Apple’s BookLamp acquisition aims to beat Amazon at its own game

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Is Apple vs. Amazon the next “thermonuclear” tech war?

Perhaps not quite yet, but with Amazon moving into smartphones, and Apple choosing to stock the books Amazon refuses to, competition is certainly heating up. That may go some way toward explaining Apple’s acquisition of BookLamp, a startup described as the “Pandora for books,” which offers personalized book recommendations.

BookLamp shut down its services in April, with a message on its website stating that, “As of today [BookLamp] will no longer be available as our company evolves its mission.” It is likely that the acquisition happened at around this point.

As TechCrunch — which reported the purchase — points out, BookLamp’s algorithmic recommender system could serve as a competitor to Amazon X-Ray, which allows readers to see at which points characters or terms appear in a book.

Picture: Mashable

Picture: Mashable

Prior to the acquisition, BookLamp had reportedly done work for Apple into categorization tools, which would allow publishers to scan manuscripts to determine whether a book is likely to sell well, or how much marketing budget should be allocated to it.

“At first Apple and BookLamp talked about growing their contract, but then they talked more from a strategic standpoint,” said a source speaking to TechCrunch. “What Apple wanted to do was, instead of contract, they wanted to make sure whatever work was done was done just for them.”

The same source claims that the goal is “to beat Amazon at their own game” and notes that, “in the next year to 18 months you will see some fairly major initiatives focused on books and reading coming out of Apple.”

The acquisition reportedly cost Apple between $10 million and $15 million, and has been confirmed by Apple. The company is apparently looking to hire additional search talent from eBay to bolster the number of BookLamp employees who have relocated to Cupertino.

  • Mark Langston

    So while Microsoft cuts 18,000 jobs, primarily from one of the dumbest acquisitions in tech history, Apple is making wise, relevant and purposeful investments.

    • r l

      MS had no choice, it was either buy Nokia, or they moved to android and MS went to ZERO mobile market share. Nokia forced their hand…they already had ported current products onto android to see how they would function. $8B for a respectable share of European segment isn’t a bad investment really. no comfort for the employees booted onto the street tho. :(

  • sigzero

    Costs need to come down on ebooks.

    • lucascott

      But that is something for the publishers, not Apple. If folks don’t buy then the publishers get the memo and lower costs. Which is how a free market system should work

  • lucascott

    I disagree that this has anything to do with Amazon, Barnes and Noble or anyone else. Apple is just trying to make their stuff better. If that means they ‘beat’ someone else, it’s just icing on the cake.
    As for this step, better algorithms are great but I hope better metadata and some social aspects are in there also.

About the author

Luke DormehlLuke Dormehl is a UK-based journalist and author, with a background working in documentary film for Channel 4 and the BBC. He is the author of The Formula: How Algorithms Solve All Our Problems, And Create More and The Apple Revolution, both published by Penguin/Random House. His tech writing has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, Techmeme, and other publications. He'd like you a lot if you followed him on Twitter.

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