The What should I read next? Help Page
I don't understand how I register!
Start typing the name or author of a book you like on the home page and click on the orange link which matches it best. At the bottom of the results page there's a box where you can enter your email address - your original book will be the first one on your new list - easy!
What's new at WSIRN?
The latest version of WSIRN relaunched in August 2012. The major new features are the ability to create more than one booklist, so you can manage books in whatever way you like (and share them with other people), and created a responsive, mobile-friendly version of the site. You can now import a whole list of ISBN numbers from a web page or a comma-separated file. We've also redesigned the whole site, with a shiny new logo by Wes West, and improved the efficiency of the database. We have lots more plans in the pipeline! You can keep up-to-date with what's going on via our Twitter feed, or by signing up at the site and joining our mailing list.
How does WSIRN work?
WSIRN produces recommendations based purely on collective taste: when books are entered into the same favorites list, they become associated with each other. The more often particular items appear on different lists, the stronger that association becomes. Purely and simply, WSIRN represents mass opinion about books. For the technically minded, this is a collaborative filtering system, using our own bespoke algorithm called 'Incidence Bias Weighting' and partly using association rules.
How should I use it?
If you simply want a quick recommendation, you only need to enter one book; click on the best match in the list that appears as you type and you will get some recommendations. The best thing to do, though, is enter a list of favorites. This will give you more focused recommendations, as well as helping to build the database and share your taste with other users of the site. If you enter your email address, your list of favorites will be remembered next time you visit, so you can then add new titles, create more lists, and get even more appropriate recommendations.
Why would I want to create booklists?
Aside from the warm, fuzzy feeling of contributing to the community, there are lots of ways you can use lists, now that we've added the multiple list feature: you can keep track of books you've read and liked, or have a wish list of things you want to read, or even a list of books you hated. You could also build lists of what you think are the 'top 10 psychological thrillers' or whatever and use the new share feature (under each list) to let other people see it.
Why aren't other books by the author I searched for in the results?
We filter these out because it seems obvious that you'd be interested in the other books by that author. You can always enter their name in the search box to see which of their books are in our database. The database is updated every day, so come back soon if you don't see them all!
I'm getting some weird results...
No recommendation algorithm is perfect, but we're constantly tidying the database to improve things - sometimes there are entries which are spelled wrongly from the source database we used when we started way back in 2005. The occasional wacky suggestion is usually down to the search book not appearing in many users' lists. But the results improve all the time, so do come back and try again.
What if I can't find the book I'm looking for?
Most of the time the database will identify your book by title/author straight away (you will see a list of close matches, with the most likely one at the top). Now and again it may not come up with what you're looking for immediately. If so, try checking you've spelt them correctly - also, try just entering the author's surname or a keyword from the book title. If that still doesn't work, you can enter the ISBN number from the book's bar code. We can then look that up elsewhere. If you're really stuck, get in touch with us via the links below and we'll try to help you out as soon as we can.
Why don't you list ebooks?
Technically, we do cover some - the problem is that there is no central, reliable database for looking up the details of ebooks by ISBN. This is a very important area we're looking into as a priority.
Why are there different versions of the same book that are shown when I start searching?
We're doing our best to iron these out - it's a problem that all the big book sites face. Some other sites like to have as many different editions as possible - but we think focusing on the 'work' is more important for providing meaningful recommendations. We are gradually removing cases where multiple editions confuse matters.
Who's behind the site?
WSIRN is the brainchild of writer/designer Andrew Chapman and marketing expert Paul Lenz at Thoughtplay Ltd. We started the site in 2005. We run it in our spare time, so be tolerant if we take a while to progress things! Like you, we're book lovers, so we care very much about what the site does. Also in 2005, we launched Who should you vote for?, which helps people make voting decisions - we had a huge number of visitors for both the UK 2005 general election and US 2008 Presidential election, and between the big elections it always has a range of interesting political quizzes. We love creating interesting online projects that get real people involved. You can contact us via the Thoughtplay site if you have any feedback or ideas - we'd love to hear from you.
Doesn't Amazon do all this with its recommendations?
Amazon certainly offers a useful recommendation system, but it is based on your past buying patterns and those of other users - however, you don't always buy items for yourself, do you? Our system has no commercial agenda at all (though you can buy the recommended items through Amazon, of course), and is purely based on items that real people actually like. We're not trying to urge you to buy particular bestsellers or anything like that - we simply want to help people share their favorite items with each other.
Are you making money from this?
The only money we make is if people buy items through Amazon - we get a very small percentage. This helps to cover our site hosting and programming costs, but is certainly not something we can live off!
Why don't you ask for a password?
Our philosophy is about keeping things simple, which is why WSIRN is the easiest to use book recommendation system online. You've got dozens of passwords for other sites already - why should you have to remember yet another one? Your email address is unique to you - and of course you can always set one up just for using this site if you want to guarantee privacy. When you register, we send you an email to check whether you intended to. In seven years only two of our millions of users have ever requested passwords, so it's clear you'd prefer to keep things simple too!