If, like me, you didn’t go to Frankfurt (still with me? Good.) but followed the hashtags on Twitter when you should have been working, you might have seen the phrase ‘small demons’ springing up quite frequently. No, it’s not a crappy tattoo – it’s an amazing metadata engine and a new way of sourcing books. I got an invite to the Beta and dug on in to see what it’s all about.
Basically you’ve got a book, and then you’ve got all the words in the book, some of which, if you’re not some post-modern tool belt, are nouns. So imagine if every noun was a link to that same noun in every other book. For example, if I’m reading High Fidelity, I can see all the music, places, people and ‘other stuff’ (as in stuff from your real life like coffee brands or t-shirts or shoes) that Hornby references laid out.
If you hover over the lovely high-res images that don’t look so much like stock photos as portraits from some Platonian plane, you can see in-situ references to the ‘thing’ with page numbers. And if you click on one – say, Prince – you can see where he’s mentioned in several books, again in situ with links to the relevant titles. The sheer amount of metadata on available for each title and the crazy cataloguing that has gone on at the back end is mind blowing.
The website is sexy; the interface easy to navigate. A lot of features are disabled as it’s still in Beta, but you can see the potential for personalisation and connectivity. My only gripe with the build itself is a purely ideological one – the ‘buy’ button defaults to Amazon. The fact that this is the go-to for a company like Small Demons is both unsurprising and deadly. There’s also the option to buy from Kobo, B&N and Audible, but I doubt many will bother even checking the prices elsewhere.
This site means web, net or associated reading that I talk about when I’m drunk or particularly impassioned is here. You can jump from book to book in a way you probably hadn’t considered before, tell people about ones you think are cool, make lists (? Beta, I don’t know what this will look like in the end).
You can use your own interests as the basis for a rabbit-hole search for that next great book – no more relying on ‘people who bought this book also bought’ or just sly search algorithm rigging. This one is all you, and all the tools are there for that rabbit hole plunge to be just as fun as reading the actual book.