Books

Problem: Finding a book someone would like is mostly left up to chance encounters.

Solution: Leveraging history of read books with others to provide new suggestions.

Research: In my research I’ve found people rely on organically discovering books they would like to read, commonly through word of mouth and online research. Online sources are lacking in customized suggestions and reviews lack insight and focus.

Research

Goodreads: According to contributors at Reddit, Goodreads reviews and rating system are not satisfying. One poster wrote “They tend to be very much ‘I loved it’ or ‘I hated it’, with very little in between.” another poster writes, “Yes! thank you very much, i agree with your first point completely, sometimes they just seem so pretentious and fake, and you can see right through them but still they keep on reviewing, its like a yelp for books.” What many of the posters did enjoy about Goodreads is the ability to keep track of books they have already read.

US Reading stats according to the Pew Research Center, 84% of Americans between the age of 18-29 read books in any format. 92% college grads, 75% some college and 66% high school grads.

Interview Notes:

Adam

Preference: Character development, a story that brings him on a journey that provides suspense from one chapter to the next.

Sources: Word of mouth, meeting people he likes talking to with similar interests. Learns a lot about friends through their reading preferences. Asking questions to learn about authors, then goes online to research. NYT best sellers. Library for what is trending, bulletin boards, editors choice, curated lists, award winners. Sometimes the book cover plays a role in exploring. References to other books in past reading,? there are at times references within passages. Digging deeper into reviews when a book is already identified. Book stores are better for purchases rather then discovery. They are too cumbersome to peruse, their focus is mainly on new books, unable to spend much time with any book.

Medium: Audio books when not reading books. Likes that some audio books are read by the author, likes hearing the actual person tell their story. In book stores he gravitates towards picture, design, cook or quirky books that may not be available in the library. Prefers physical books and audio books to his Kindle. Paper, turning a page, bookmarks are part of the experience, easier to get into the story and more gratifying. Audio books for convenience in transit, train, driving or walking. Sometimes switches in the middle of an audio book to a physical book.

Obtaining book: Amazon, library or borrow from someone who referred the book. Audio book downloaded from library, apps, monthly subscriptions.

Agnes

Preference: Intrigue, mystery, action, writing that paints a vivid picture of the subject matter, creates a universe that can come to life in our minds. Fantasy/sci-fi and history. In high school usually chose a sci-fi for book reports. Enjoys sci-fi movies.

Sources: Finds inspiration from pre movie release, word of mouth, readings on websites. Google searches that leads her to search Amazon reviews. Previously Goodreads but it is now hard to find recommendations that she likes. Library app provides a catalog of ebooks to browse and download. Looking for similar books can be hard at times, will read books from same author, searches list of top selling books in a genre from last year. Uses Goodreads as a baseline to see if it is generally liked but not for reviews. Uses synopsis and sleeve notes to understand what the book is about. Agnes finds that there are too many books to cover. She would be interested in recommendations from book “taste makers” (curator) for a specific genre would be interesting if found.

Medium: e-Books, convenience of having it on person anytime. Book stores for photography and art books that are better to have a physical book. Also recipe books. Recipe books, easy to keep open when cooking from trusted chef, published recipe book adds some legitimacy.

Obtaining book: e-Books from Amazon or downloaded from the NY Public Library. Book stores for physical books.

Trevor

Preference: Mysteries, good guy catching bad guys, historical fiction, career/instructional. Trevor studied ancient history and art history in college, and always though England was cool. Enjoyed historical fiction that mixes history and a compelling story. A believable world that brings in mythological characters. Authors who can create a world with compelling characters. Career and instructional books, currently reading about writing.

Sources: Ask friends what they are reading, conversations with people with similar interests, blog postings, podcast interviews. Online reviews are good for ratings and the number of reviews. Books without enough reviews are not considered. Amazon reviews can become too detailed. Weight more on podcasts then the content of online reviews. Some online magazines publish their own books which offers familiarity in style and subject matter.
Amazon Book Store provide access to actual books that are recommended online. Library audio book on CD are good for discovery, smaller selection narrows choices, free to borrow allows for exploration. Bookstores and Library selections can be more curated.

Medium: Physical books are heavy and prefers e-books for it’s convenience, likes the highlighting ability that can be saved and compiled. Audio books on CD and downloaded. Would buy physical books for the ones he really likes.

Obtaining book: Amazon or Audible.com for e-books/audio books.

Jean

Preference: Pleasure and professional. Mystery, books where she is able to figure out the ending. Increased interest when waiting for the ending with amusing characters, deep character development, setting and satire. A good book blends all of that. Developed an interest in this style from reading a lot. May stick to an author and cycle through all his/her books. Depth of character, setting, share amusement can be reasons for rereading a book.

Sources: Jean uses a holistic approach, looks for award winners. Author that may be part of an anthology that branches out to others. Some reviews that leads to similar authors. Word of mouth through friends who share the same sense of humor. Wikipedia to discover award winning titles or authors, newspaper articles, professional reviews, general online reviews not used to find information about the book itself but some reviewers will refer to other authors or books. Author’s website provides insight. Author who may have written a forward in a previously read book. Jean uses book stores to read forward and the first chapter to make assessments. Book stores are more organics compared to online research that tend to be more focused from unknown sources.

Medium: e-Books (Kindle) over paper books, too many books at home waiting to be passed off to a friend.

Obtaining book: Amazon

Sticky notes
Organization of thoughts taken from the interviews with Adam and Agnes.
Sticky notes
Organization of thoughts taken from the interviews with Trevor and Jean.
User Journey
User Journey
Narrowing down choices for the next great book to read can be difficult. Resources that help to make an educated decision that will ideally return an exceptional reading experience more often begin with word of mouth from a familiar source. Having too many choices and reviews from strangers makes it difficult to find that one book without a little bit of a direction and background. Curated lists, popularity and influences from past reads provide some direction for further investigation such as deeper digging into online reviews and reading samples to make a decision. Obtaining the winning choice ranges from buying to borrowing to downloading from the internet. The common goal is to find the cheapest source best if it’s free, this fosters exploration.
User Flow
User Flow
Providing historical information about previously read favorites to create a personalized list of books and authors will allow the app to leverage other users lists of similarly read books to identify differences while also taking into account genre and authors in making suggestions. Further research is possible through a community offering reviews and direct discussions, consolidated list of links to relevant interviews and articles for individual books and authors providing focused research and sources for obtaining the book. This is also a convenient reference for users to keep track of their past reads.

App Wireframes
Sign up Wireframes
The sign up process includes providing an email address and password that will need to be verified from a message sent to the email provided. Upon verification the user will need to provide 3 favorite books previously read and 3 authors of interest. These fields will have predictive searches for accuracy and convenience.
Profile Wireframes
Profiles provide 3 tabs that include a quick view of latest suggestions, favorites that include wishlist, read books and favorite authors previously added by the user, also a list of friends added. These tabs represent a snapshot and full page can be accessed through links. Action icons appear under each book listing to add or remove from read list, wishlist or to share book information.
Suggestions/Details Wireframes
The suggestions page provides a list of unread books based on leveraging other users lists of similarly read books to identify differences while also taking into account genre and authors in making suggestions. The book details page provide a short synopsis, list of external links to relevant interviews and articles, a list of resources to obtain the book and reviews with a link to the reviewer for further discussions. Author details page provide a short biography, external links and a list of notable work. Each profile and book thumbnail has action icons to add or remove it from favorites, wishlist or to share quickly.

Conclusion

Finding a rewarding book to read can be left to chance or taking the time to comb through the overwhelming number of choices that exist can be unpredictable and time consuming. Providing thoughtful suggestions, the convenience of a consolidated list of informative links for deeper insights into a book or author, a community that fosters discussions and a place to keep track favorites, all in one place.