The site has been developed by Opening the Book, a creative, independent organisation working with public libraries in the UK and across the world. We have run the site as a free resource since 2003.
Every title on whichbook has been read by one of a changing team of 40 readers who are drawn from libraries and literature organisations and come together to share training with Opening the Book to create the entries. The ratings and comments are created by real readers who care about books.
In choosing titles for the site, we pick a wide range with as much diversity as possible. There are so many great books that never reach a large audience as they don’t have a big marketing budget. If you are the kind of reader who likes to pick up something a bit off the beaten track, you will find whichbook full of treasures. If you’d like to suggest a book to be included, please contact us.
There is something wonderful about a site that gives you what you have asked for but makes it different from what you were expecting. That’s what I love about Whichbook. It’s responsive and intuitive and will go where each user wants to take it - but when you get there, it’s not just the same choices you see all over the book media, there will be books you’ve never heard of, voices coming from other places.
In training Whichbook readers, I enjoy helping people to express the flavour of the reading experience. It’s not about judgment and whether apples or pears taste better. It’s about how we can write about the book so people can tell what kind of fruit it is, whether they might like it and how to tune in and get the best out of its apple-y or pear-ish qualities. I like working with librarians on this because their role is neutral without any commercial or policy agenda, they are not snobs and they are in daily contact with a wide range of readers.
In the Whichbook world, all titles have an equal chance of discovery, whatever their marketing budget. Best matches are returned in random order so different ones come to the top of the list. I get a real kick out of this small act of levelling in an unequal world.
And over twenty years, nobody, not even Amazon, does what we do - I am proud of that too.
The joy of being online editor for Whichbook is seeking out books which may fly below the radar - books from Indy publishers, first time authors, novels and poetry in translation, quirky titles and knock out covers. My book antennae are permanently tuned as I explore print and digital media – and listen in to conversations with friends and colleagues. Twitter and podcasts provide rich sources of intriguing titles.
Equally rewarding is working closely with a creative and dedicated team of trained Whichbook readers to get the books live on the site. Our lines of communication are always open and buzzing as we work together to maintain high quality entries on Whichbook. The team is full of eclectic readers who are keen to share their own personal reading discoveries which in turn can be shared and posted on the site.
I am now very excited to be part of this fabulous new-look Whichbook. I particularly love the strong design focus on book covers and the amazing visual impact this creates.
I first got involved with whichbook when we went to Oslo in 2005 to pitch for the Norwegian version. I created an admin site in English to be used by Opening the Book and our Norwegian partners and a user front end in two Norwegian languages. One of the challenges was to link the site to every public library and high school library catalogue at the author-title level which the vendors said would take at least five years to accomplish. I remember creating the code and testing it in the hotel the night before the presentation – yes, we got it to work. It then took many days to configure for every different system but I knew it was possible.
I have wanted to upgrade the whichbook site for a long time and it is immensely satisfying to finally get the chance to work on it. I knew that 60% of our visitors now access the site by mobile phone so it was essential to make it phone-friendly. The world map was probably my biggest challenge. We always knew we wanted an intuitive experience, and not just a drop-down list of countries. It’s so much more inviting, fun to use and easier to go places you might never get to in real life. However, we may need to make a less graphically intense version for mobile depending on feedback as some phones may struggle.