When you’re looking for something new to read, the recommendation algorithms of services like Amazon, Goodreads or Audible can be helpful, but they’re usually a simple list of books by the same author you’ve previously selected, current bestsellers in a genre you often read, or something completely bizarre based on a product purchase. But what if a complete stranger was to recommend a number of books for you? Not a personified algorithm, peering into your shopping bag of milk and cheese and asking if you’d like to buy a comprehensive guide to the history of dairy farming in western Europe, but an actual person in the books industry?
That’s exactly what Iwata Bookstore in northeastern Hokkaido recently began doing. For a fee of ￥10,000 ($84) the owner, a bibliophile also by the name Iwata, of will send you a package of books based your answers to his questionnaire, which asks about customers’ work, favourite periodicals, recently read books and – perhaps most importantly – their thoughts on those books. Since appearing on TV, the store’s rising popularity has caused Iwata to offer the service nationwide and, after receiving numerous manga requests, he’s even took on a part-time assistant to handle recommendations for a genre he admits he knows little about.
We’d sign up for the service ourselves, but we don’t want to give Iwata the headache of deciding which self-help books we need the most.