When you are looking for a new book there are a few ways to go about it. Amazon and Kobo provide recommendations based on past purchases and employ algorithms based on your searches. Bookstores tend to put the most recent books in dedicated sections and showcase books that the staff have picked out. Finally, most people find their next big read by recommendations from their friends and family. There is now another service that is providing book recommendations and it stems from real people.
Riffle’s new service is in beta, so you can be the first to try it out here. The service gives you personalized book suggestions from expert readers (usually librarians, bloggers, or bookstore employees). The suggestions are done in a chat with a real, live book expert, so it’s much more personal than algorithms.
I asked Neil Baptista the CEO of Riffle about the turnaround time for book recommendations, he said “Our beta chatbot asks a few questions and then gets the request in front of a Riffle Expert. There’s generally less than a 24hr turnaround time until your request is answered. We’re in the midst of implementing a real-time messaging system to allow an immediate session with an expert. Although, what we’ve found is that these chats turn into revealing conversations about books, where readers actually learn about their own book preferences from a different perspective. The interaction is much more edifying than a simple search or books spit back by an algorithm. It ends up being more consultative, than ‘what should I buy while I’m standing at the airport bookstore’ type urgency. We’ll try and offer immediate as well as no-rush type options.”
He went on to say “sensitive to scale, we’re also training an Artificial Intelligence instance to help us identify patterns in requests. In response to popular requests, we’ve already got a trove of expertly curated read-alike lists that we’ve been amassing. Those can provide instant gratification, until the personal conversation begins.”
How is Riffle financed and will the company be around in a year or two? Neil said “Riffle has capital from angel investors, combined with bootstrapping revenue. Our ebook deals newsletter is similar to BookBub and that drives tactical revenue, while we pursue strategic goals of growing our expert reader community. As Riffle ascends into a large reading community combined with reading preference data, it draws both authors and publishers to the well. Then, obvious opportunities in advertising emerge, as well as more creative ones that deal with data for both marketing and possibly acquisition and at some point direct sales of books.”
I think Riffle is doing something new in the fiend of book recommendation and I think publishers will be banging down their doors in order to get people to buy books directly from the site. Still, if you are looking to find a new book, Riffle is free and worth checking out.
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times.