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When the year winds down, we should all feel obligated to tout our favorite reads (woot! woot!), to show appreciation to the authors and books that kept us wildly entertained through 2012.

How do I keep track of all I read? Easily, with GoodReads. I encourage you to do the same if you haven’t already tried it.

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Friend me and/or fan me there! 

You can build your own shelves (without wood, allen wrenches or confusing directions from Ikea) to categorize your reads. Mark books you want to read and discover new reads similar to what you’ve already enjoyed. You can also see what your friends are reading and how they’ve rated books.

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And while I loved Stephen King’s latest, 11/22/63, and other best-selling titles like Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 and Laura Moriarty’s THE CHAPERONE this year, it’s especially important to me to share the works of lesser-known indie authors, like Kathleen Kaska.

murderatthearlingtonKaska’s Sydney Lockhart mystery series from Salvo Press features a plucky 1950’s heroine, an independent woman in an age where her dismissal of the domestic lifestyle makes her a loner. Sydney is a journalist in her 20’s dead-set on building a successful career, and while reporting about the famous Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas, Sydney finds herself entangled in a murder-mystery and her unconventional ways make her a suspect. Eager to clear her name, Sydney strives to solve the case despite roadblocks from local authorities. Her wealthy, spoiled cousin Ruth becomes her unlikely side-kick, providing ample comedic opportunities. The two ladies do not mesh personality-wise yet somehow they complement each other. There’s also a little romance tossed in with a local detective who deems Sydney clumsy yet irresistibly charming. Moreover, the mystery keeps you guessing until the very end, reminiscent of Agatha Christie. (Kaska is a Christie fan and expert, having penned a Christie trivia book.)

After MURDER AT THE ARLINGTON, I dove right onto MURDER AT THE LUTHER…and now I’m ready for the newly-released MURDER AT THE GALVEZ.

So now I want to hear from you!

What lesser-known books knocked your socks off this year?

Last week I said if someone invented another social media site my head might explode.

Well…KA-BLOOIE!!!!

Yes, we bibliophiles have a new social domain: !

Named after the sound book pages make when thumbed, Riffle has been dubbed “the Pinterest of book discovery” by Publisher’s Weekly. Could it potentially change the way we learn about great new reads? Absolutely! Could your head also detonate? Let’s put it this way—if you ever wanted to sport a mushroom cloud, you’re in luck.

The Publisher’s Weekly article didn’t reveal much, featuring jargon-heavy quotes by Riffle founder Neil Baptista, like this beaut: “We’re going to focus on bringing the audience to the table and curating the information. There’s a ton of online expertise, and we want people to push their content through Riffle.”

So what the heck does this all mean? How will Riffle work?

Well, yours truly worked in high-tech market research for a decade (from 1993 to 2003), so I called upon one of my smartest digerati buddies to give it to us straight.

Chris Rechtsteiner is the founder and chief strategist of blueloop concepts, a boutique research and advisory firm focused on the mobile and digital media market. Chris has worked on many publishing projects, so he’s very knowledgeable about the intersection of books and digital applications.

Here’s what Riffle may be:

  • The idea is to build a truly Facebook-connected social reading group/platform. How this isn’t GoodReads is a mystery, but apparently the need to build a GoodReads 2.0 is there.
  • The company behind Riffle, Odyl, already has templated/socially-integrated foundations for bringing content about books to consumers, so they have a fast and easy starting point.
  • The core objective is to really bring forward the content being created/discussed about a book (that’s what the curation reference hits). When Tweets, Facebook posts, blog posts, etc. are posted about a title, they’ll all be “magically” brought together to give you a complete look at the “conversation” and “group” around a book. (Again, GoodReads, but with MORE noise.)
  • Odyl isn’t a novice at this stuff as they’ve been able to do a really good job of building publisher relationships, so they’ll have the “blessing” of the publishers to do this right out of the gate. (Translation: they’ll have books featured with deep, rich content day one and it will grow from there.)

And here’s how they may do it:

  • Supposedly the “curated” information (e.g. people scanning blogs, reviews, Twitter, etc.) is going to be done by experts, so there won’t be “noise” (per se) but only the best information on a particular title.
  • This means you’re going to have to have HUNDREDS of “experts” there to sift through everything in order to have any volume of books at all… which means scale is a serious issue because the books that get the Riffle treatment will be “selected” … and likely tied to the publisher relationships (read: publisher financed through marketing budgets/author marketing dollars). While that last part might not be true, it wouldn’t be surprising, as no one has yet deeply tapped the publishers’ book marketing dollars online like the brick-and-mortar booksellers and traditional media have.

(I applied for more information on Odyl, and I was asked, as an author, how much money I planned to spend on book marketing this year, so Rechtsteiner’s ideas sound spot on.)

If you had to bet your money, right now, on what Riffle ultimately does or becomes, you’re going to see a GoodReads that is a series of lists or collections of books that have a narrative by an expert. This is how the expert would really play. The question is how many people they employ (or allow?) to be experts as to how rapidly these narratives and book lists are created. And who will these “experts” be? How will they be vetted? Will they be Riffle employees, contractors (like About.com guides), or volunteers (like Wikipedia writers/editors)? All this remains to be seen.

So is anyone on Riffle now? Yes. What did we hear about it? “Pinterest for books sounds really interesting, until you realize that people don’t repin books on Pinterest today.” (True dat. The most repins I get are for recipes, home decor and fashion. Did I just say true dat?!)

So…only time will tell. But as Chris Rechtsteiner told me, Riffle is needed and welcomed. “While there are no shortage of book discovery tools and platforms coming to market today (Riffle, Jellybooks, etc.), it’s hard to argue with anyone’s efforts to make reading more prominent. I have some doubts regarding how social book reading really is (in the web’s definition of social), but one thing will remain constant and true for a while: there are simply too many titles to choose from and finding the next, best one to read [online] will remain a challenge for a long time.”

If you’d like a Riffle invitation, this link is your ticket.

Many thanks to Andy J. Smith, illustrator extraordinaire, and Chris Rechsteiner of blueloop concepts for helping me pull this blog post together while I tried to stuff gray matter back into my skull.

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