Thursday, May 10, 2018

Discussion: How Accurate Are Amazon Recommendations?

The 2018 Discussion Challenge is hosted by Feed Your Fiction Addiction & It Starts At Midnight


A few months ago, I posted a discussion about the accuracy of the book recommendations that Goodreads offers its users. A few commenters suggested that I look at Amazon’s book recommendations and see how they compare. That’s what we’re doing today.


I don’t use Amazon very often because I’m not the biggest fan of their business practices. I’d rather support used bookstores. I only order from Amazon when I have a gift card, which is maybe once or twice a year. I’ve never looked at the personalized book recommendations before.

From what I can tell, the books that Amazon recommends are books in genres that you’ve purchased in the past. My last few book purchases have been fantasy, historical, and contemporary, so that’s what it showed me.

I found these recommendations by logging into my account, then clicking “Your name here’s” Amazon > Teen & Young Adult. I chose to look at the teen and YA recommendations because that’s what I did in the Goodreads post.

Here are the first 10 YA books that Amazon recommended to me:




Well, this is awkward. I’ve already read most of these. Amazon doesn’t know it because I didn’t buy them from Amazon. I’ve read Eleanor & Park, This Savage Song, The Hate U Give, Turtles All The Way Down, Gemina, and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.





Leah on the Offbeat and Our Dark Duet are on my to-read list, so nice job, Amazon. I am interested in reading those books.






That leaves The Wicked Deep and Stalking Jack the Ripper. I’ve seen those books around the blogosphere. They both got some hype when they came out, but they weren’t really on my radar. Now that I’ve checked out the Amazon reviews, I’m interested in them. They both appear to have a high enough body count to hold my attention. Amazon somehow knows that I like murder in my stories. (I don’t want to know how Amazon knows that, but it seems to know.)

I guess that means that Amazon’s first 10 recommendations are 100% accurate? I’ve read 6 of the 10 and want to read the other 4. However, I’m still disappointed with the recommendations. All of these books are extremely popular and have spent weeks on various bestseller lists. I would have been far more impressed if Amazon had accurately recommended little-known books. Everyone wants to find a hidden gem, right? I feel like Amazon is just showing me what everybody else in the world is reading.





It’s slightly weird that Amazon showed me both books in the Monsters of Verity duology. I don’t think the recommendation robot should recommend book #2 unless it knows that I liked book #1. Maybe the algorithm doesn’t know how to handle a series? Or maybe normal people buy an entire series at the same time? I don’t. I’ll only buy a second book if I liked the first one. It’s also odd that Amazon recommended Gemina, which is #2 in a series. Why didn’t it recommend the first book? Maybe it’s a devious little robot. It’s trying to get me interested in a whole series so that I buy more books.

So, how do Amazon’s recommendations compare to Goodreads’s? In my experience, Amazon is more accurate, but Goodreads does a better job of recommending books that I haven’t heard about before.



Have you ever looked at your Amazon recommendations? Are they accurate?
Are The Wicked Deep and Stalking Jack the Ripper worth reading?






41 comments:

  1. I've never really looked at my Amazon recommendations. I tend to buy a lot of children's books from there, so those pop up a lot.

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    1. This was the first time I looked at my recommendations. I think most of the books I’ve bought from them are YA? I was hoping they’d have some good recs for me, but everything was kind of “meh.”

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  2. I’ve found that Amazon’s recs are way more accurate/helpful than GoodReads. Some of GoodReads rec are just so freaking random. And I’m like, WTH kind of algorithm spit this one out?! Whereas with Amazon, it’s books that might have already been on my radar, by authors that are similar to those that I’ve already read, and books that I would actually buy/read. This round goes to Amazon.

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    1. I agree. Amazon’s recommendations were underwhelming, but at least they were accurate. Goodreads showed me a lot of really random stuff.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  3. I find their recs are quite good for me but that is helped by the fact that I buy all my books from them, so they've got to know my tastes quite well for apocalypse and horror. My one complaint is that I don't read paranormal romance yet I keep getting offered these box sets and books with half naked men on the covers. That annoys me as the urban fantasy books I buy are not like that at all. Goodreads recs are useless.

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    1. It’s good to know that the recs get more accurate when you buy a lot of books. I’d also be disappointed if it offered me a half-naked-man book. I want full-naked or nothing! (Haha, that’s a joke. I (probably) wouldn’t be interested in something with a full-naked man on it.)

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  4. I don't tend to look on Amazon for recommendations on books, but good to know they're pretty on point (at least in your case)!

    --Sam @ Sharing Inspired Kreations

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    1. I was surprised. I thought they’d be more random, but they were actually pretty good.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  5. Although I often buy books from Amazon (I was an early customer when living in Utah, 100s of miles from a decent bookstore), I don't think I have ever read a book they recommended. I do sometime read the recommendation of readers, however, and use that in my decision (often looking at those who rate a book 1--about half of which I have found in my informal survey has nothing to do with the writing and all about getting a defective book).

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    1. I wish Amazon had been around when I was a kid. I might have gotten into reading much earlier. I had to rely on my school library because there was nothing but cattle ranches were I lived. No bookstores at all.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  6. This is an interesting study you have done. I just peeked at the recommendations for me. I have read almost all the books, but I was pleased to see some lesser known authors in there. Though, I keep wish lists on Amazon, so these were informed decisions.

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    1. I’ve been thinking about moving my wishlist to Amazon. It might help me with price comparisons. I only buy brand new books when they’re deeply discounted.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  7. Almost all of mine are by George Simenon. Probably because the last book I bought from them was by him and I don't buy from them often.

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    1. That’s kind of lazy on Amazon’s part. They could have showed you books by similar authors, not just all the books by one author.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  8. My Amazon recs are usually pretty accurate, actually! Not necessarily that they're books I'd buy, but they're often books I'm interested in or have liked.

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    1. That’s awesome. I should probably check my recommendations more often.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  9. I don’t use amazon much either... They are pretty stingy on forcing you to use them for all your book buying otherwise your reviews get marked as not as important etc. I feel like amazon isn’t helpful for buying books... their algorithms seem to be about what people buy so if you bought that too then your prone to buying what that person bought. I guess I’m more random than that! ♥️

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    1. YES! I’m a rebel. I want unique recommendations, not just a list of what everybody else bought.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  10. This is interesting. And it is a little alarming how Amazon (and Google, and others) know so much/ can predict what we might like. But yeah I think Amazon recs are fairly accurate, they usually do a pretty good job of rec'ing books that I like, even though I don't go by them much.

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    1. I will always be creeped out by how much data companies collect about me. Good thing I don’t do anything too embarrassing on the Internet! (Well, I say stupid stuff on this blog, but that’s just normal-level embarrassing.)

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  11. I don't really use Amazon at all since the shipping for physical books is enormous so I buy those on Bookdepository and I don't have a kindle so I don't really buy eBooks there either. I only buy on Amazon if I have a gift card, which has only happened once so far in the last few years. So I don't really look at their recommendations but yeah it's unfortunate they only rec popular books. I like finding hidden gems!

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    1. I’ve recently started using Book Depository more often, too. I LOVE free shipping. Books are expensive enough without adding a zillion dollars in shipping on top of it.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  12. I click into Amazon for blog links for every book I feature on Literary Flits, reviews and Spotlights, so the site is permanently confused as to what I actually like to read! It does sometimes come up with unusual books, but, like you found, the bestsellers tend to take priority when Amazon is offering me new choices. Their algorithm seems to work on a everyone-else-is-reading-it-so-why-aren't-you principle

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    1. Interesting! I can see how clicking around on Amazon would confuse it. I don’t do that, so maybe that’s why it gave me accurate recommendations.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  13. Man I don't even acknowledge the recommendations but I'm sure I've gotten the same group of books that you've gotten. I think they just pick a genre (ie fantasy) and highlight the most popular books. I wonder if pubs can pay amazon to have their books show up.

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    1. Oooh, interesting. I have no idea if pubs can pay to have their books recommended. I wouldn’t be surprised if they could. Amazon is all about the $$$$.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  14. I haven't found their recommendations to be very accurate. I looked at a romance book one time and got pages and pages of erotica rec'd to me.

    I have better luck with general products than books but, like Stephanie above, I use them for links so they are never quite sure what I actually read.

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

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    1. There are a lot of romance readers who don’t like erotica, so you’d think it would be in Amazon’s best interest to learn the difference. Maybe the lines between the two are too blurry.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  15. I never get accurate recommendations because I buy ALL the freebies so I guess Amazon has no idea what my taste is lol
    I’ve heard great things about those 2 books !

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    1. I have to stay far away from the freebies. I’d get ALL of them and then feel guilty about never reading them. I have more than enough books already.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  16. Amazon keeps recommending Sarah J Maas books to me. That's their favorite rec, so... not so much. They also like to recommend books to me that I have read- and bought from Amazon, so there's another fail. I haven't looked into it the way you did though, so I am going to test it now. Be right back!

    Okay, didn't go much better. Again we have another Sarah J Maas book. Also Leah on the Offbeat, guess they're throwing that one at everyone. Sequel to The Cruel Prince which I didn't actually like (nor did I buy from Amazon). Sequel to Caraval (which I never read OR bought). Children of Blood and Bone which seems like cheating cause it's on my wishlist. The Astonishing Color of After and King of Scars which are actually legit. Dread Nation which is accurate I guess cause I liked it but Amazon doesn't know I read it. So... hit or miss I guess, but like you said, it's only showing me really popular books, which is kind of silly, I already know about all of those, I don't need recommendations! LOVE this post, it was fun to look up!

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    1. Ooh, thanks for sharing your recommendations. I’ve gotten Sarah J Maas recs from Goodreads but not from Amazon. It’s interesting that Amazon is shoving Leah on the Offbeat at EVERYONE. It’s sad that they’re only recommending popular books. I want to read something obscure and amazing.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  17. I use Amazon because I can't really afford anything else xD being international. But I don't buy often either, which is why I've never really used their recommendations either. The worst thing about it is if you accidentally click a book you'd NEVER read, and then all of a sudden, it's recs based on that book alone xD and also... if they keep recommending books you've already read, but through other means, so they don't know you've read them. Although they sort of should, cause they have access to my Goodreads..? So I am confused.

    OMG that Waldo picture :DDDDDDD

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    1. I don’t usually click around on Amazon, so I didn’t know that impacted my recommendations. I should go click on a bunch of books that interest me and see what happens.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  18. I generally think Amazon's recs are pretty good, but they have a weird habit of recommending books I've reviewed (on my review account --- I have a separate account for reviewing from our personal buying account). I always think, "Um, thanks. I guess. I mean, yeah, I just told you I liked that book, so good recommendation. I guess."

    I'll confess that I'm an Amazon buyer. I buy pretty much everything under the sun from them, including books---unless I'm going to an author event, in which case, of course, I order from the Indie (I might buy from there more if I wasn't an hour away). My husband works for Amazon, so I can't really jump on the Amazon-is-evil bandwagon. Amazon feeds me, so ... :-)

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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    1. Haha, it’s funny that they recommend books you’ve already reviewed. I guess I also can’t be on the Amazon-is-evil bandwagon because I’ve applied for jobs with them. There are Amazon jobs coming to the area where I live, so I’m not-so-patiently waiting to apply for those.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  19. I pretty much want to read everything or at least try it so I can't say that the recommendations aren't accurate. I do tend to grab freebies so that probably confuses the issue. I also buy books for my daughter that I doubt I will ever read. I do see recommendations for books that I have reviewed as arcs which seems odd.

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  20. Interesting to see how Amazon did with it's recommendations for you. In my experience Amazon does a decent job with the recommendations, but it does seem to go for the popular choices as you pointed out. Books that sell well seem more likely to end up on my recommendations. I also buy as little as I can on Amazon, but some books are Amazon only so I spend some gift card money on those. Buying from multiple sites does seem to confuse the issue as then it can't as accurately pinpoint which books you read or already own.

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  21. My Amazon recommendations are a bit different than yours. I read mostly Indie fiction, as well as middle grade and kidlit so my recommendations are more of the unknown books on Amazon. But yay that it got them right, even though you've read the majority of them :)

    Megan - Ginger Mom and the Kindle Quest

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  22. I don't pay attention to my Amazon recs much, but most of them are by authors I have previously purchased, so I do see some indies and self-pubs every once in awhile. The Goodreads recommendations are usually way off. They are Romances a lot of the time and I hate Romance. I think it's because I read a lot of YA and they think YA readers like romance. Ha ha. This was a great discussion post. 👍

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  23. I feel like Amazon does a much better job rec'ing me book, tbh. Goodreads is just notoriously bad at giving me recs, but I do often end up finding lots of new books I'm interested in via Amazon recs. Idk quite how you found your recs? But I went under recommendations and then clicked "sci-fi/fantasy" (since that's what I read), and it's even rec'ing me self-pub books (which I do read), some with <10 reviews, so it's not just popular books for me. I also don't agree w/ all of Amazon's business practices, but I can't complain too much about their book recs lol.

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