Picking your next book is always a tricky task...unless you've just finished To Kill A Mockingbird... But anyway, could an app called Alexi - brainchild of Andrew Kidd and Ayesha Karim (former employees of literary agents Aitken Alexander) - be a true path to literary discovery?
Sure there's the excellent What Should I Read Next?, Goodreads Suggestion Shelf, and several other options. But do any of them offer a slickly designed, inspiring curator-led approach? Kidd thinks not.
Alexi's proposition is an intriguing one. It isn't simply a stylised interface hiding a mammoth collection of digitised titles. Authors and thinkers such as Ali Smith, David Mitchell, John le Carré and Sarah Hall on board. Contacted by Kidd himself to be involved as Alexi curators. They will provide suggested reading lists, and you can follow whoever you prefer.
This is Alexi at its heart. And Kidd wants people to trust that a solution for readers' next book quandary can be found in curated, smartly guided, suggestions. And not an unguided wealth of content:
Subscription is an interesting experiment in digitising content and it makes sense that people would attempt to build a Spotify for books. Book subscription services are vast digital libraries. From a reader’s point of view that is just presenting them with another problem, rather than a solution.
Ah yes, the subscription. The app, currently in beta, can be downloaded for free (devised for iPhone, with iPad and Android versions planned) and offers users a one month 'window'. During this time recommendations can be added to a reader's personal list, and can be read at no cost for as long as the reader remains a member. But there is a cost.
After the free month's use is up, users will need to pay a weekly fee which Kidd says will be "less than a Sunday newspaper or a cup of coffee". That seems fair, but is Alexi worth getting excited about? Authors and publishers seem to think so.
Authors, Kidd reports, are happy to foster engagement with great writing (good, good!). Publishers meanwhile see the app as a "fantastic way to unlock the backlist".
Hmm, we're going to say Alexi is definitely one to watch. It might not always best a bookshop browse or a friendly recommendation. But in a digital world driving instant-engagement, an app offering new book discoveries seems an excellent idea
We really hope Alexi pulls it off.