Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Okay - Either It's Recommended Or It's Not

LibraryThing is one of my favorite sites on the Internets, but as of late their automatic recommendations feature has been driving me crazy. This is how it works: LibraryThing lets you catalogue all your books (up to 200 titles that is - if you want to catalogue more, there's a nominal annual fee) and then helps you find people that are interested in the same authors as you, gives you recommendations on what to read next (usually much more accurately than say, Amazon, unless of course you rate your whole library there), allows you to check the contents of your library from anything that has an Internets connection, including your mobile phone (a feature that would be quite helpful to me if I, in fact, owned a mobile phone), and so on and so forth. Basically, it's social networking for book geeks, and it's about goddamn time somebody thought of it, I say.

So the deal with the recommendations is this - you catalogue all (or most) (or some) of your books, and LibraryThing gives you back a big-ass (like 1,000 titles) list of recommended books that aren't already in your library. It's usually pretty accurate - for example, LT has recommended titles by authors like Salinger, Golding, and Bradbury, all of whom I like, and none of whom they know I've read. Having said that, there's sometimes a little systemic programming glitch that drives me crazy. To wit: every other time I log onto the site, I look down at the list of automatic recommendations and I'll see listed there, along with 2 or 3 other titles, Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche.

Cover courtesy Penguin Books. Cover image: Detail from Sunset, Mont Blanc by Wenzel Hablik, in the Wenzel Hablik Museum. Copyright Wenzel Hablik Museum, Itzahoe.

This is great, and I'm very flattered that LibraryThing thinks that I may be able to read the infamously difficult and ambiguous Nietzsche with something approaching comprehension, I wish they would decided whether they really want to recommend this to me our not, because the next time I log on to the site, it isn't there. I don't see it on the home page, and when I click on the link to the recommendations page, it's nowhere to be found; but then I log on again a couple of days later and it's back. A couple of days later, it's gone again. A couple of days later... you get the idea.

The fascinating thing to me is I'm now much more interested in reading this book than I would be if it had just come up as a recommendation and stayed there. But I still wanna know... what's the deal, LT? Am I worthy of reading Nietzsche or not? I guess I'll have to take the plunge and find out for myself.

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