Bookvibe, a new service from data start-up Parakweet, is trying to give readers a reason to abandon well-worn book-discovery paths and trailblaze a new one.
The company has built technology that analyzes tweets and public Facebook posts and extracts relevant commercial information — mostly in the form of product or service recommendations. What Bookvibe does, in particular, is hunts the social Web for book recommendations and surfaces them in a way that’s useful for users. Specific readers can enter their own Twitter handles to get customized lists of recommendations from those they follow on the micro-blogging service.
“Amazon provides recommendations based on what you’ve bought,” said Ramesh Haridas, the company’s CEO and co-founder. “With Goodreads as well as with any other niche social discovery application, many of my friends who organically post updates about books on Facebook and Twitter are not active on Goodreads, for example.”
According to Haridas, one of the main advantages of Bookvibe is that users don’t have to buy or sign up for anything to use it and can get value out of it right away.
Freemont, Calif.-based Parakweet was launched three years ago by Haridas and a co-founder. Today, the company has six employees and has raised $2 million in angel funding from Scott Bannister (an early investor in Zappos and Paypal), Alan Braverman (co-founder of Yammer and Eventbrite) and others.
The company plans on adding more features to Bookvibe, including the ability for users to make a list of books to read and for alerts for when books go on sale. Parakweet is also building what it calls “entity” pages — pages about specific titles that will eventually be populated with information from a user’s social graph (reviews, tweets and posts by friends, gathered from the social Web).
When it comes to discovering new books to read, consumers have little trouble. They are surrounded by recommendations from friends — on and offline — recommendations from Amazon and other engines, and some of them are even signed up for services like Goodreads and Riffle, which cater specifically to those looking for their next great read. Many still go to libraries and bookstores.
Yet, for publishers and new authors, the problem of how their latest releases will get discovered is a thorny one. A steady stream of start-ups has arisen to address this.
For publishers and authors, Bookvibe has a compelling offering. It gathers data from the social Web about what books people are talking about and what they’re saying. Publishers and authors can pay to access a dashboard with that information. The company is targeting both publishing company and independent authors because it looks at the latter as a small publisher rather than just an author.
“Publishers are looking for alternatives to Amazon and trying to figure out who their customers are,” said Haridas. “Amazon knows everything and publishers get no data. Marketing and promotion [departments] need the data and the knowledge of the audience to reach that audience.”
Initially, the company expects to generate revenue mostly from publishers and authors using its data service, which runs basically independently of the book recommendation tool since it searches the social Web for data regardless of readers using the product. The company also expects to generate a small amount of affiliate revenue.
The company has a plan to market its service to consumers, however, including partnering with other websites that have developed audiences as well as a weekly email that it hopes will keep readers coming back.
Parakweet also has or is developing similar tools to Bookvibe to cater to travel, events such a concerts and conferences, food and dining and movies (the company also has a service called Trendfinder, a similar analytic dashboard for movies).