By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
‘Where Does ‘The Salmon of Doubt’ Stand on Your Shelf?When last we heard from Shelfie, co-founding CEO Peter Hudson was looking back at “three years of cold calls,” talking publishers into sign on to have their ebooks matchable to print books already owned by readers.
Created as BitLit Media by Hudson and Marius Muja, the Vancouver startup now has looked south to Seattle for a little inspiration and added what it likens to “Amazon’s familiar ‘people who bought this book also bought'” recommendation algorithms.
Shelfie’s edition of that phrase: “people who own this book put it on a shelf beside.”
In case you need a refresher, here’s how Shelfie works, in a wholly hypothetical example.
Let’s say you own a copy of Suzanne Collins’ Mockingjay in hard cover and you’d like it in an ebook format. You download the Shelfie app in Android or iOS and use it to take a picture of your bookshelf on which the Collins rests. When you submit that image of your bookshelf to the system, Hudson’s team then lets you know which books on your shelf it can offer you in ebook format, either free or for (usually) a discounted price — each publisher decides on the cost of an ebook, as well as on what DRM constraints it may have. If the Miller is one of the books that Shelfie then tells you it has available in a digital copy, you can get it.
You can see in the image below a case in which a reader called Ali K. sent his or her Shelfie image to Vancouver and, yes, it turns out that an ebook edition of Mockingjay is available as are some other titles.
The advantages here run both ways.
- The reader can get a digital copy of a beloved book.
- The publisher gets data. Its possible that the publisher may have had no data whatever from Ali K.’s original print purchase of Mockingjay, especially if that buy was made in a bricks-and-mortar bookshop. Once the ebook edition is obtained from Shelfie, however, the publisher does get data and basically finds that “lost buyer,” Ali K., as part of the process.
Hudson and Vice-President for Content Mary Alice Elcock tell us that to create recommendations, Shelfie is analyzing the patterns of how readers shelve their books, revealed in those snapshots they’re submitting through the app. So something about how Ali K. is shelving her or his books is helping Shelfie sort out personalized recommendations for this reader.
“At Shelfie, we think that the best book recommendations come from two things,” says Hudson in a prepared statement. “One, a full picture of the books you actually own, not just the ones you bought online; and, two, the way that readers naturally organize their books.
He’s referring, of course, to the fact that most online retail recommendations are based on a customer’s sales history. In their material on the recommendations, Shelfie’s folks write:
“Shelfie’s model considers a reader’s entire bookshelf, no matter if the books were bought online, offline, or received as gifts. Plus, Shelfie uniquely captures the way readers organize their books. While you’re unlikely to ever find Douglas Adams’ The Salmon of Doubt on a bookstore shelf next to Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, that’s exactly how thousands of readers organize their shelves at home.”
Shelfie offers a user his or her recommendations either in a unified list or categorized by genre. And the company says its library now is more than 250,000 titles deep.