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Alexi’s Book Recommendation Service is Doomed

alexiSo The Guardian and The Bookseller finally noticed this week  that the UK-based Alexi book discovery service is now open to the public. (I have been following Alexi since the service was first announced last July, and according to the email I have received this service opened to the public on 28 September.)

I am the only one to say this in public, but Alexis is doomed, for obvious reasons. From The Bookseller:

Members are charged either £1.99 a week or £79 a year to join Alexi. The business model works by offering members free previews of books. Every time a member reads a book beyond the free preview limit it triggers a payment to the publisher equivalent to an e-book sale. The author who recommended the book will also receive a small payment from the company every time a book is read, along with other incentives to take part.

The app will select approximately 400 books to recommend to members over the course of a year.

It’s not just the fact Alexi is charging 2 pounds per week for a service Bookbub, Goodreads, and many other sites offer for free but also that this service is limited to the UK and can only be access from the Alexi app …

… which is only available for iPhone and iPad (an Android app is planned for 2017).

And if you buy an ebook through Alexi, you can only read it in the Alexi app. Alexi’s competitors, on the other hand, are free and recommend titles which can be bought from a user’s preferred ebook retailer.

Update: Alexi sells access to ebooks, not recommendations. You can read books for free for that monthly fee.

How is it that I am the only one who has figured out that this app is doomed?

I can’t answer that question, but I can add that I have never seen an app which more closely epitomizes the publishing industry echo chamber. It is almost as if Alexi was designed to appeal to the literati and other insiders who want to pay for the privilege of being told which books are the "right" books to buy.

Me, I find Alexi a complete waste of money, but then again I am also connected to thousands of book people on Twitter who recommend great reads all the time and ask nothing in return.

And Alexi wants us to pay for something everyone else is giving away?

Why ever would we do that?

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Erin December 6, 2016 um 2:38 pm

I agree that this app seems doomed to fail for a number of reasons, but comparing it directly to Twitter referrals and Goodreads seems unfair — can you instantly read previews of every single book someone from your community recommends on those platforms? I would assume the people behind Alexi see that as big reason to subscribe.

Chris Meadows December 6, 2016 um 6:20 pm

Well, pretty much any book that’s available on Amazon has a preview available…

Ed Bear December 6, 2016 um 2:44 pm

Just as with many upper-classes across human history, most of the publishing industry is listening to advisors who agree with their prejudices. That’s what creates echo chambers and Trump’s victory. "Everybody *I* know agrees with me."

Carmen Webster Buxton December 7, 2016 um 4:15 pm

It sounds like a snobby idea to begin with ("Let us tell you what you want to read!") so probably it deserves to die.

Chris December 7, 2016 um 9:04 pm

Having tried to work with publishers on another doomed ebook startup I feel sorry for the Alexi team – they probably started out with some bright ideas and slowly realised how constraining the terms are and how little innovation is allowed. As we’ve seen from many of the other startups in this space not even deep pockets (of investment cash) can buy you success.

Nate Hoffelder December 8, 2016 um 10:54 am

I would have sympathy except they are industry insiders, so I’d think they already knew what they were getting into.

Chris December 8, 2016 um 12:57 pm

Good point – although the starry eyed people doing the hard work to bring it to life probably believed it would be different thanks to the insiders at the helm… so I’ll still feel sorry for the people at the coal face!

The insiders probably drank their own kool aid too – without accepting they’d spent years creating the problem not the cure.

Keep up the good work Nate – always enjoy your perspective.

Alexis Books: Neuer Buchtip-Dienst mit schwierigem Start | AUTHORS CHOICE January 11, 2017 um 12:53 am

[…],, […]

Rob Murray Brown November 17, 2020 um 6:51 am

We were both right! we predicted the collapse of Alexi – Dissolved Oct 2020 – when they used Crowdcube take £176k off 156 investors in 2015. What a waste and just so you know the UK taxpayer has paid for 50% of that through SEIS – which is a crime.

Nate Hoffelder November 17, 2020 um 7:54 am

I didn’t expect it to last this long!

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