BookLamp: Recommendations based on content and style
BookLamp is a website that aims to make life easier for upcoming authors. Recommendations are based not on sales data but on content and writing style.
“At times, being able to ignore the marketing data can be good for the recommendation,” explains BookLamp CEO Aaron Stanton.
Stephen King fans recognize the name Richard Bachman as a pseudonym that the famous author published several books under early on in his career. Had Amazon’s book recommendation capability existed before King’s identity was revealed in 1985, it would be unlikely to have recommended Bachman to a King lover.
The software behind BookLamp when asked to search for books similar to Stephen King novels will turn up his alter ego’s writings. It works by cataloging what the startup sometimes refers to as “DNA of books.”
The Da Vinci Code, for instance, contains 18.6% Religion and Religious Institutions, 9.4% Police & Murder Investigation, 8.2% Art and Art Galleries, and 6.7% Secret Societies & Communities (among others), according to BookLamp’s engine. The program also catalogs things like denseness and length, all of which allow it to take someone’s favorite book and recommend others like it.
Throughout the last two years, the company has formed partnerships with about 11 book publishers who use the tool to help select manuscripts. In early August, it plans to launch a full consumer-facing product in partnership with Random House and Kensington Books.
Since the process requires BookLamp to scan the entire content of a book in order to catalog it, only the about 20,000 books from these publishers will be available at first. But unlike the current site, which is intended as a demonstration of the technology more than a consumer product, readers will be able to tweek their recommendation criteria. For instance, they’ll be able to request “something like the Da Vinci Code” but “less dense” or “shorter” or “more fight scenes.”
The angel-funded startup is already breaking even and plans to continue pulling in most of its revenue from its publisher partners. Stanton says that he doesn’t anticipate selling books on the site or advertising.
Aside from pointing people to literary contentment, their business goal is rather to encourage other publishers to sign on.
“We’re hoping that the BookLamp site is able to do for us is to get into the mindset of the editorial people, ” Stanton says. “So if the executive brings us down and says take a look at this interesting thing, they can say, oh yes, our readers are using this material.”