Google’s Specs

No matter how connected you are, do you ever sometimes get the impression that Google just doesn’t get you?

It’s no secret that I love books. I love them so much I frequently fall asleep with one on my chest, under the pillow, on the floor, over my face… sometimes all at the same time!

I read real books (I LOVE second hand books. You can pretty well guarantee that any book will be well-received by me if it has been pre-loved), but I also read on my iPod, my Nexus tablet and my Kindle. Yes, ladies and germs, I have not one, not two, but THREE electronic devices for reading books. But anyways…

My next favourite pastime, after reading books, is collecting books. As an expat trying hard not to collect excess shit, this has taken the form of poring through various e-book stores trying to find bargains. I’ll admit, this isn’t as fun as spending hours in a dusty second-hand store in the Blue Mountains, skirting around stacks of books that have been waiting to be sorted since 1994, while the owner occasionally lowers her collection of Elizabeth Barrett Browning to glare at you over the top of her spectacles. However, it has other charms. For example, free classics! I’ve totally caught up on Anthony Trollope (relief! about which, another post to follow). And sometimes a book I’ve avoided comes up cheap and I think, “Oh fuck it, I’ll give it a go. Maybe I won’t hate it.” For example, Life of Pi didn’t totally suck balls, especially not for $3.99. I got through a very dull conference last year because the Hunger Games series came up on sale on Google books.

I really like Google books. I love the app, the reading experience is really nice with page numbers and real page turn and it all feels a bit VR (do we still use that term?) the way it was promised to us back in the 90s. But, for the love of all the fucking flying spaghetti monsters in this vast great universe, Google, can you please stop recommending that I buy Fifty Fucking Shades of Fucking Gray and every other cheap bondage hetero-sex knock-off bullshit pile of steaming crap out there??

A list of books I want, and a list of the books Google offers me. Note the disparity.

Recommended for You, Books From 99c, Latest Releases, Top Fiction, etc. I give Google all of my personal details down to the frequency with which I cut my toenails. Do you think maybe it could recommend something I might actually read? How about Hilary Mantel? Or Charles Dickens? Or that bird who just won the Nobel Prize? Google, why don’t you offer me 99c deals on nice editions of Arthur Conan Doyle? Why do you want me to read Fifty Shades of Soft Porn? I sense a conspiracy.

Google’s terrible algorithms mean that I have to trawl through pages and pages (count them, pages) of porn, ‘romance’ and vampires (sometimes all three) before hitting something I might actually read. Sometimes, I get lucky and pick up Romy Ash’s Floundering or Kate Grenville’s The Secret River. And occasionally, I even enjoy that rare find.

Perhaps it’s not so different after all to that book shop in the Blue Mountains…

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Nat Newman

Nat Newman is an award-winning writer of short stories, content, podcasts, feature articles, drunk text messages and, soon, a novella.


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