read” books built up before I buy. Normally, I build this list out off of lists I run across online, or book award winners, or even recommendations from Amazon off of books I liked. LibraryThing also offers a recommendation service where your books are compared to other people on the service who have similar tastes as you à la Last.fm, and the iTunes genius features for music. This feature has been ok (not great), and has given me a few useful recommendations. I still mainly build my book purchase lists from other places. Enter Book Army.
Book Army is a new site that focuses more on the recommendation feature, and less on the cataloging/tracking features that I use in LibraryThing. It is much closer to a Last.fm type service in that it looks at your likes, and suggests other books based on other people who like the same books. I spent a little while entering ratings on the books that I had been tracking in LibraryThing the past few years to see what I’d get back. There were a few good books that came back in my results – more than what I was getting from LibraryThing. I’m sure the service will get better over time, as the number of users goes up, and as I rate more books on the service. The things I like about Book Army recommendations is that it provides reasoning for a suggest book (you may like book X because you enjoyed books X, Y, and Z). The other nice feature is you can correct suggestions. If a book is suggested that looks incorrect for whatever reason, you can tell Book Army, that it was a bad suggestion to help it get even better data about your reading tastes. Since this service is new, the “Book Army” is still being recruited. We’ll see if recommendations improve as the size of the army increases. Who knows, maybe my tastes are just so eclectic (it certainly isn’t working for me in Netflix) that it’s hard to determine what I enjoy.