Bookqueue, we have a problem

Bookqueue, we have a problem. I have recently observed and been notified by Bookqueue users of crashes and error messages stating that it is submitting requests too quickly. Initial symptoms indicated a bug in the application but once I started to debug I discovered that (beyond bugs) the issue runs much deeper.

The main problem that has come up is that Amazon has changed its request throttling logic as of January 23rd, 2019 based on new Efficiency Guidelines. Though the change in Amazon’s guidelines has directly impacted the usability of Bookqueue, I want to stress this is NOT Amazon’s fault.  Instead, the impact is caused by opposing design intents between Bookqueue and Amazon.

To give some history, Bookqueue, came about in 2012 based on a family need to help better find and manage books. We were/are avid eBook readers (particularly my spouse) using Amazon Kindles and found ourselves buying books on a continuous basis. The continuous basis ended up creating a pre-purchased queue of books for future reading. This ‘pre-purchased queue’ created an opportunity to not only help our bank account but also our mental buyers remorse of not reading a previously purchased book when coming across a new book of greater interest. Many applications were available at the time to solve this, such as goodreads, but we were interested in something more targeted to our needs. Hence the first release of Bookqueue for Windows Phone 7 in 2012.

Bookqueue v1

First Bookqueue release on Windows Phone 7

Bookqueue Information Architecture

Original Information Architecture design for Bookqueue

As we were targeting Amazon’s Kindle book catalog, Bookqueue takes advantage of a public application programming interface that Amazon utilizes for its affiliate partners to advertise its full product catalog, not just books. It is this interface that is impacted by the new Efficiency Guidelines. Back in 2012 and up until January 23, 2019, there has always been an effective throttle limit adhered to by Bookqueue as to how frequently it could call the interface for book searches, descriptions, author searches, similar book searches, etc.

Until now, frequency, has been the only factor applied to the throttle limit for using the advertising interface. The new guidelines adds a second factor in the form of – generated advertising revenue. This advertising revenue is generated by Bookqueue if a user chooses to go through Bookqueue’s link to view the book on Amazon and subsequently purchases the book on the Amazon website.

Some Bookqueue users have utilized this feature to purchase books in the past which provided small advertising revenue to buy a book every now and then and has been greatly appreciated. However, direct advertising revenue was not a driver for Bookqueue because its primary design function was to create value for the book reader, not selling books. Selling for revenue was the lowest priority of Bookqueue, hence the reason it started out and remains free of in-app ads.

This brings us back to the beginning of how Bookqueue is impacted by the new Amazon efficiency guidelines. As the new guidelines are in effect, Bookqueue has not generated advertising revenue in 30-days which has triggered the multi-factor throttle limit on requests. Additionally, inactivity (no usage) in countries with localized Amazon regions has caused the advertising interface to be closed completely.

Now what?

Without doubt, Bookqueue’s value for the past many years has been completely attributed to Amazon’s incredible product advertising system. It is also understandable that Amazon has to manage their operational efficiencies and balance the cost of supporting an advertising system against its generated revenue. This balance places Bookqueue in a challenging position to its future as to whether it can be successful under these constraints.

I don’t have an answer yet – but will offer the following suggestions to existing Bookqueue users:

  1. The Future of Bookqueue – outlines current thinking to what changes Bookqueue will see should you choose to follow us further in the reader journey
  2. Export your Bookqueue books – provides a step-by-step guide as to how you can retrieve all your books from the app in case your Bookqueue journey ends now

Regardless of your decision to continue or leave Bookqueue, I would like to thank the community for the incredible feedback and support you have provided through the years. Our family’s reader experience has benefited from your many feature suggestions and input. As always, your comments/feedback to this post and the future of Bookqueue is much appreciated.

Thank you!

Note: this article also applies to Bookqueue’s sister application, Moviequeue.

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