The social book-cataloguing app that’s changing the way we read

Whatbook addresses the problem of what book you should read next using machine-learning algorithms and human recommendations.

Social book-cataloguing sites have been around for a while, perhaps the most prominent of which is Goodreads. While more people may be taking advice from such services, the social aspect of many of the apps in the market has fallen just short, with many users opting instead to use the site merely for cataloguing books they’ve read or want to read.

Despite the popularity of the Amazon-owned book-based site, then, there is a case to be made that there is a gap in the market for a truly social app based around books. Whatbook could be the app to fill that gap. Founder Richard Mincher has coined the term “social readia™”, a concept based on enabling users to discover, rate and share book recommendations with each other.

“Whatbook addresses the problem of what book you should read next,” he says. “We want to make it as easy as possible to share and discover reliable recommendations from friends, family and colleagues using a combination of machine-learning algorithms and human recommendations.”

As well as providing readers with a social network for books, Whatbook also presents enticing opportunities for publishers. With its SmartAds software, book promotions can be targeted only to users with a high likelihood of being interested. This is a huge selling point for book publishers who currently spend a fortune on sporadic and generic paid adverts on social media websites.

Mr Mincher is excited about the potential of this but is realistic about the need to change attitudes within the publishing industry. “We do believe we can offer them a huge-value proposition and reduce their marketing costs while increasing their return, but this might take some time and cajoling,” he says. “We’re excited to work with the publishers and prove how effective this new model is compared to the current scenario.”

More important, he continues, is getting more people reading and away from their phones.

This might seem a contradiction in terms coming from the founder of a mobile-phone app but, says Mr Mincher: “Social media addiction is real. By making reading a more social and shareable activity, we hope to encourage people to make reading an increasingly large part of their lives.”

With a platform designed around more traditional social media feeds, Whatbook offers users a rare twist on a proven concept that users are familiar with, but harnesses that familiarity to make reading a social activity. That, along with the massive potential it offers publishers with its SmartAds software, means there isn’t quite anything like this out there at the moment.

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