Tuesday, May 02, 2023

The Map of 52,000 Books

A Visual Book Recommender is an interactive map of 51,847 books organized by similarity. Using the map you can discover new books to read by searching for your favorite books and exploring other 'similar' nearby books.

Books are shown on the map using their cover sleeves. If you click on a book's cover on the map an information window will open containing a short introduction to the novel's plot. The map also comes with a handy search option which allows you to enter the title of a book and zoom to that book's location on the map. All the nearby books on the map are then likely to be fairly 'similar'.

It is also possible to search the map by genre. The map's creator has also made a handy genre map which allows you to select individual genres (e.g. Sci-Fi, Crime, Romance etc) to see where these types of books are clustered on the map.

The map was created from scraping book reviews. Books are clustered on the map based on reviewers liking the same books. For example if lots of reviewers liked book A and book B then those two books are very likely to appear near each other on the map. The actual clustering algorithm is a lot more complicated than that and is explained in a lot more detail in a 'technical details' section beneath the map. 

In 2019 The Pudding created a very similar interactive map from the covers of 5,000 books. However on The Pudding's map all the books were arranged by their visual similarity. 

All 5,000 books mapped on 11 Years of Top-Selling Book Covers, Arranged by Visual Similarity have appeared on the New York Times' 'Best Selling' or 'Also Selling' lists since June 2008. Color seems to play a very prominent role in determining 'visual similarity' in the machine algorithm used by The Pudding. If you zoom out so that you can see all 5,000 book covers you can see that a lot of the grouping and organization appears to be strongly influenced by the dominant color of each book. 

The Pudding's map comes with a number of filters which allow you to explore the book covers by genre and by visual motif. The visual motif filter allows you to highlight on the map images which contain 'faces', 'landscapes', 'smiles' etc. Therefore the motif filter provides another way to explore the book covers by visual similarity.
An Ocean of Books is an interactive map of over 100,000 authors and 145,162 books. On this map every island is an author and every city is a book. If you search the interactive map for your favorite writers you can find other writers that you may enjoy based on how near they appear on the map to your favorites.

The size of an author's island on An Ocean of Books is determined by the amount written about them on the internet. The more times they are mentioned on the world wide web then the bigger their island on the map. The position of the islands and the proximity of authors to each other is determined by the number of connections between them on the internet. If two authors are mentioned in lots of the same articles on the web then the closer they will be on An Ocean of Books.

The connections between authors and therefore their proximity on the map is determined by a machine learning algorithm. If you select an author's name on the map then you can read a short biography. If you zoom in on an author's island then all the writer's books will appear as cities on the map. Click on a book's title and you can read a short introduction to the selected book.

1 comment:

Matthew Heberger said...

I love the idea behind the map of books. But I think the algorithm needs some serious work. I zoomed to a book I love and have read several times, "The Good Earth," by Pearl S. Buck. It is nestled between Marie Kondo's book about housecleaning and the autobiography of American politician Pete Buttigieg. I don't see the connection!

I checked some books my son liked when he was younger, and right next to "The Magic Treehouse" series is the delightfully named "Why Men Marry Bitches." Not sure that would make a nice bedtime story.