There’s a big difference between consumer satisfaction and marketing. That difference is credibility and has become a major problem for me. Years ago books making it to the publisher had been carefully screened. After all, it was expensive to publish a book. This meant that the books getting published had been reviewed and refined until they were actually readable.

True deciding which books were published gave the publishers strong influence over society but it was also a trade off between making money and following established norms. Publishers tend to like making money.

Fast forward to today. Publishing a book is no longer the odyssey it used to be. This has enabled large numbers of mediocre and poor authors to be published. Take a look at all the books available on Kindle at $.99 or less. You can even find trilogies at that price. Some of those books might be good but by and large, the majority of them would be better suited lining the bottom of a digital canary’s cage. Amazon should be paying me to read them.

Even worse these authors have no incentive to get better. They’ve managed to publish their book. People bought the book and the reviews weren’t terrible. Unfortunately reviews tend to compare the books to the contemporary tripe already out there. If I’ve never tasted anything better, I might decide that Keebler chocolate chip cookies were fantastic. That impression will change dramatically the first time I taste fresh bakery cookies.

The current trend in science fiction is young female leads. Fortunately, we’re moving away from the undead romance thing but men and women do think differently. Granted, females should be able to tell their story but no matter how hard I try it takes an exceptional author to give me story with a female lead that I can enjoy. And I can’t tell you how much it irritates me when it’s obvious the story was written as a male character and then changed to female at the last moment with the addition of a few tears and self-doubt.

So here we are. The majority of books making it through the publishers are female leads. Not something I have a strong interest in. The rest of the books have such a low reading value they make tech manuals exciting by comparison.

How do I pick something to read?

This should be an easy task. Amazon has a list of almost all the books I’ve purchased in the last ten years, Goodreads has my opinion of almost three hundred books. Both claim to use the latest in AI to predict which books I will enjoy.

Both fall far short of the mark. How do I know?

If you know anything about me, you know I view everything as a test.  When I talk to you, when I write for you, I’m evaluating your responses. Everything about my blog is a test. From the Do not Select button on my home page to the way I sneak in key words to improve my SEO.

When I gave my reviews on Goodreads, I left several of my favorite books out. Had they predicted even a few of those books, I would have had more faith. They did manage to suggest a few books I found boring, insipid and in one case totally unreadable. Of course I also left a few of those off my review. Comprehensive testing requires balance.

Amazon fared only slightly better in the personally selected for you category. I know their objective is to sell me books but when they tell me that they have a bargain selected just for me and it turns out to be a set of children’s books, their credibility drops to zero.

This isn’t a failure of AI. How hard is it to look at my preferences, categorize them and select books based on how closely they match my preferences? You could almost do this with a spreadsheet. AI is better than this.

Failure of the AI to select books that I like can only mean that an additional factor has been added, marketing. Amazon has recently come under for fire for the way they select their recommended products. They lead us to believe that these recommendations are products that will serve us well. It quickly becomes obvious that most of these products serve Amazon best by generating revenue. Unfortunately, the odds of it being best in terms of your needs and expectations are rather low.

At the heart of all of this is credibility. Amazon touts their AI solutions but when it comes right down to it, their recommendations have the same credibility as most of their five star reviews, almost none.

This is nothing new, shopping at Radio Shack and listening to them explain how gold-plated contacts gave you better depth of sound taught me quickly to ignore all their recommendations for the same reason, no credibility.

I understand why Radio Shack was so eager to pawn gold plated contacts on me. Their commission was far higher and you can only buy so many audio cables. Amazon disappoints me. I intend to keep reading. Why flood me with recommendations for books that in an earlier age, would never see the light of day. Half the time, around chapter three, I find myself rooting for the villain to quickly put all of us out of our misery. That’s assuming I care enough about any of the characters to read that far.

Case in point, when you pull into your parking lot and spend an extra five minutes listening to your book because you absolutely can’t bear to leave at this point, it’s a good book. When your book is in the final battle, with the fate of the entire world about to be decided and you jump out of the car, glad for the excuse to stop listening, you know the author missed your interest by a wide mark.

Credibility, Amazon is rapidly losing it; Goodreads never achieved it. How do I select my next great read? Recommendations appreciated.

© 2019, Byron Seastrunk. All rights reserved.

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