Today a new site launches from Penguin Random House which aims to make online book discovery a little more personal. Each user gets a shop front where they can showcase only 12 titles. I had a chance to set up shop early and you can check out the shelves here.

The site is linked to Hive where shoppers can continue their purchase either to pick up in a local indie bookshop or get delivered free of charge. They also sell ebooks. Hive already donates a small percentage of purchases to your nominated bookshop, so this is nothing new but might make it more visible. I actually really recommend Hive for book buying anyway, and they’re often cheaper than you know who!

Click on each book cover and they open up to show a short “shelf recommendation”. You can then go on to read more, share and purchase. You will also be able to ask shop owners for recommendations. If you see a shop that contains books you’ve read and loved, then there’s a good chance that person can point you in the direction of others.

My main gripe with My Independent Bookshop is that it doesn’t make any effort to break away from the traditional constraints of genre. I have to pick one genre that my shop’s books mostly fit into and it will be added to a street. Mine’s currently in “science fiction street” but not all my books will necessarily be of interest to those purposefully browsing for science fiction. You can add three genres that you read – which really isn’t enough for the likes of me and I can’t see how they are used other than for show in the current version. I’d love an eclectric street.

It might be more useful if your reading tastes are narrow or you want to showcase different themes each month. You can change your books whenever you want (and previously shelved books are kept in archive). Still, themes can also be hard to pin to one genre. Some of the sub-genres are really specific too, so maybe that’s the whole point, not to wander aimlessly through people’s personal tastes.

You can browse the shops and set up your own at My Independent Bookshop.