On Friday, Apple confirmed that it had acquired book recommendation service BookLamp, as TechCrunch and Re/code first reported. Apple is believed to have paid between the $US10 million and $US15 million for the company, according to TechCrunch, although Apple didn’t officially disclose any numbers.
It’s unclear exactly why Apple decided to purchase the Idaho-based startup, but the company issued a statement saying the following: “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”
Apple will presumably use the company’s technology to improve its own book store, iBooks, which houses more than 2 million free and paid book titles.
BookLamp.org has since shut down its service, but here’s a look at what we know about the company and its technology.
The ‘Pandora of books’
Think of BookLamp as a Pandora-style service for books. When the service was still up-and-running, it would connect readers to books they would enjoy using its Book Genome technology.
The platform is capable of breaking a single book down into thousands of separate data points that tell you what the book is about, and why or why not it may be suitable for you. Here’s what BookLamp CEO Aaron Stanton told Publishing Perspectives back in 2011 when the service launched its beta program:
We do this by taking the full text provided by a publisher in a digital format and running it though our computer…Our program breaks a book up into 100 scenes and measures the ‘DNA’ of each scene, looking for 132 different thematic ingredients, and another 2,000 variables.
So, for example, a user could go to BookLamp’s website and search for very specific criteria that goes beyond basic genres, as Publishing Perspectives points out. A parent, for instance, could search for “explicit depictions of intimacy” to rule out book titles that may be inappropriate for a young child.
BookLamp’s Book Genome Project can supposedly assess the content of a book just as well as a human can, Stanton told Publishing Perspectives. The company created a training model for its technology by tasking it with analysing both low density and high density scenes.
As a result, the platform can also provide information on stylistic elements such as pacing and dialogue as well. Using all this data, the service would be able to provide books with similar content and style based on your history.
The Game of Books
Aside from the Book Genome Project, Stanton created another project that aimed to gamify reading called Game of Books. A reader could level up or earn badges by reading a specific number of books within a certain genre or theme. The project raised more than $US100,000 on Kickstarter in 2012 to meet its fundraising goal.
Each book is worth a different amount of reader points, which is determined by the Book Genome Project’s technology.
It’s unclear exactly what the BookLamp acquisition means for Apple or iBooks, but a source reportedly told TechCrunch that it could be an effort to challenge Amazon in the space.