Man versus machine

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Tin It Or Bin It – 2 September 2011 – Man versus machine

For all the literary lovers out there, there is now a website that can recommend you books using an algorithm. Launched last week by Aaron Stanton, BookLamp is to books what Pandora is to music.

The website analyses a book’s style of writing and assigns numerical values to the ‘Story DNA’, which is described as the breakdown of the settings, themes and characters.

We don’t know about you, but we choose books through human recommendations – from friends, family, colleagues, book reviewers in newspapers and Amazon user reviews.

Obtaining electronic recommendations from an algorithm that has not read and experienced the book just seems a bit dubious. We love technology but sometimes you just need a human touch.

BookLamp can’t distinguish between good prose and sloppy writing styles, so it is lacking the quality control that you usually get from someone you know and trust.

Also, the BookLamp engine can sometimes recommend a ‘zinger’ – which is a book that makes sense from an algorithmic perspective but not from a human view. This seems to be a major problem and something they will need to work on to perfect.

So far there are only 20,000 titles in their database, which means that your choices are fairly limited at this stage until more publishers come on board.

BookLamp is a work in progress. It sounds like a good idea initially, but on closer inspection there are some flaws.

We are not entirely convinced. Think we will just stick to old-fashioned book recommendations from friends and family for now, and come back to this once the BookLamp engine has had time to expand and fine-tune itself.

BIN IT…for now.

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