Chris covered BookLamp last year, and he wasn’t impressed. Last month, the news broke that Apple had bought BookLamp in April. Honestly, I didn’t pay much attention to the story because, although my books are available there, I don’t really think of Apple as having a credible ebook store. Although, right now, it’s probably more credible than B&N.
Then I read this article by author William Richards, and it made me think differently about the BookLamp purchase. Here was Richards’ view:
BookLamp figured out a way to model a book in order to quantify how the book reads. They look at keywords used, genre, grammar structure, style of writing, the kind of action that occurs in a book, how emotional or technical a book is. Once it has this model, it then looks for other books that have similar model scores.
It’s very deep data mining to create a heuristic model of a book’s style and uses that model to generate recommendations for a reader. Very accurately.
He makes the point that Amazon’s recommendations are based on which books are selling well, which is great for authors who already have lots of sales but isn’t as good for new authors who are still finding their market. He believes the BookLamp algorithm would suggest books in a way which could be a boon for new authors.
It makes sense to me, assuming BookLamp is as good at making recommendations as Richards says it is. That does lead to the potential of Apple being a better books discovery site than Amazon, and, if true, I like that. I’m perfectly happy with my relationship with Amazon, both as consumer and as author, but competition is good, and if Apple becomes a true competitor to Amazon, that’s good for everyone.
However, Apple has one big hurdle to overcome: platform portability. If you buy a book from iBooks, that’s it. No reading on an eInk device or Android tablet. Kindle readers aren’t likely to buy a book from Apple, no matter how good the recommendation. In fact, if Apple implements the recommendation engine well, they might end up being a showroom for Amazon.
Yes, you can strip DRM from Apple books, but it uses a different tool than the one for all other bookstores, and I doubt many people will want to learn a second method. I’ve never tested the method of stripping DRM from Apple books, and I’m rigorous about stripping DRM from books I buy. As you can guess, I just never buy from Apple.
So the BookLamp purchase may have potential. As an author, I love the possibilities for book discovery, but I’m dubious it will make Apple a true competitor to Amazon as long as the books are locked into the Apple platform.