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Giving away books on Goodreads


I’m running a book giveaway for the next 30 days on Goodreads. If you are already using Goodreads, just follow the link below to enter for a free copy of Who Pooped in the Cascades? If you’re not, follow the link anyway. Signing up is free, and you just might win one of the five free books on November 15.

UPDATE SATURDAY OCTOBER 12, 9:30 p.m.: Grrr. Seriously. Goodreads approved this giveaway within hours. After I publicized it on Facebook, Twitter, and this blog (and 42 people entered), I noticed I had entered something wrong on their form. I fixed it, and the giveaway was promptly hidden and has been awaiting reactivation by Goodreads staff for a day and a half. My apologies. I’ll post again when it’s actually working.

UPDATE TUESDAY OCTOBER 15, 9:00 p.m.: Problem fixed. Everything’s working now. Click on the “Enter to Win” link below if you’re interested in one of these free books.

And by the way my friends, if you have read any of my books, I’d greatly appreciate a review or rating on Goodreads. It really does help.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Who Pooped in the Cascades? by Gary D. Robson

Who Pooped in the Cascades?

by Gary D. Robson

Giveaway ends November 15, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Thank you all, and good luck in the giveaway.

BookLamp and the Book Genome Project


Booklamp logoI was perusing BookRiot yesterday and came across a post entitled “12 Alternatives to Goodreads.” This is a hot topic since the announcement that Amazon is acquiring Goodreads, and I found it interesting that Amazon has a stake in the first two alternatives listed (they own Shelfari outright and have a minority interest in LibraryThing). That, however, isn’t what this post is about.

One of the alternatives that BookRiot listed is a site called BookLamp. Most book sites that give recommendations are based on either bestsellers by genre, “people who read this also read that,” or social recommendations (“your friends liked this”). BookLamp takes a different approach that’s based on the Book Genome Project. Instead of looking at publisher marketing information, genre classifications, or social data, it analyzes the “DNA” of the books to look for similarities.

Why does this make a difference? Because every other recommendation site I’ve seen is heavily influenced by publisher marketing budgets and well-known authors. As an example, let’s say two authors write very similar books at the same time. Steve is a very well-known author with two bestsellers under his belt, and his books are published by Penguin — one of the big players. Bob is an unknown whose first book is being published by a tiny regional publisher.

Even if the books are equally well-written and have the same target audience, more of that audience will discover Steve’s new book. Some will already be fans of his, watching eagerly for his next release. Others will see the banner ads, well-made trailer video, and social media promotion. Most will remain completely unaware of Bob’s book. When you go looking for something new, you may see dozens of recommendations for Steve’s book, but none for Bob’s. Not because Bob’s isn’t as good; because nobody knows about it.

The BookLamp system completely ignores all of that. It analyzes everything from setting to pacing, not for the whole book but on a chapter-by-chapter (or even page-by-page) basis. Here’s it’s analysis of a favorite book of mine, Fools Crow by James Welch:

DNA Fools Crow

When I ask BookLamp for recommendations based on liking this book, it doesn’t try to shoehorn the book into a genre, look for other Native American writers, or take recommendations for friends. It looks for books that are set in the wilderness and involve horses, pets, parenthood, and visions. All of this data comes from computer analysis.

The analysis uses words and phrases to determine setting and topic focus. As an example, a book containing a lot of words like taxi, graffiti, elevator, and crowd is likely to be an urban setting. General characteristics like pacing and density come from formulas that have been around a long time, but have been refined by the Book Genome Project.

What this means is that BookLamp is likely to spit out recommendations that one wouldn’t get from GoodReads or Amazon — it’s the literary equivalent of the popular music site Pandora.

Their database is still rather limited. I tested it using some of my favorite fiction. They had Blind Your Ponies by Stanley Gordon West and Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! by Richard Feynman. They did not have Dancing at the Rascal Fair by Ivan Doig or Dodger by Terry Pratchett.

I don’t know that this will replace personal recommendations from friends, but it’s certainly a wonderful way to augment those recommendations and find some interesting new books that you are likely to enjoy.

Amazon buying Goodreads? Can’t we have anything nice?


The word is out. The biggest monopoly in the history of the book business is buying the biggest independent book review website. Most of what I’m reading about Amazon’s pending purchase of Goodreads is positive, but personally, it sends chills down my spine — and not in a good way.

Goodreads logo with books

If a big retailer like Barnes & Noble bought an independent objective review site like Goodreads, that would be bad. If a big publisher like Penguin bought an independent objective review site like Goodreads, that would be bad. Well, Amazon is both a big retailer and a big publisher.

Amazon’s recent lawsuit against book publishers and Apple allows Amazon to continue to set prices in the eBook industry, which takes money right out of the pockets of authors who have the chutzpah to have their books published by someone other than Amazon. They have purchased a number of small publishers and opened their own publishing imprint, so they are in direct competition with the publishers whose books they sell. And by purchasing Goodreads, they are taking control of the most influential independent book review site.

I was slow to get involved with Goodreads in the beginning. I rated and reviewed a few books, but didn’t really spend much time there. Then I discovered that the site was a great way to interact with my readers. All but one of my books was already listed there, and adding that remaining book was an easy process. Their author pages are easy to customize and easy to integrate with your blog.

Overall, I love the fact that Goodreads is independent, with no single publishing company telling them what to do. A book from Penguin and a book from a tiny regional publisher get exactly the same placement and the same amount of attention. No publisher controls the site. But we are losing that. Amazon is a publisher. A huge publisher. And when they purchase Goodreads, the site will lose its publisher-agnosticism, becoming another shill for a a company that isn’t lacking for shills.

One of my favorite features is that individual users can set the book buying links to include the vendors of their choice. If I want to buy from Barnes & Noble but not from Amazon, I check and uncheck the appropriate boxes and the links on every page change accordingly. I wonder how long that option will last when they become yet another subsidiary of Amazon.com? Farewell, objectivity.

The publishing world is a hard one for independent bookstores in the age of Amazon. It’s also a hard place for authors who have chosen traditional publishing. It’s about to get harder.

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