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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Book Lamp- Pandora for Book Lovers

Two years ago I attended a lecture at the ALA National Conference entitled, From the Book and Beyond: Interdisciplinary Readers' Advisory. One of the presenters used the Music Genome Project as an example that RA's could extrapolate to our work.  Here is the link and an excerpt of what I said:
First up was Nathan Altice, a musician , digital artist, and adjunct professor of sound communication at Virginia Commonwealth University. Altice talked about the brain, technology, and musical appeal. He focused his talk on Pandora, the for-profit (but free to end users) Internet radio station where users can create customized play lists based on computer generated recommendations.

Pandora makes it recommendations based on the "Music Genome Project." A group of musicians and music professors got together and analyzed thousands of songs, creating 400 plus appeal terms (click here to see them all). The founders of Pandora then created a proprietary algorithm that matches the appeal terms with certain songs; creating "listen alikes."

I was familiar with with Pandora, having used it and been amazed at how well it does, but I had no idea how it worked until now. Altice's main point was that this works only when people and machine work together. To paraphrase him, humans are best at assigning meaning and the machines can do the computations, "the digital muscle needs human intervention."
In my report,  I continue to wonder if this could be done for books.  Well, it has.  Enter the Book Genome Project being put into play over on Book Lamp.

Q: What is the Book Genome Project, and what does it have to do with BookLamp?

A: Founded in 2003, the Book Genome Project was created to identify, track, measure, and study the multitude of features that make up a book using computational tools. Begun independently by students at the University of Idaho in 2003, by 2008 the team included researchers and programmers from Stanford University, Florida State University, and Boise State University. Over time, partnerships were formed with commercial publishers, and the project became self-sustaining by 2010. It’s included collaborators from locations as diverse as New York, Idaho, California, and the United Kingdom.
Much like Pandora.com was created to provide a practical outlet for the Music Genome Project, we created BookLamp.org to allow readers and writers to use the tools that we’ve developed over the years. BookLamp is the public face and home of the Book Genome Project, so please check it out and let us know what you think.
What Book Lamp does is try to get to the heart of the appeal of a book.  They are a non-profit group trying to map the elements within a story like pacing, style, language, tone, mood, details about characters, point of view, and plot points.  In short, everything we RAs are trying to do on our own.

It would be nice to have some help from people entering this data into a proven algorithm..

Book Lamp has really just begun.  They have some Story DNA you can search through, but are only in a Beta phase right now. The titles are very limited.  In order to see how it works let's compare a book I have reviewed with their info. Here is their entry for The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson on Book Lamp.  Here is my review which includes a link to reviews on the first two books in the trilogy.

The information each provides is different, but I think the tandem a Book Lamp with more data paired with a well trained RA librarian could be quite a team.

I will keep you posted as Book Lamp grows.

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