BookDigits: Like GoodReads, But Without the Drama

by Caitlin Van Horn

BookDigits, a new recommendation and review site, posits itself as a "smarter way to explore books" and, so far, it seems to be delivering on its promise.

The site eschews genres in favor of "themes" — specific components of a given book, ranked by percentage. So, for instance, Flowers for Algernon is 24 percent Intelligence, 19 percent Science Fiction, 17 percent The Human Condition, and so on. I can see the benefit immediately — I don't care if it's the best Dystopian YA novel, I still don't want to read it. But a novel that's 12 percent Magical Realism, 40 percent Apocalypse, and 8 percent Romance? Okay, sure.

Reviewers are also dissuaded from posting summaries. This may seem obnoxious, but I'm going to ask a question: When was the last time your enjoyment of a book really and truly hinged on the plot? Probably not since you were reading Choose Your Own Adventure novels. Books are then ranked on a Literature/Commercial slider ("Neither side of the spectrum is better than the other"), Addictiveness ("Bad books can be addictive, and good ones don't have to be"), Movie Potential, and Re-Readability. Overall, the categories seem thoughtfully chosen and promote a more three-dimensional review.

But let's get to the meat of the issue: BookDigits is a direct GoodReads competitor, and BookDigits has a strong advantage in its distinct lack of sociality. Sure, a social, community-oriented reading experience is what originally set GoodReads apart, but it has also been causing a lot of trouble. Who can forget the drama of the GoodReads Bullies? The escalating hysteria of Stop The GoodReads Bullies? The unfortunate author-on-reader sniping? And then the inevitable cascade of think pieces about each debacle and what they "meant for the community"?

BookDigits sidesteps (perhaps deliberately) some of the more contentious aspects of GoodReads. There are no author accounts, no groups, and nothing even remotely resembling a forum. With regard to community outrage and infighting, BookDigits seems all quiet on the western front (mostly because there is no community). And that sounds more and more appealing.

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