Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Discovery of eBooks Will Never Improve Until Retailers and Publishers Learn...

Image via BigStock Photo

Image via BigStock Photo

When readers talk to other readers about books, they speak in a language of tropes, character types, and hot button issues. They ask for spoilers and in depth details. They want to know if a character in book B is like the character in book A that they love.

A quick run down of forum topics at a popular romance gathering includes:

  • Fight club
  • Shy awkward / alpha
  • Books where heroine almost dies

When I gather books for the DA New Releases site, Calibre pulls down the metadata for a book including the “category” a book is placed in. Categories, generally speaking, are the BISAC codes assigned by the publisher (whether it be a publishing house or author).  A BISAC is a classification system that “BISG develops and maintains a number of classification systems for both physical and digital products. The systems can be used individually or together to help determine where the work is shelved in a bricks-and-mortar store or the genre(s) under which it can be searched for in an online database.”

Here are the BISAC codes for romance:

  • FIC027000 FICTION / Romance / General
  • FIC049060 FICTION / Romance / African American
  • FIC027080 FICTION / Romance / Collections & Anthologies
  • FIC027020 FICTION / Romance / Contemporary
  • FIC027010 FICTION / Romance / Erotica
  • FIC027030 FICTION / Romance / Fantasy
  • FIC027050 FICTION / Romance / Historical / General
  • FIC027140 FICTION / Romance / Historical / Ancient World *
  • FIC027150 FICTION / Romance / Historical / Medieval *
  • FIC027070 FICTION / Romance / Historical / Regency
  • FIC027160 FICTION / Romance / Historical / Scottish *
  • FIC027170 FICTION / Romance / Historical / Victorian *
  • FIC027180 FICTION / Romance / Historical / Viking *
  • FIC027120 FICTION / Romance / Paranormal
  • FIC027130 FICTION / Romance / Science Fiction
  • FIC027110 FICTION / Romance / Suspense
  • FIC027090 FICTION / Romance / Time Travel
  • FIC027100 FICTION / Romance / Western

While readers appreciate the randomly chosen generalist subject codes, these tell a reader almost nothing about a book. Further while some are very granular (Viking Historical?) most are very broad.  A reader, presented with this broad range of subjects is hard pressed to find something of interest unless her eye is caught by a tiny thumbnail or the title.

Online discovery isn’t happening at the retailers, like it happens in the bookstore, because retailer sites aren’t set up for discovery beyond the front page.  BN’s romance page has featured 50 Shades above the scroll for months.  Scrolling down, you get horizontal scrollbars for things like “Coming Soon”, “Bestsellers”, “New releases” but a quick scroll through both and you begin to see repetitive titles.  This is not hand curated like a table in the retail store (or if it is, the curation is poor because the constant repetitive nature of the titles reduce visibility of other titles).  Further, little information is imparted about the book unless the reader can guess from the title and the cover exactly what the genre or subgenre is on it. No wonder romance cover artists rely so heavily on the naked chest.  BN offers no advanced search function.

Amazon hews closely to the BISAC codes, as does BN.  Amazon does offer an advanced search wherein you can filter by subject matter and keyword as well as publisher and date published.  However, how many users realize that a) it is available and b) can figure out how to use it. For instance, Advanced Search is accessible ONLY from the “books” subpage and not the “Kindle Books” subpage.  However, Advanced Search keyword is limited to whatever is in the description field and since publishers haven’t clued in to how readers talk, Advanced Search can often be a fruitless way to discover new books.

Kobo, like the previous two retailers, also subdivides books by BISAC codes and offers no advanced search features.  Worse, Kobo’s results are often random and not related to what keywords you input.

Searching by date is also worthless because the etailers often have books in their search engines not due out for months.  What if I want to know just the contemporaries published this month.  How easy is that to find on any three of the sites discussed above?

For Kobo, the Newest to Oldest search results for contemporary romance show 21 pages of books not yet released before I find titles I can buy now.   For BN, the Newest to Oldest search results for contemporary romance don’t even reveal on the index page which titles are pre order and which are available now unlike Kobo and Amazon.  Instead, the reader would be forced to click through a random title to figure out if it was a new release.  At Amazon, there is a “new and popular” search feature but the newest title is one published in December.   It is now two months later.  The second title on the list is a 50 Shades title, published in 2011.

The Advanced Search at All Romance is one of the better etailer search programs. You can search by “flame” rating, two categories, exclude categories, and tags.  The big problem is that many books do not have tags, limiting the efficacy of such a search option.

None of the three major retailers allow you to exclude titles.  For instance, maybe I want to see all contemporary romances but none with a title of billionaire.  But these complaints address just the existing flawed search functions.

Beyond how rudimentary and unhelpful the search features are at these retailers is the fact that the search terms are designed to speak to readers.  Amazon has tried to address this by allowing readers to add “tags” to books but the tag feature has been sorely abused.  Many of the books at AllRomance have no tags either.

Tags would allow publishers to add tropes, character archetypes, and subject matter that would speak to the reader. As a reader, I would like to be able to go to a retailer and type in “funny beta male blue collar marriage in trouble” and pull up a host of digital books that might hit that exact mood.  Or how about “sexy football opposites attract” story for Super Bowl Sunday?

Discovery for books isn’t happening at retailers for two reasons.  First, the search features are broken and second, the publishers and retailers aren’t speaking the language of the reader. Until that happens, discovery will happen elsewhere and maybe in smaller numbers.

Update: For some reason this has been targeted by spammers and I’m having to turn off the comments for that reason.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. library addict
    Feb 03, 2013 @ 04:29:54

    That all sounds nice. But at this point in time I would settle simply for being able to actually search by author or title. Half the books at Kobo don’t come up when you search as sometimes they have the author name backwards. I still can’t find any rhyme or reason why new releases there come up when you search by author but not title. And while Amazon is a tad better when you search by author under books and sort by publication date you get tons of other authors’ books as well.

    It is so frustrating even when you know what you’re looking for. So trying to browse is almost a lost cause.

  2. Liz H.
    Feb 03, 2013 @ 05:02:55

    I believe I read last week that Amazon has just done away with tags; if you have tagged books you can still view them on your personal account pages, but tags are no longer visible on the product pages.

    Goodreads offers the perfect supporting evidence for your arguments. When readers are given the opportunity to organize their own labels and groupings for books, they use tropes, character descriptions, etc., as visible in the tags and list groupings on the site.

    Amazon and Barnes & Noble have seemed to think that their “Other readers bought” and “Similar books” algorithms are the answer to your complaint. However, Amazon’s have changed over the last few months, and even when functioning, were completely ineffective. (I don’t need a list of the 10 other books that the same author has written. I’m not a complete idiot and can find those on my own.) I think it likely that Amazon is phasing them out in favor of the Recommended for You page, which gives them the added benefit of collecting oodles of additional data on their buyer. B&N’s have generally not had the same author repition problem in my experience, but are usually shorter, and no less inaccurate.

    Although I don’t participate in Goodreads, I have tried using the site for tags and grouping lists for discovery. While far better than any other site, as you noted with the Amazon tags, those placed by readers and not overseen can be inaccurate and subject to abuse. In addition, there is no way that I’m aware of to search for multiple tags. (Someone please please correct me if I’m wrong.) The lists are subject to similar problems, however there are simply so many of them that effectively searching for a particular list is an exercise in frustration.

    I’ve said for years that the next big successful bookstore is going to have some combination of revolutionary layout which allows better browsing and discovery, accurate algorithm (unlikely), and/or highly detailed search feature. In the meantime though, I’m with @library addict and would settle for an accurate title/author/date search function.

    @Jane- You’ve hit two of my biggest pet peeves over the last two weekends. Being able to rant about these things is almost as good, and far cheaper than therapy! Any chance you could re-hit author websites next weekend? From the pages I’ve been seeing recently people really need it, and I’ve got lots of anger stored up. (Facebook is NOT a substitute for a news/coming soon page.)

  3. Ros
    Feb 03, 2013 @ 06:38:21

    I seem to be able to search Amazon UK for books in different categories published in the last 30 days or 90 days, which I find really helpful.

    But, yes, searching by trope, character, setting etc. would be utterly brilliant.

  4. Jayne
    Feb 03, 2013 @ 07:04:05

    I’ve basically given up buying any books from B&N because their search function sucks.

  5. mari
    Feb 03, 2013 @ 08:00:47


    Amen to that!Their author tag doesn’t always bring up all the books written by that author!

    There are a lot of librarians who read this site, perhaps some enterprising, romance loving cataloger could come up with a system like this. Combine this with a brick and mortar book store, where romance is front and center, and you might have something here….

    Get some capital together, go on Shark Tank….the first ever Dear Author, romance book episode…..

  6. cleo
    Feb 03, 2013 @ 08:15:40

    I really hate the Since you Bought This feature on my nook. It seems to get stuck. For the last week all of my recommendations have been Barbara Hambly books, no matter what. Today it said that since i bought Annie Dillards The Writing Life, I’d love The Rainbow Abyss and two otners by BH. Earlier this week i got the same three recs since i bought Conduct Unbecoming by LA Witt. This sort of nonsense makes me too angry to buy books.

  7. Moriah Jovan
    Feb 03, 2013 @ 08:19:49

    I don’t know what it would take to get BISG to revise those categories (and I don’t know how much input publishers have), but as a publisher of fiction and an author services person for mostly nonfiction, those fuckers drive me bananas.

  8. SAo
    Feb 03, 2013 @ 08:25:13

    Yes! I’m always struck when searching for romance that I can’t exclude paranormal. Offer me werewolves and sparkling vampires (Bram Stoker is rolling in his grave) and I click away from the page. I’ve had problems with Bronte. If the catalog has the two dots over the E, computers don’t think it is the same as Bronte without my figuring out how to produce that character.

    I think on Amazon you can pay to have your book show up in a search for a different author. I’ve had some odd stuff show up.

    Better algorithms might work, but so few allow you to tweak them. I’d be happy with “other people who read Loretta Chase have rated X highly.”

  9. Romy Sommer
    Feb 03, 2013 @ 08:49:04

    Fantastic post, Jane.
    I’ve only just realised the tags on Amazon have disappeared. Ouch.

    As a kindle owner and avid reader, I’d also love to be able to search by trope, character or setting. For example, right now I have a hankering to read something set on a sunny tropical island…

  10. sandyg265
    Feb 03, 2013 @ 08:58:37

    I’m sure there are lots of ebooks out there that I would love to read but have never heard of. Most of the times when I try a new to me author it’s because I either found out about the book on a blog or through Goodreads. I agree there needs to be a better way to pull up books in a category and then be able to browse through them.

  11. Tina
    Feb 03, 2013 @ 09:11:56

    When I am looking for something a little more specific, I tend to try ARE first. Although their search can be iffy, at least they have the side-bar with a lot more descriptive categories than most places. I love that they have a ‘Pirates’ category. Not that I am interested in Pirates, but it is there. But they also have ‘Rubenesque’ and ‘Multiple Partners’ and they de-couple ‘Shape-Shifter’ from’ Vampires/Werewolves’, which I find interesting.

    I also depend a lot of my GR friends who tend to be a lot more thorough and inventive in their shelving names than I am. I can get a LOT of information about a book just by reading what shelves my GR friends have them on.

    But the GR search function is terrible. You have to know the exact spelling of the book or author otherwise you get no results. I was looking for ‘The Lies of Locke Lamora’ the other day. Do you know how many possible different combo spellings there are of ‘Locke’ and ‘Lamora’?

    A specific search by trope would be awesome. Or even a search by place. Sometimes I have a hankering for a book set in a big city like Seattle or Washington or Chicago.

  12. donna ann
    Feb 03, 2013 @ 10:07:34

    I agree the search features drive me nuts. I never “browse” amazon, b&n online or kobo sites like I would an actual book store to see what’s out new or interesting (ARE is a little better in that their front page & top 10 buy list changes at least once a week). drives me nuts if I type in an authors name & it comes up with a bunch of books and many of the books listed aren’t even by that author (even when I’ve clicked on the author name in the search to get that author only!). Also find it annoying when the same book is listed several times (yes amazon — talking to you) once for each format (hardback, paperback, ebook, audio, large print, etc). as for the recommend for you feature, I agree I don’t 10 books listed by one author, I don’t need both the paper & e-book versions listed, and I really don’t even want to begin to try to figure out some of the “since you bought/looked at book A we thought you might like book B” combinations that I’ve seen as trying to figure out the logic might cause me head to explode in a mass of confusion. These days, (with ARE really being the only exception) most of my new finds (books or authors) come from blogs & review sites that I follow rather than from book stores.

  13. kathy cole
    Feb 03, 2013 @ 10:07:34

    I’ve fallen into Teen Wolf fan-fiction in the last couple of months. I have to say that the folks at Archive of Our Own illustrate what could be done really well. The work gets binned into one or more fandoms, and then there’s a bunch of options within structured tags and also free-form tags. You’re dependent on the author tagging the works, and some tags are really random tumblr-fangirly, but all in all its been great to explore using the site. You feel like some wacky relationship or condition, some cross-over between Harry Potter and the Avengers, A. it’s probably there, and B. you can find it quickly.

    For ebook shopping, I primarily skim through new releases at All Romance, and then once I find something that catches my eye, I wander through backlists for that author. I’m less likely to search by category there, but I agree with the other feedback – it’s better than at other sites.

  14. Cindy
    Feb 03, 2013 @ 10:21:54

    Maybe the retailers etc. should all look at Carina Press’s site with their shop by category, shop by niche options. Their site is the most reader friendly and I’ve noticed Ellora’s Cave has done this as well now. EC is the only site I’ve found that actually lets me click Medieval and find stories. Both EC and CP let me click steampunk and find them. Downfall is this doesn’t cover ALL books, just theirs.

  15. Carrie G
    Feb 03, 2013 @ 10:24:26

    I agree with others who have said they mine their friends goodreads shelves for more detailed information. But before I used Goodreads, I learned a great deal on the Amazon Romance discussion forum. I was such a newbie to romance reading a few years ago that even browsing bookstores didn’t tell me enough. I didn’t know the “well known” authors nor did I know enough to look for certain tropes. I started lurking on the Amazon romance forum and learned tons! That’s where I got familiar with author names, genres, and the “vocabulary” of romance reading. It’s also where I learned about all the different romance review sites like Dear Author. When Amazon messed with the forums and virtually his them from view, many regulars went over to Goodreads and formed a “Romance Forum Refugees” group. That group is a great place to look up books by trope. They have them sorted that way on their bookshelves. etailers could learn a lot from the group about how romance readers think and interact about romance books.

  16. Statch
    Feb 03, 2013 @ 12:07:46

    I can’t even express how much I agree with this! It’s ridiculous that publishers haven’t gotten together and come up with a system, preferably a flexible system that can grow as creative people come up with new genres. It would sell books and would be in everyone’s best interests. I do sometimes find Amazon’s ‘other people who bought this also bought these’ useful, but it’s very hit or (usually) miss and involves a lot of reading reviews and trying to decide how real they are.

    I also miss very much Fictionwise’s ‘new ebooks’ page. I used to look forward to Monday’s to see what new books had come out. It’s insane how hard it is to find a replacement for what seems like it ought to be an obvious service. (I know there must be other people here who remember that page. What do you all use as a replacement?)

  17. Brian
    Feb 03, 2013 @ 12:25:35

    For me, discovery was never overly successful at b&m bookstores. Even way back before Barnes & Noble turned me into an Amazon customer I primarily found new stuff online.

    I’ve always had the most success by using various tools such as online forums (& before that Usenet), review blogs/sites and even Google searches. I used to have a ton of success using Amazon’s personalized recommendations page, but the advent of kdp and freebies (especially since kdp select) have more or less killed that as a successful tool. Another tool I’ve used is Fantastic Fiction. At the bottom of an authors page there’s a list of other authors to check out. Its not always spot on, but I’ve found countless new authors to check out that way.

    Kobo has been completely useless for any kind of discovery for me. Half the time I have trouble find stuff easily even if I already know the author or title due to their lackluster search features. B&N I usually don’t bother with at all as for some reason their site and I don’t get on well. I still have minor success on Amazon, but nothing like in years past.

    Big publisher sites have been almost completely useless to me, while sites for smaller pubs like Samhain’s and Carina’s have been pretty good (even though I don’t care for the look and feel of either that much). I can’t count the times where big pubs don’t even classify their books in the proper genre or sub-genre (that goes for not just romance, but mystery, science fiction and fantasy).

    I’m not a huge user of sites like Goodreads, Library Thing or Shelfari. I mainly use Goodreads as a second source for reader reviews besides Amazon. I keep meaning to experiment with using Goodreads more, but its not like I don’t have plenty to read really. Sometimes I spend more time than I should looking for new books as it is when despite reading 350-450 books a year I have plenty of books in my tbr.

    Since we’re talking discovery. I wanted to say thanks to Estara (in case she reads this) for recommending Andrea Host’s Touchstone books in another posts comment area. I enjoyed them quite a bit. Also I checked out Jennifer Armentrout’s YA series due to one of Jane’s deal posts and enjoyed those too.

  18. Brian
    Feb 03, 2013 @ 12:28:01

    @Statch: Yes. The Fictionwise weekly new books page is something I used every week and really miss. I’ve not found a truly satisfactory replacement.

  19. Estara
    Feb 03, 2013 @ 13:08:18

    @Brian: AWWWWWWWWWWW this made my day Brian. And can *I* just say thank you for all your thoughtful mentionings of Kobo codes in the last years – I would have bought those books anyway but this way I saved quite a bit of money ^^

    If you liked Andrea’s Touchstone Trilogy (calloo callay!), I hope you found the freebie Gratuitous Epilogue, too – at least it’s free at Smashwords – it’s another 150 pages happy every after and just nice.

    And if you haven’t read her most similar work yet – And All the Stars (which is a one-off) – apocalyptic non-dystopian Earth-set YA in Sydney with a great group of friends and a lovely first romance (one of the best written first sex scenes I’ve read so far): well, Andrea posted yesterday that it is on sale for February (except that B&N hadn’t updated it at the time).

    Her other works are fantasy, all of them have a romantic subplot, but there are usually dark obstacles in the way of the romances to overcome. So far she has been reliable with at least a HFN ending, though. I

  20. jessP
    Feb 03, 2013 @ 13:25:23


    Ditto on thanks for the Andrea Host/Touchstone series recommendation. I’m halfway done with Caszandra today, but have already read the Gratuitous Epilogue. I have the other books of hers you’ve mentioned, and look forward to reading them. Thanks, again.

  21. Wahoo Suze
    Feb 03, 2013 @ 13:30:11

    I gave up on Books on Board after they let me buy a book with geo-restrictions but wouldn’t let me download it, and I had to go to the hassle of requesting a refund. But one of the earlier nails in that particular coffin was how freaking hard it was to find novels.

    I had bought a particular book by a particular author, and when I went looking by more for her, did a search on her name. A bunch of her other books came up, but not the one I bought, which made me go “Hergh?” I did a search on the title of the book I bought, and it didn’t come up. My OCD kicked in, and I spent several hours going through their list of romance books by author in alphabetical order (after much time spent figuring out how to do that, because it was NOT intuitive), and it eventually showed up in that list (at about page 600), but WHAT a pain in the ass.

    (And I notice they no longer have a “gay” subcategory in Romance, so make of that what you will.)

    I mostly shop at ARe these days.

    Seriously, if somebody makes an e-shop front that is easy for readers/shoppers to use, they will make a killing.

  22. Estara
    Feb 03, 2013 @ 13:32:22

    @jessP: You are ever so welcome. Since I discovered her last year via a Booksmugglers review of Champion of the Rose, she’s become an autobuy author (and a comfort reread – I’ve read Touchstone four times since my first read last February) and I’m evangelically singing her praises everywhere I go where it’s appropriate (since her books are wholly self-published). I managed to convince Sherwood Smith to take a chance on her and now she’s recommending her left and right, too.

    There should be another new Höst out this spring – it’s “Hunting”, the book that was derailed by her inspiration from a Goodreads discussion to write And All the Stars.

    She’s also preparing the second Darest book, Bones of the Fair, and just recently revealed various possible cover versions, all based around a Julie Dillon painting.

    There will be more Aristide, it is promised. Delish!

  23. Brian
    Feb 03, 2013 @ 13:50:13

    @Estara: And All the Stars was on my radar, but I haven’t bought it yet. Thanks for the heads up on the sale.

    I did read the epilogue. Gotta admit I’m a sucker for those types of follow ups. Especially when they’re free :-)

  24. Deirdre
    Feb 03, 2013 @ 13:57:17

    Goodreads’ recommendations are more miss than hit with me, often suggesting books I already have. I find Librarything’s suggestion and unsuggestion much more useful, and it’s often quite good at the prediction of whether or not I’d like a book.

  25. Estara
    Feb 03, 2013 @ 13:57:27

    @Brian: So am I. And you’ll enjoy AAtS even more, as there’s a tiny epilogue tagged on at the end (GR reviewers seem to be totally divided on epilogues – either they love them or otherwise they really would like the later life to be open to their imagination). I didn’t feel that it spoiled further dreaming about the character’s life in detail, but then I usually like epilogues.

  26. cleo
    Feb 03, 2013 @ 16:31:17

    I would love to be able to search the way you describe. I’ve come the closest to this at ARe, as several others have said. I’ve even had some limited luck searching using tags there. Because of that, I’ve started adding tags to books I’ve read at ARe – it seems like an easy and useful thing to do, plus it amuses me.

    This article has reminded me why I really, really hate Overdrive for borrowing ebooks from the library – because the search feature is beyond awful.

    I think the other thing about discoverability online is that browsing or searching has to be enjoyable (or no one will do it) – back when I actively browsed brick and mortar bookstores, sometimes I’d go in specifically wanting to find a book to buy, but mostly I’d just go in because I wanted to spend an enjoyable afternoon looking at books – and sometimes I’d buy and sometimes I wouldn’t. In high school, that’s what my girlfriends and I’d do for fun on the weekends. Browsing Amazon used to be pleasurable for me because I liked reading the reviews – but not so much anymore, because I don’t trust the reviews. Now I get my book browsing pleasure from reading DA and other book blogs.

  27. Maite
    Feb 03, 2013 @ 16:54:08

    If I want to learn about a book or a movie (or comic, manga, web series, etc), my first stop is (Warning, though, I once wikiwalk-ed through if for like eight hours). The Romance section Needs more Love, though.
    I love Archive of our Own’s tagging system, but I don’t think I’d trust it in a retailer. They’ll put what the publisher’s give them, and there’s this tendency in tagging to act as if it was a scoring board: more tags is more points. Which leads to this: “A character makes a joke”-> “funny”. “There’s a shirtless hero” -> “sexy”. “There’s a kiss”-> “Romance.”
    I’d prefer something like system, where users can vote tags up and down.

  28. Merrian
    Feb 03, 2013 @ 17:29:09


    Ditto to Brian and JessP :) I bought the Andrea Host books on your recommendation, Estara and thanks to Brian & 40% off, I bought the whole Touchstone series and All the Stars.

    This highlights how I don’t browse the etailer stores, I browse the book review blogs and GoodReads and only then go and purchase. The stores are unsearchable. I agree with other commenters that ARe are the better of the book etailers for search. I buy a lot from publisher sites and my main search term is ‘author’ I look for books by authors I’ve read and enjoyed but I would love to search on tropes and sub-genres.

    I had to learn to do this – that browsing and discovery happens through the review blogs; that there isn’t any point in trying to discover books at the actual etailer stores. I can only imagine the frustration of the more casual reader or someone who has just started reading on tablet or ereader.

    It’s interesting because in a sense the publishers have handed their power over to the interwebs and then complain because they feel powerless.

  29. Megaera
    Feb 03, 2013 @ 23:16:29

    Speaking as someone who used to do reader’s advisory for a living (I was a librarian), this whole mess makes me want to cry. If I had the technical cojones to create an online searchable database of the type you’re describing, I would be all over it. But alas, I left the library before it became so tech-oriented.

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  32. The Ogre
    Feb 04, 2013 @ 08:14:17

    Worse, Kobo’s results are often random and not related to what keywords you input.

    Yeah, searching Kobo by keyword is rather fruitless. But at least it’s not still always ORing your search terms when you’re searching an author or title. For example, no longer do you get a random mixture of books by someone with “Stephen” or “King” , at least not in the first 6 pages of results I just checked. :P It has trouble with J.D. Robb, however (another random example), seeming to ignore the initials and just bringing up stuff by people with “Robb” in their name, though the vast majority of results are J.D. Robb books.

    (Oh, and thank you for using a quote system you don’t have to register for. Always nice to find blogs that have consideration for the random users who pop up out of the wild, wild Web and might wish to contribute, even if only once!)

  33. Estara
    Feb 04, 2013 @ 09:27:48

    @Merrian: I hope you enjoy them as much as Brian and Jess did, too! Great value for money to my mind. Do get Gratuitous Epilogue from Smashwords, though, it’s free there!

    I think print book buyers who have used Amazon before already know about the weaknesses of their recommendations system when they switch to ebooks.

    One of the main reasons I came to the web for is finding other people interested in the same books I am, so blogs and communities like LiveJournal (still a whole lot of authors on there) and GoodReads, as well as a few trusted review blogs (mostly DA and the Booksmugglers, with occasional Smart Bitches, Bunbury in the Stacks, Chachic’s Book Nook, Janicu, Manga Bookshelf and Angieville thrown in) have been sufficient so far for me to feel I’ve a chance of not missing out on the next auto-buy author find ^^.

  34. Abby
    Feb 04, 2013 @ 10:23:54

    I don’t so much use “Goodreads” to find the type of books I want, so much as I use the group I belong to on GR to find books. The M/M Romance group not only has the group shelves tagged with everything from genre to profession to species, but has lists with every trope and character type you could want (if you can’t find the list you want, one of the Mods will start one). There are also threads where you can ask for recommendations from other members, just post the title/author of a similar book or post the character type/trope you want and members will tell you what they’ve read that fits.

    I don’t think the retailers can do much about a search by character type or trope without the publishing industry providing a detailed, but uniform, list of what labels they are willing to use. Some of the publishers I think would shy away from this because they want to avoid spoilers or alienating certain readers (also, think of the work involved on their part of doing this for every book).

    The only other way would be for readers to be able to tag the books how they want, creating the same mess we currently have with GR’s genre lists being viewed as “wrong” because they are crowd sourced. What one person tags as “historical” is actually “historical fiction”, but now you have the historical fiction and non-fiction history books showing up on the same list. You really need readers’ advisory to find what you really want most of the time (even blurbs and excerpts only give you so many clues).

  35. mbg
    Feb 04, 2013 @ 11:16:24

    @Romy Sommer:

    Romy, I’ve got one for you. I just read a novella by Laura Florand “Turning Up the Heat” set in Tahiti. I enjoyed it.

  36. Jen
    Feb 04, 2013 @ 11:31:41

    I’m a librarian and was just talking to a relative about this the other day! I kept explaining that sites that sell books don’t do a very good job of describing or organizing them. You really have to use two tools. It’s a bit annoying and as a purchaser myself I wish retailers did better with this, BUT having it separate isn’t the worst thing either. It’s an extra step to search, but it also prevents one retailer from having all the power, so to speak. I find Goodreads easier to search. There are also subscription databases like Novelist that offer even more functionality, though less coverage.

  37. B. Sullivan
    Feb 04, 2013 @ 13:03:12

    Boy I was hoping that Amazon had tweaked their tags – or whatever it is that allows their books to be mis-categorized. Or it could just be something about their bestseller’s lists. Whatever it is, something is still broken because I was quickly able to find the usual weird example – this time it was Grimm’s Fairy tales (and a lot of other fiction) in Nonfiction Bestsellers.

  38. Devin
    Feb 04, 2013 @ 13:06:13

    I’ll add another peeve to the list. For those of us who read books translated from other languages (which is most people who read), it can be maddening to find exactly what we want. I know I’m not alone in that I often seek out a particular translation of a work in a foreign language, and that information is sketchy at best. has plenty of options if you want to buy The Divine Comedy in eBook, but good luck trying to determine if it’s Longfellow’s translation, or Sayers’, or Mandelbaum’s.

  39. Nicole Luiken
    Feb 04, 2013 @ 13:19:56

    My publisher Carina Press (a digital imprint of Harlequin) allows you to search by Niche as well as Genre. For example, you can search fae, dragon, djinn, steampunk, space opera, etc.

  40. Bree
    Feb 04, 2013 @ 13:46:25

    I agree that this is a problem that needs to be remedied. And it’s one of the reasons I haven’t become loyal to any particular e-store.

    My discovery happens through blog posts and the OverDrive catalog new releases, period. Then I look the title up on Goodreads for other reviews. If it’s looks do-able, I check my two OverDrive catalogs. If it’s there, I put it on hold. If it’s not, then I slap it on my GR “to read” shelf, and when I have time/money, I search it on Kobo, B&N and Amazon for price. Kobo usually wins, if I can use a code. I choose B&N if it’s the same price as Amazon, because they are ePub – I’ve had inconsistent results with Kindle conversions for my Sony.

    I have NEVER purchased an eBook from Kobos recommended emails, Amazons “Other People Bought” and I’m not even sure how B&N’s recommendation engine works, so it’s obviously not caught my attention.

    I miss – I did use their weekly newsletter for discovery, and their New Releases by genre links.

  41. AnnaPiranha
    Feb 04, 2013 @ 14:26:37

    I don’t believe any of the booksellers allow you to exclude a subcategory, which is a shame. I don’t really want to read BDSM or religious romance, and definitely wouldn’t want a BDSM religious romance.

    I’d also like to exclude from searches any books NOT ACTUALLY OUT YET.

  42. cs
    Feb 04, 2013 @ 16:49:06

    @AnnaPiranha: Yes. Samhain Publishing does that too where they list non-released books under their genre categories. It is highly irritating.

    I wish publishers had a proper tag function which you could effectively search. I have tried goodreads and to a certain extent it helps. However, I think left to fangirls they just abuse the tag system with insane babbling. I think for me it’s pretty simple if I want to search for a specific trope like: m-m / sport / romance it gives more option to get what you really want.

  43. Castiron
    Feb 04, 2013 @ 21:53:57

    @Moriah Jovan: BISG does tweak the categories every year or so, but I don’t know off the top of my head how they do it and who’s involved.

  44. De
    Feb 04, 2013 @ 22:26:21

    @B. Sullivan:

    Grimm’s Fairy tales (and a lot of other fiction) in Nonfiction Bestsellers.

    What you’re running into with this one is that when fiction is old enough if becomes nonfiction. So fairy tales and folk tales end up in a fairy/folk tale section of non-fiction. Shakespeare is in nonfiction too. Yes they’re fiction, yes they’re in nonfiction.

    And on a different subtopic: If your library, probably your library, has access to Books in Print you should be able to get access to Fiction Connection and Nonfiction Connection. They’re actually pretty cool for playing around in, but they’re based off the Books in Print database which probably has little to no relationship with what’s in your local libraries or even worse, ebookstores. But they can be fun to play in.

  45. Moriah Jovan
    Feb 04, 2013 @ 23:13:07


    Good to know, thanks. I’ve been bitching at Bowker’s new metadata maven all day on Twitter because their metadata entry process for niche publishers like me is so fucking onerous, it’s no wonder nobody cares enough to do it right. Sadly for me, I’m a bit OCD about such things or I’d say “fuck it,” too. Anyhoo, she’s in a position to be able to get some things done, so I’ll take this as an omen and find out who I need to bitch at at BISG.

  46. Vivi Anna
    Feb 05, 2013 @ 11:42:35

    There is a site that was created by a bunch of indie authors with those type of search parameters. We put it together because we were having this exact conversation.

    Check it out, there are only 900 books inputted, indie and traditionally published books, but would be great if it could be used as a way for readers to find the books they are really looking for.

  47. txvoodoo
    Feb 05, 2013 @ 16:05:43

    Jane, thank you for this post. I’m embarrassed to say that I though Amazon had done away with advanced search, because I couldn’t find it anymore. I’m an Amazon user from its first days, and advanced search was always a fabulous way of finding things. I’m surprised it’s linked only from books, considering you can also search for many other things! I’ve bookmarked it now.

  48. Jenny Bullough
    Feb 07, 2013 @ 09:32:46

    @Moriah Jovan: The BISG Subject Codes Committee receives and reviews requests for additional BISAC codes. The committee is made up of representatives from all of the major publishers and online retailers, plus representatives from mid-sized and smaller publishers and retailers. There is a “contact us” form on the BISG website that you can use to submit requests for new subject codes, such as Romance/Contemporary/New Adult. (Disclosure: I’m on the committee.)

  49. Discovery of eBooks Will Never Improve Until Retailers - Dear Author | eBook News & Reviews |
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 05:53:21

    […] When readers talk to other readers about books, they speak in a language of tropes, character types, and hot button issues. They ask for spoilers and in depth details. They want to know if a character in book B is like the …  […]

  50. Fred Goodwin
    Feb 22, 2013 @ 13:59:43

    Book discovery for readers would be so much easier if R.R. Bowker allowed the public to search their database of upcoming releases.

    I know I can go to a library and access the database (if the library pays for access — my public library no longer does), but it would be much more customer-friendly if I could do so from home. If publishers were serious about making it easier for readers to find new books, they would force Bowker to open this resource to the public. And Bowker should restore the search agent email function they used to have but no longer do.

    The same goes for Amazon — at one time many years ago, Amazon allowed readers to save their search criteria, and when a new title was listed that matched the reader’s criteria, Amazon would dispatch an email to the reader. They no longer offer that service and for the life of me, I cannot understand why. I mean, aren’t they in the business of selling books?

    Why make it harder for readers to find the books they want to buy and read?

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