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Book Marks is the “Rotten Tomatoes” of books, created by the team at Literary Hub

Book Marks

Rotten Tomatoes has existed for years, giving the aggregate rating for movies and television shows but has it ever existed for books? Welcome to Book Marks, the book review aggregator from Literary Hub.

The Idea

To quote directly from the Book Marks page:

the Book Marks staff scours the most important and active outlets of literary journalism in the US—from established national broadsheets to regional weeklies and alternative litblogs—and logs their book reviews. When a book is reviewed by at least three outlets, each of those reviews is assigned an individual rating (Rave, Positive, Mixed or Pan). These ratings are then averaged into a result and the book becomes part of our Book Marks database.

Book Marks then provides a searchable database of every book these ratings have been compiled for and will display both the aggregate rating, the rating for each review, and review snippets to give readers an overall impression of the book.

And Book Marks provides direct sales links to the three biggest book marketplaces on the web for readers who are interested enough to buy.

Leveraging WordPress

Because Lithub.com was already built on the WordPress platform, Book Marks became a very large extension of the technology. Separate templates were created and assigned a specific permalink structure so that Book Marks pages could be served independently of the main Lithub site.

Using the built in WordPress feature of custom post types, three new post types were created, the book marks themselves representing a single book each, the reviews associated with those books, and the reviewers associated with the reviews, each being assigned custom metadata to contain what makes each of those post types unique.

Additionally, specific categories were designated as Book Marks specific for both featured content such as Featured Reviews and Classic Reviews as well as the Book Marks themselves for easy segmentation across the entire site. This allowed for small widgets to be created that could share Book Marks content on the main Literary Hub website as well as displaying featured Literary Hub content on the Book Marks homepage.

Administration of Book Marks was also made easier through the use of the WordPress toolset. 42 Solutions utilized the theme customization features so that Lithub editors could select the number of books to show in each slider as well as pick a changeable featured category on the Book Marks homepage. Using this same tool, editors can also easily administer the First Reader’s Club, a promotion for readers of the site in which they can receive early copies of forthcoming books.

Custom Technologies

The challenge in creating Book Marks was not in utilizing the built in functions of WordPress but in writing custom database queries to make serving Book Marks fast and efficient. After all, when a book can have any number of reviews and the aggregate score is based on the combination of all of them, quick database queries becomes key. Additionally, a number of custom queries were required because the way Book Marks might be request could vary based on primary key, book name, or even reviewer name, each method necessitating a slightly different way of connecting the dots.

42 Solutions, thus, forwent the standard methods of assembling queries in WordPress in favor of a custom solution to build the data access layer of Book Marks. Additionally, several caching strategies including static page caching and a Redis key-value store were involved to ensure that each page, be they home or categories pages with dozens of different books displayed or individual book pages that would display one book’s information in detail with up to four related books, would be served as quickly as possible to the user.

Conclusion

Book Marks on Literary Hub has become the standard for aggregate book reviews on the internet, featuring prominently in Google search results and increasingly used by third-party sites as the source for their own book ratings. And more good things are on the way as 42 Solutions continues our partnership with Lithub to expand Book Marks’ usage across the web.

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42 Solutions

Working with 42 Solutions, you’ll find that it’s not the technology that’s important, it’s the idea. Regardless of whether your company is based on proprietary software or open source, we will find the right tools to get the job done.

Invite us to your office and we’ll send a pair of consultants armed with laptops and bright ideas, ready to solve your problem and offer solutions. We pride ourselves in getting to know how you do business and integrating into your process.