BookDigits…is it a ‘smarter way to explore books’?

BookDigits imageDedicated book reviewers sit down after they’ve read a book and compose an honest (hopefully!) review which they then plonk onto their reviewing blog site and, possibly or probably, on Amazon. The content of said review, generally, will be mostly about how much the reviewer liked or disliked the book. Some will be kind, favourable and constructive. Others will not. And the reviews will vary in length from a few sentences to a few paragraphs.

Is there any other way to review a book? There is, says BookDigits. In fact, they declare, it’s a “a smarter way to explore books” and “At BookDigits, we want to change the way you read and help you find your next favorite book. Traditional genres are too broad and vague to be useful, so BookDigits uses themes and special metrics instead.”

Intriguing, isn’t it? To use the site, you have to register and you can create your own profile. This details when you joined, how many books you’ve rated, how many you have to read (imported from Goodreads, but in my case, this doesn’t travel too successfully, as only a third transferred), a reading goal along with an achievement system, what you’re currently reading and a link to your ‘stats’ which lays out the books you’ve read (and total pages!), average page count, reading speed, average book rating, grade breakdowns, top authors, themes and year-by-year breakdown. Pretty comprehensive. Not all essential snippets of information, but fun nonetheless.

There’s also a well laid-out tutorial on how to apply the ratings. This is where we get down to the aforementioned ‘smarter way to explore books’.

So, there’s not a star in sight here. Gone are the good old one to five stars giving you the option to love, really like, like, like okay, hate. We have an F to A+ range (giving you 13 ratings). I’ve often read reviewers express how they wished they could award half a star extra to a rating, so this range will probably suit them. For me personally, it’s just a tad too many. Is there really much difference between B-, B and B+?

Next is a sliding scale for you to set for the Literature to Entertainment ratio. The explanation is this: “Some books are meant to be read as literary works of art, and some are intended to be pure commercial entertainment.” This isn’t designed to rate the book as good or bad, merely to identify where it lies. The purpose, they say, is to help me identify the style of books I enjoy reading. Personally, I don’t find this particularly useful. I read for enjoyment, so every book is going to fall in the entertainment category. A bit simplistic, yes, but there it is. However, other people might find this useful when looking at ratings for a book.

We then have Theme Breakdown: BookDigits deems “Traditional genres such as sci-fi, romance and fantasy are too broad and vague to be useful.” So you’re provided with the ability to choose ten themes per book against which you set a percentage. Again, my simplistic-ness makes me want throw the book into one category. Easy.

This is followed by Addictiveness, set with a sliding scale. I quite like this. If you just can’t tear yourself away from a book, you can swipe that scale right up to 100%. This is a feature of a book that isn’t quite so cut and dried for me, so I like this option to be more precise.

Movie Potential next. Again, selected with a sliding scale. Not sure about this. Another of those areas where for me a book either is or isn’t good material for the widescreen. I don’t think there’s anything in between.

Second to last is Rereadability, set by the sliding scale. Lost on me, I’m afraid. However, I know many people regularly reread books they’ve loved. I’m just not one of them. Too many books and too little time in which to read them; I need to move on quickly! However, if someone deigns to give me Methuselah’s lifespan, I can think of a handful of books that I would reread, so in 900 years’ time, I may well find this very useful.

Lastly, there’s a comment box in which you have a maximum of 500 characters to add, as an option, anything else you care to mention about the book, preferably without getting bogged down with the plot. BookDigits wants you to express your real thoughts about the book.

From the total ratings on the site, there’s a listing of recommendations, top 50 best-rated books, top 50 best-rated new releases, top themes and book of the week.

I’ve got to be honest here and say that at the outset I was a little ‘meh’ about BookDigits, but strangely enough, not only do I find myself automatically going to the site to rate a book I’ve just read, but having explored it a little more in depth for this post, I find it quite an innovative way to review a book. It’s not perfect, but it’s different and a bit of fun.

It doesn’t happen often to me, in fact quite rarely, but once or twice I’ve really, really struggled to find anything to say about a book, good or bad. (Believe it or not, I can be dumbstruck.) On those occasions, I’ve taken way, way too long on a review. I call those reviews, slo-mo reviews, as each word spells out laboriously on screen as I write. I must repeat: it’s very rare. I think BookDigits would suit such occasions, since all you have to do is slide a few sliders and not bother about too many or any words.

However, I don’t want to suggest that it’s merely a device for books which render you speechless. In fact, it I think it could encourage more people to rate a book. I know many people who just don’t feel inclined to write one or two paragraphs about their views on a book, but who would be more than happy to rate it; on many review sites, Amazon most prominently, a rating cannot be given without a minimum of a couple of words.

Worth a look? Yes, for a fresh approach to book reviewing.

http://bookdigits.com/

Author: Cathy Speight

Reviewer Cathy Speight is British and lives in England. The Kindle revived her passion for reading and after stumbling on a Facebook group of independent authors, she now does her best to encourage and assist indies as much as possible. Books by indie author form the majority of her collection. Cathy shares her views on the books she has read on her blog.

3 thoughts on “BookDigits…is it a ‘smarter way to explore books’?”

  1. Interesting post, Cathy. Hard as it may be to believe, I have opinions on a few of the things you mention. 🙂

    First, I understand what you mean about slo-mo reviews. I find this happens to me most often with books that I felt positive about, sometimes very positive. At least for me, if I didn’t like it, I don’t usually have trouble pinpointing why. (As an aside, I don’t think Amazon requires anything other than a rating. Possibly one word instead of the twenty-ish they required in the past. This is a fairly new development.)

    I can see how this would be helpful to find books with common themes and qualities (based on what readers see as the profile of the book) and how well other readers liked it. However, it struck me that a lot of this depends on the reader. I can be entertained by a book with plenty of literary merit (whatever that means to me). Different readers get different things out of a book. For example, most dystopian novels (think 1984, The Hunger Games, or RJ Crayton’s Life First) have entertainment value, although I daresay many would also see literary value in many of these. For someone reading for entertainment, the themes they see in a book are going to be what’s on the surface, but these almost always have a political theme that won’t register with everyone (nor does it matter for them to be entertained). I wonder how these different views of a book are reflected in their recommendations and profiling of a book.

    I do think there is an opportunity for someone (and this site may be it) to get good enough at book recommendation to blow away Amazon and other sites. I’ve read that Netflix has an extremely large number of genre classifications (in the 10s of thousands) and they use these to make recommendations.

    1. I think if a potential reviewer plays around with the site, he or she could find plenty to play with. I did contact someone because at the mo, there’s no option to identify a genre as 100%. I found this a bit bothersome, because to me chick lit is nothing more than chick lit! What I was impressed with was the speed with which I received a reply and also that the owners of the site appreciate feedback. Whether or not they will act on that remains to be seen.

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