Do You Trust a Computer to Tell You What to Read?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

Some of the books I’ve enjoyed most are precisely those I’d have never picked up myself. Can computers replicate serendipity?

By Edward Nawotka

library computers

Let’s face it, the idea of a computer telling you what to read kind of creepy. But as algorithms become more accurate — largely by tracking the way you use a site like Amazon.com or B&N.com — they are closing in on the ability to predict what you might enjoy reading. With BookLamp’s book scanning project, it’s getting even more sophisticated. And it’s not happening just with books. AOL’s Editions iPad magazine actually promises to “read you,” which seems even creepier.

Still, as a reader, I know that some of the books I’ve enjoyed most are precisely those I’d have never picked up myself and either came to me through a friend, word-of-mouth, a helpful bookseller or simple chance. (I used to wander the stacks at Columbia University looking for books no one had seemed to check out.)┬áCan computers replicate serendipity?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

Edward Nawotka is the Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. A former foreign correspondent, he has covered the book business exclusively since 2000, serving as daily news editor for Publishers Weekly and columnist for Bloomberg News.