I was told some months ago to anticipate the arrival of a Netflix for books. And now BookLamp, widely deemed the “Pandora for books,” has arrived. (Not Netflix exactly, but I’ll take it.)
BookLamp uses an algorithm to identify the elements that make up a book. This is done in two branches. StoryDNA assesses the constitution of a book’s settings and actors (elements that act within a setting), and presents the levels of these components compared to other books in the database. The second branch of BookDNA measures elements of language, such as pacing, dialogue, and description. Users can browse by BookDNA element, or use a book they know and love to find similar titles—like creating a Pandora station.
I see BookLamp as an exciting alternative mode of book discovery. While metadata similarly creates specific classifications for books, BookLamp has the capacity to be infinitely more precise, though I do think the genome structure is still in need of development to be more intuitive to reading preferences.
Some readers are up in arms about the preposterousness of a computer giving a truly personal recommendation in the way that a friend can. While of course a computer cannot replace your best friend (or maybe just not yet…), algorithms like this one have proven to be very successful at figuring us out, re: Netflix and Pandora. In the discussion at Publishing Perspectives, Richard Nash responded to the resistance with this TED talk by Kevin Slavin, detailing the unstoppable increasing influence of algorithms on our society.
I think there is great possibility in BookLamp for literary publishers. Unlike Amazon, BookLamp is a neutral recommender. As their FAQ states, BookLamp’s algorithm is unaffected by popularity or marketing, giving books from small presses equal opportunity to be discovered to those from the big five publishers. At last!
Right now, BookLamp has only 20,000 books in its database. However, this number is slated to increase rapidly as BookLamp pursues its goal of working with as many publishers as possible. To join them, email email@example.com.