A New Architecture Of Algorithms: Could Trajectory Make Books ‘Discoverable’ At Last?

Image - iStockphoto: ptk78
Image – iStockphoto: ptk78

‘To Read More Books In A Similar Vein’

As the book publishing industry heads into its first major conference of the year this week — Digital Book World (hash it #DBW15 with us) in New York City — we learn now that we won’t be seeing one late-breaking major development on the program. And that’s not the fault of Mike Shatzkin and Michael Cader, whose fine DBW agenda is, in a word, huge.

This new start-up is just getting started up, but is no less welcome or intriguing.

We’re announcing in The Bookseller on the stands in London and at The FutureBook (The Bookseller’s non-paywall digital community site), that a two-year-old company in Boston called Trajectory has created what it says is a way for readers to discover the books they love — and the books that authors, agents, and publishers want them to read.

If you’re in publishing, you’re now sitting up. A bona fide, actionable answer to the dilemma termed “discoverability” for books could be industry-changing.

Is Trajectory it?

Keywords used in sentiment analysis -- part of the "natural language processing" (NLP) system that Boston's Trajectory is bringing to the challenge of book "discoverability" in a glutted market. Trajectory.com
Keywords used in sentiment analysis — part of the “natural language processing” (NLP) system that Boston’s Trajectory is bringing to the challenge of book “discoverability” in a glutted market. Trajectory.com

There’s about a weeklong crash course in luminous, sexy technical power of the tf-idf/cosine-similarity kind behind all this. At its outer reaches, this could get very Minority Report. (Did that billboard just ask you if you’re ready for your next book, Mr. Anderton?)

Instead, hang onto your eyeballs and let me cruise the concept for you in a few easy, non-technical steps. Then I’ll fill you in on some of the details.

(1) What IS ‘Discoverability’ In Books, Anyway?

In her “Back to Basics” blog post of  January 3, the author and determined entrepreneur Joanna Penn wrote this, emphasis mine:

That’s my aim. Grow a list of readers who love the books I love and want to read more books in a similar vein

That is a very pure statement of “discoverability,” as the industry uses the term today. Pure Penn, too, sleeves rolled up. She may love Trajectory.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, TOC, #TOCcon, Author (R)evolution Day, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, DBW, #DBW13, Publishers Launch, Authors Launch, FutureBook, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook
Joanna (“J.F.”) Penn

Two key points here:

  • As many have pointed out, “discoverability” is not a problem for people whoread books. Our readers have enough books and ebooks on their bedside tables and Kindles to last them about six lifetimes already. The historically unprecedented, digitally triggered deluge of content glutting the market today means that you will never lack for something good to read, not even if everybody stops writing and publishing right now. (And yes, it is tempting to ask them all to just stop it — you ask them to do that, I’ll keep the car engine running.)
  • “Discoverability” is a need for the people who make books to somehow punch through that wall o’ content (which can include digital games, video, TV, film, etc., remember) and get their hands on some more buyers. While our author corps has mushroomed in size, the readership isn’t growing fast, may even be getting smaller, and is endlessly seduced by other comforts of the cloud — those electronic entertainments that keep them glued to their smartphones, right? The way to attract readers, as Penn is telling us, is to be able to show them something “in a similar vein” to what they like — help them recognize/discover the books that really match their tastes and interests.

Do you enjoy a good French Revolutionary battle scene? Who doesn’t? So as a reader, what you would like to know is that this, this, and this book has a barricade’s basket of French Revolutionary battle scenes to offer. Find that out, and suddenly, those three books have risen above the fray, right? Mais oui. You’re interested.

That’s what we need “discoverability” to do.

Read More

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

By Porter Ander­son

Writing on the Ether: A New Architecture of Algorithms: Could Trajectory Make Books ‘Discoverable’ At Last? 

Originally published by Thought Catalog at www.ThoughtCatalog.com


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