Amazon Doesn’t Appreciate My Taste In Books


(c) Ian Wilson

In the middle of the night when insomnia hits the best thing to do is take a book to bed.

The only problem is finding the right book. OK I have a lot on my shelves and on the iPad but what about when I want a new one?

I have an extremely wide, but fairly specific taste in books. For example I can read David Weber’s “Honor Harrington” series but don’t like his “Safehold” series at all. As well as science fiction I read classics such as Austen and Bronte but can’t stand Dickens. I like biographies but tend to enjoy those of people long dead rather than modern ones – Italian renaissance biographies are my favourites.

In non-fiction I enjoy computer books (though not for night time reading), science books and some philosophy but generally can’t stand business books, though I’ve bought and enjoyed some by more tech oriented authors.

Put all this together and I find the Amazon recommendation engine an almost total waste of time. I’m not sure what good it does to tell it I’m not interested in a suggested book. As an example it seems that a lot of people who enjoy David Weber also enjoy Eric Flint. Personally I don’t like his writing and I’ve said “Not interested” to at least five or six of his books, but his keep on getting recommended.

The other annoying feature is that it doesn’t automatically ignore something I buy or add. Recently I added Photoshop Elements to my wish list so Amazon suggested books on the software. Shouldn’t it realise I don’t want **any** books on the topic when I turn down the first six it suggests?

The core problem is not the base engine, it certainly seems to make enough connections, but that it doesn’t do any learning from the items I turn down.

The most annoying thing is that it throws up enough books that I do like the look of that I don’t want to ignore it entirely. One or two books in the first thirty isn’t a terribly good hit rate though.

So how to fix it? I know that the movie people Flixster ran a competition to improve their recommendation engine, I think the time is overdue for Amazon to do the same thing.

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4 thoughts on “Amazon Doesn’t Appreciate My Taste In Books

  1. My best friend is even more specific in her tastes: Edwardian mysteries about aristocrats, preferably on yachts in the Mediterranean, if possible including a vicar…

    I don’t think Amazon is going to help her either…

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