After three CEOs and a number of delays, Bookish launched at 9 p.m. Monday with approximately 2 million ISBNs from 19 publishers and a search recommendation function that its founders hope will make it easier for consumers to discover books. To help draw traffic to the Web site, Bookish will feature exclusive content about books and authors and will work with USA Today to integrate Bookish into the newspaper’s book page site.
Ardy Khazaei, who took over as CEO in October, said the site has been designed “to provide as many pathways to [book] discovery as possible.” There are about 400,000 author profile pages as well as title pages for all books on the site and Bookish allows consumers to search for books in 18 major categories. Reviews from PW are also featured and customers can add reviews and rate titles as well. Khazaei noted that to interact on the site, customers first must register something that he believes will limit the number of reviews from readers with agendas. In addition, Bookish features a book recommendation tool that will look to recommend the “next read” for consumers. The tool has been developed by a team led by Karen Sun who serves as Bookish’s Recommendations Data Scientist. A graduate of MIT and self-described bibliophile, Sun said the recommendation tool will use a host of factors to find books that may interest readers. Customers can type in as many as four books that they like and Bookish will find recommendations by “deconstructing” the book, Sun said, taking into account such things as editorial themes, reviews, editor insights and awards. “It an exercise in big data,” Khazaei said. As Bookish builds up more of a profile of a reader’s preferences (including book purchases) those will be added as well. “We want to surface books consumers may not be aware of,” Sun said. At launch, Bookish will not include push features such as e-mail alerts.
Consumers can buy print books, e-books and physical audiobooks right from the site or through links established to a number of affiliates that include Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, IndieBound, and Kobo. Any title bought directly from Bookish will be fulfilled by Baker & Taylor, which is also setting the price for the titles. While Bookish will not include downloadable audio at launch, Khazaei said it expects to add that soon. Apps and enhanced e-books are also not being sold through Bookish.
In addition to titles from the founding partners—Penguin Group USA, Hachette Book Group, and Simon & Schuster—Bookish includes titles from 16 other publishers, a list that comprises the three other big six houses plus companies that range from Abrams to Workman as well as Perseus and all its distribution clients and the clients of IPG.
Bookish’s home page will have new content each day and the site launched with an interview between Michael Connelly and Michael Kortya, an essay from Elizabeth Gilbert, and a look at the first chapter of Harlan Coben’s upcoming thriller Six Years. Excerpts, trailers and updated news will also be featured assembled by a team of seven editors overseen by Rebecca Wright, who is executive editor.
Bookish is counting on lots of pre-launch SEO work to help drive traffic as well as its collaboration with USA Today, a deal that replaces Bookish’s original media partner the AOL Huffington Post Media Group. USA Today readers who click on book information on the site will be linked to Bookish and the paper will syndicate Bookish content through its site. The site’s publishing partners will also feature links to Bookish on their sites and some will include Bookish ads. Bookish itself will take ads from publishers and from companies outside of the industry.