Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The curious incident of the algorithm in the morning

Borders, my favorite chain bookstore, finally has their website up and running. It doesn't just redirect to Amazon anymore. I figured I'd play with it this morning and see how I liked it. While doing so, I noticed something strange yet interesting.

There are two ways to browse teen books on Your first option is to do so from the "Books" tab on the front page. Click it, and then click "Teen" from the yellow menu at the left. When you do this, you get pretty much what one would expect from browsing teen books at Borders: Sarah Dessen, Laurie Halse Anderson, Gossip Girl, Ellen Hopkins, Scott Westerfeld, you get the picture. Nothing out of the ordinary.

The second way to browse teen books is to click the "Kids" tab from the front page and then click "Teens" under the "Age" heading on the yellow menu on the left. Contrary to what you might believe, or even what logic might dictate, this search does not bring up the same list of books you get by visiting the "Teens" link under "Books." The list of teen books you can browse via the "Kids" tab skews much younger and is heavy on fantasy and award winners. Right now, I'm looking at books like Hatchet, Princess Academy, Peter and the Starcatchers and The City of Ember.

I'm not sure why the two results are so different. Teens are teens regardless of how you get to the browsing lists, correct? I think what they're trying to do is show the books that might be the next step up after the 9-12 books in the link above the "Teens" link on the "Kids" page, but then why does it have the same label as the more mature teen books? If they want older and younger teen designations for their search results, why not just label the results that way? I'm opposed to labeling YA collections in libraries "older teen" and "younger teen," but this is something different.

Also, their front page currently shows a "Hawt series for teens" feature. Call me old and boring and geeky, but I can't help but snicker at those over the age of 14 who use "hawt" without a sense of irony.

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