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

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.