Wait! Not Another Selfie! Instead, Take A Shelfie!

Chart provided by BitLit.com
Chart provided by BitLit.com

Is A Picture Worth A Thousand eBooks?

So there I was the other day, putting together a story for The Bookseller’s The FutureBook about Vancouver’s BitLit.

That’s the young start-up company that wants you to have ebook editions (free or at a discount) of books you’v’e already bought in print. A lot like when you buy a CD and you get an MP3 free, right? Of course right.

Peter Hudson
Peter Hudson

In talking with Peter Hudson, BitLit’s CEO and co-founder (with Marius Muja), the story kept getting more interesting. Not just because of what you can learn about your own books but because of what BitLit is starting to learn about a lot of shelves.

A “shelfie” is BitLit’s term for a photo of your shelf.

Hudson’s BitLit is working with some 200 publishers to offer you ebook editions of print books you already own. A participating publisher will decide whether to offer it to you free or at a discount. Also whether it has any DRM (digital rights management) software on it. If the ebook you’re looking for is available on the program — and BitLit has some 40,000 titles so far — then you can request to claim that ebook by writing your name on the copyright page and sending the shot to BitLit. It’s both the lowest and highest tech moment you’ll have simultaneously all day.

When the BitLit team decided to make it easier for you to find out if any of your print books were available through their “bundling” program, they created the “shelfie.”

Full details are here, but basically, you take a photo of about 20 books on your shelf, send it to them, and they’ll “read” it for you and tell you what’s available.

Image of a "shelfie" provided by BitLit.com
Provided by BitLit.com

The “shelfies” are read electronically in most cases, a cool bit of font-character recognition going on as the system scans your book spines and reads their titles.

As Hudson told me for The FutureBook:

The way it works is the divide-and-conquer approach. The first thing we do is separate the books. The first pass we make over it is segmenting. We try to find the individual book spines. Once we find the individual book spines, we do some pretty advanced optical character recognition. Then we mince up the characters into words. And then we match those against the BowkerBooks in Print database.

And as a byproduct of this process, BitLit is able to start making some really early but really interesting observations about the books on the shelves it’s seeing. Tens of thousands of shelfies (I know, that’s a lot of pictures of book spines) have come in to BitLit as it pushes this new approach into place. Along the way, some interesting bits of info are emerging. I asked Hudson if he’s tell us about a few, and he has come through.

Image of a "what's available" (in ebook format) provided by BitLit.com
Provided by BitLit.com

There’s an important caveat here, Hudson reminds us:

We’re in the “innovator” part of the adoption curve on this technology, so it’s not surprising that we’re seeing a large percentage of users who tend towards fantasy/sci-fi and popular nonfiction,  as these are typically male genres and our user base is currently 3:1 male to female.

With nothing but respect for our women readers, it sounds pretty great to me that there’s an area in reading, any area, with a three-to-one ratio of men to women.

We need more men reading. You know that, right? Study after study shows women in general doing more reading than men and buying more books than men (or at least copping to it more than men) — and we need to level up.

Before stepping down off my soapbox here, I’ll even go so far as to say one of the biggest mistakes publishers are making is in not developing major, aggressive campaigns to get more guys to read — because why leave half the population’s money on the table, right?

  Read More

There’s more: Read the full story at Thought Catalog

By Porter Ander­son | @Porter_Anderson

Writing on the Ether: Wait! Not Another Selfie! Instead, Take A Shelfie

Originally published by Thought Catalog at www.ThoughtCatalog.com



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