Publishers’ Weekly recently featured a new initiative by Lit Hub called Book Marks which is an aggregator of book reviews across the web, primarily from syndicated publications like The New York Times and The Washington Post, and various review publications across the web.
I had a chance to visit yesterday and thought it was a pretty cool place, particularly to find reviews and ratings of new books. Here are some of the features you will find, from top to bottom.
On the right side of the black bar with Lit Hub on the left is a search box where you may enter the title of a book you want to see reviews for. Only books with three or more syndicated reviews will appear.
A site map across the top of the page takes you to the following pages:
- Features: Review articles and other book related articles including content from Lit Hub.
- New books: Recently published books with three or more reviews.
- Biggest new books: The “hottest” books of the season. I presume this is by sales, because ratings on the books vary (more below)
- Fiction: Reviews on recent fiction publications
- Non-fiction: Reviews on recent non-fiction
- All categories: Books listed by thirty-one categories. For each, four titles are listed by cover image with a “see more” link to the right.
Clicking on “Book Marks” will take you back to the home page. So much for navigation around the site.
On the home page, across the top most part of the page are cover images of the “biggest new books.” When you mouse over the cover image, you will see a summary of reviews ranked from “rave” to “positive” to “mixed” to “pan” and an overall average of these. Currently, for example, David Sedaris’s new book, Calypso has received more than 10 rave reviews, 5 positive, and none in the other two categories for an overall rating of “rave.” Meg Wollitzer’s The Female Persuasion has more than 10 rave reviews, 9 positive, 7 mixed and 3 pan for an overall “positive.” On the other hand, Bill Clinton and James Patterson’s The President is Missing received 3 raves, 5 positives, 6 mixed, and 4 pans for a “mixed” overall rating. Obviously reviewers don’t agree and you probably won’t either.
Clicking on the book cover image will take you to a page for the book with excerpts of several reviews, links to the full reviews and a link that will take you to all reviews for the book.Each page includes a “Buy From a Local Bookstore” box that will take you to Indie Bound and allow you to buy your book from a local bookstore. Take that, Amazon! The bottom of the page features similar books. Each page also includes a reviews “widget” for that page that may be embedded on a website of an author or publisher or bookseller. It is a great way to see the critical conversation going on about a book.
Below the Biggest New Books are Book Marks Features, then Latest Releases, Best Reviewed (not explained but it suggests that some of the best written reviews may be found here), a Daily Giveaway, More Fiction, More Non-fiction, LGBTQ Stories (I wonder if this selection changes), links to the various fiction and non-fiction categories on Book Marks, and links to the latest stories on Lit Hub. [Lit Hub also cross links their content with Book Marks.]
The three features which make this an extremely valuable site are the aggregated professional reviews (with names on them), the widgets, which help publishers and bookstores promote a book on their websites, and the function that allows you to find a local indie bookseller from whom to purchase books.
What could make this more valuable? I’d love to see them put together a phone app you could use when you are browsing in a book store. Scan the bar code for the book and the app pulls up the book page on Book Marks and allows you to see the ratings and read the reviews and decide if this book is for you. The one down side is that there are many books not yet loaded on the site since this is a new project, but particularly for new books on a variety of topics, and a selection of others, this is a great resource that promises to get better with time.