Random House’s new Facebook app: If you liked Evelyn Waugh, you’ll love the Berenstain Bears

Online book discovery doesn’t work very well. Random House is attempting to address that problem with a new Facebook (s FB) app, BookScout, that gives users book recommendations from multiple publishers, not just Random House. Based on my extremely preliminary testing, the app’s recommendations leave something to be desired.
As mentioned by Publishers Lunch last week and reported by the New York Times (s NYT), BookScout lets users share and save their favorite books within Facebook and recommends new books to them. There are also buy links to multiple retailers.
The app draws on Facebook’s Open Graph to provide recommendations. This is why my initial six book recommendations are about coffee. Because apparently I’ve talked about coffee on Facebook a lot, and I also have it listed as one of my Facebook interests.
Screen Shot 2013-01-21 at 10.05.49 AM
I do like coffee — I’m drinking some right now, in fact — but that doesn’t mean I want to read books about it. I’m also not sure why the app seemingly fails to make any recommendations based on the twenty books and authors I have listed as favorites on my actual Facebook page. For example, I say that I like Alice Munro, Jhumpa Lahiri and Evelyn Waugh. Of the many books that BookScout recommended for me, one was by Alice Munro, but several are from romance authors like Debbie Macomber and Danielle Steel (romance is a genre I don’t read and have not listed as an interest — maybe the fact that I got married in 2011 spurred the recommendations?) and one was The Berenstain Bears and Mama for Mayor!
That’s okay, says Random House: the app promises the recommendations will get better the more you use it. Not surprisingly, the more you refine your recommendations (marking a book “not interested,” for example), the better those recommendations will get. I’ll give it a couple more days, but so far the most intriguing part of this app seems to be the fact that it’s recommending books from across publishers. The Facebook Open Graph integration is only cool if it works.
We’ll be discussing tools and strategies that publishers can use to improve personalized recommendations at the paidContent Live conference on April 17, 2013 in New York. For more details and to buy tickets, go here.