Apple has acquired BookLamp, a site that used “book DNA” and computer algorithms to yield better book recommendations. BookLamp had seemingly shut down earlier this year, but Apple confirmed Friday that it’s acquired the Boise, Idaho-based company. TechCrunch first reported the news.
As I wrote in 2011, BookLamp was the public-facing product of the Book Genome Project, a project launched by University of Idaho students in 2003. Rather than relying on user-submitted data or social recommendations, BookLamp analyzed books’ text, breaking it down into thousands of elements like “StoryDNA,” language and character DNA. Founder and CEO Aaron Stanton told me at the time:
“The analogy I use the most is that if you’ve eaten a chocolate cake and you wanted to find other cake that tasted the same, you’d need to know not just the ingredients, but the percentage and the preparation. From that perspective, thematic ingredients balance the book, and the writing style is the preparation: How is language prepared to deliver that storyline to the reader?”
When I tested BookLamp’s technology, it worked really well, surfacing older or less well-known titles that I might not have heard of before based on other books I’d liked. The company chose to have publishers opt in to let their books’ text be analyzed, though, so the catalog of recommendations never got huge.
Apple didn’t elaborate on its purchase of BookLamp (or even say anything beyond its usual “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans” non-confirmation confirmation). But it’s easy to see how BookLamp’s technology could be used within iBooks to provide more interesting recommendations to readers.