My thoughts on Riffle, the new “book discovery” site

Rifflebooks.com screenshotThe folks at Riffle sent me an invite to their beta “book discovery” site. It looks good – clean design, with a layout somewhere between Pinterest and Amazon’s “others who looked at what you’re looking at also looked at this” style. When I started filling out my book-lover profile though, I started noticing some quirks. And then I remembered, “wait, aren’t there a couple of these sites already?
Riffle describes itself as Pinterest for book-sharing. But it’s inconsistent with that metaphor / model. What’s great about Pinterest is that I can pin anything (visual) I want to my boards: if it’s not online already, I can upload my own photo. With Riffle, I can’t upload a photo of the cover of my favourite book; I have to use what’s in their database.
This would be OK if Riffle’s database were a mega-database of all book databases containing images of all books ever published – but it’s not. For example, I can’t find the children’s storybook I picked up in Montreal (Sir Hibou et Madame Chatwhich is super cute and beautiful). Maybe multilingual support is coming later. But when I add an old English title like To The Lighthouse to my list of books by favourite authors, I am forced to select a book cover that I feel is ugly, and more importantly, that I have never touched. Yes, the cover reads To The Lighthouse, but none of my three copies of the novel sport that jacket.
I read e-books and have an e-reader. But like many other people who read and don’t read e-books, I love my real, physical books. And I love their covers. Or, I don’t particularly love the look of some of them, but they’ve been familiar friends for many years – hanging out by the sofa, peeking out of bags, being lugged around on my travels, and sharing my office with me.
Riffle! Let book-cover snobs be book-cover snobs. Let us pick between different versions of the same book, let us opt to upload our own favourite book covers, please. And let us add artist’s books to your database.
There are some other little quibbles I have with Riffle. For example, having to try searching authors and titles multiple times in different ways because the system is slow, kind of like repeating the name of an obscure author to a hard-of-hearing librarian more than once, only less charming…. No option to search lists also sucks. By this I mean you can’t type in “inspiration” into a search field like you can on Pinterest and find a collection of things that people have tagged as something good for inspiration. (Is it just me or is that not one of the best features of Pinterest? That it’s an open platform like Twitter that users adapt and use the way they like.)
If Riffle fixes this quickly and really lives up to the “Pinterest for book-sharing” moniker – I think Riffle would have a good shot of competing with the likes of GoodReads* and others. Click here to join Riffle** and decide for yourself. (Do it soon; the link will expire in a few days.) Let me know what you think. I’m still hopeful things will improve; they are, after all, in beta.
*I find GoodReads very engaging if/because it’s a bit messy. If you know Toronto, it’s like going to Honest Ed’s – you get lost, literally, because of the layout and because the place is overflowing with stuff. My mom told me when I was, like, 5, that that was a really smart business tactic. Make it hard to leave, even if literally.
**Oh yeah. I forgot – so far it seems like the only way to join even after being invited is to sign in using Facebook. That sucks too. And I snobbishly wonder what kind of book-lover/book-sharing lover would build a system that only works with Facebook.
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3 responses to “My thoughts on Riffle, the new “book discovery” site

  1. Oh. Selective book covers suck. I always love picking the beautiful ones to buy when I have the option.

    Riffle seems like a good idea, but unfortunately with those kids of websites, you only get as much as you put in. As much as I love reading, I don’t think I would have the patience and motivation to make and maintain a bibliophile profile online. If they could find a way to collaborate with another website, say Amazon, they would have access to so many more book covers.

    If «Sir Hibou et Madame Chat» was printed by a small or independent publisher, that might be why it’s not on Riffle.

    I did try Goodreads for a while, but it wasn’t really too helpful. I prefer to just pop by a real book store or library where real people can recommend books. (I agree with your mum about Honest Ed’s though. It does take a while to get out after you enter).

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