BookTalk is a game-like app that helps individuals achieve their reading goals through tailoring one’s book interests and community engagement


Problem Space 

Problem Statement  

How might we motivate aspiring book readers to start a consistent streak of reading?

Problem Background  

The problem at hand is that reading habits have declined, with a significant percentage of US adults not reading a full book in over a year. While the percentage of Americans who read has remained steady, those who do read are reading fewer books. Many people struggle to continue and finish the books they start reading, despite setting goals and using tracking tools through platforms such as Goodreads or generic habit tracking apps.

Research Insights

User Pain Points

User research with 15 survey respondents and 10 in depth interviews has shown two major pain points in their reading journeys.

  1. Discoverability - readers find books to read through reviews, social media, friends/family, in person browsing. They may feel initially intrigued by a book through these means but noted that if the book was slow and difficult to engage with, their progress with the book stalled
  1. Self-accountability - readers set goals to read more books but struggle to stay accountable on their own. They tried various tools to keep themselves accountable through habit tracking apps, reminders, and Goodreads specifically for books but it was something they still struggled to do on their own

While other issues such as lack of time and competing life priorities are common pain points as well, it is to be noted that finding a book they actually enjoyed reading and having social accountability greatly improved their chances of finishing that book and continuing other books.

Supporting Data

  • 7/10 users said if the book is interesting they finish it quickly
  • 6/10 users had a positive opinion of book clubs 
  • 7/10 users said it would be nice to have someone to talk to with similar book interests 
  • 8/10 cities feeling accomplishment when finishing a book
  • 6/10 have a negative feeling associated with not finishing (sad, frustration, guilt, a chore, conflict, annoyed)
  • Most participants are unhappy with their consistency of book reading, with all of them saying they want to make more progress with their books


Participants are mostly busy professionals with lots of responsibilities at work or home with various other forms of social and entertainment activities. They read mostly for entertainment or to learn and have tried to keep themselves accountable to reading more. They expressed difficulties in finding time and interest to read books and keeping themselves accountable to read more. Key findings include that having a book they were interested in typically allowed them to finish quickly which is a strong internal motivator but were open to external motivators like a book club or person but expressed doubts about their efficacy due to time and mismatched interests and social shaming. They were interested in goal tracking and reminding as well and use social media and friends to get them interested in reading a book.

Landing on the Solution

Based on our target users’ pain points and the short time-frame, the 3 main features in order of importance that are being targeted for this app include:

  1. User profile that shows a user’s book goals, reading list, and preferred genres/authors
  2. Book discovery/recommendation engine so users can better discover books based on their interests and ratings/reviews of other users
  3. User pairing to allow readers to discover other users with similar book interests and reading habits to form book buddies/book clubs for accountability (possible V2)

Explanation of Solution

By giving readers a way to discover books of their interest, they will more likely be able to continue reading to the book’s eventual completion. Similarly, with certain parameters that the user sets such as everyone reading the same book at the same time, a book being read at a leisurely pace of their own, and choosing to opt in social reading via book club or having book buddies can all be ways for readers to reinforce their book reading habits and finish their books. By addressing both issues of discoverability and self-accountability, readers can be motivated to read more consistently and finish the books they start.

The proposed solution is a mobile application that reproduces a gaming environment. Gamification has been shown to be effective in driving user behavior and can be done so to achieve meaningful goals such as learning a language through an app like Duolingo. To reinforce good habits, “individuals are more likely to participate in activities that are beneficial when game-like elements are included that make the desired behavior more enjoyable.” The game premise behind BookTalk, as users continue on their book journey, discover more books, add to their reading list, and participate within their community, this allows them to virtually “grow a garden.” This encourages an engaging user experience that cultivates consistent reading habits, as one would cultivate a plant, and tracks their progress of the books they are currently reading and have finished reading. 

Each book a user reads, a new plant representing that book is planted and slowly matures the more pages/chapters the user gets through. Once the book is finished, the user has a fully realized plant in their garden to serve as an accomplishment of completion. Users can then leave a review of that book, equipped with ratings such as its enjoyment, pacing, and user notes that the user can customize visually so that it may entice or deter other readers from reading that same book from planting it in their garden. The more reviews the reader leaves, the more their garden grows and the more discoverable their profile becomes to the larger community garden to which other users can follow to see what that user is reading and find recommendations of similar interests. Users can also pair/group themselves with other users to help them grow each other’s gardens by recommending a book to their partner(s) and discussing/reading the book together offline. If a user enjoys the book another user recommends to them and/or finds the partner helpful in discussion and accountability, they can give that user buddy points which boosts the visibility of their reviews in the community garden.

Future Steps

I will proceed with the 8-week product management track with Co.Lab to work with a cross functional team to realize a MVP prototype of BookTalk. I look forward to seeing how working with a team to bounce around different ideas can shape the overall product direction of BookTalk in ways I could not on my own.


Product Manager Learnings:

Brian Cheng

Co.Lab was a great experience for me to work through the product development lifecycle and really step into the mindset of a product manager to face real challenges they face on a daily basis. 

Some of these challenges that I learned about include:

  • The importance of defining the problem space and not jumping too soon into the solution space
  • Using user research to further refine and focus on the problem statement, pain points, and jobs to be done
  • Being able to communicate my product idea and background in both verbal and written form

Designer Learnings:

Developer Learnings:

Developers Learnings:


Full Team Learning