Startup Snapshot: Shelfie (A.K.A. Shazam for bookworms…)


PeterHudsonPeter Hudson is the co-founder of Shelfie. The idea for Shelfie came out of an argument Peter was having with his friend Dan in a bar. Dan said he had a book at home that would prove he was right. In frustration that he couldn’t make his point, Dan said “I wish I had digital copies of all my paper books on my phone”. 

1) What exactly is the Shelfie app?

Shelfie is a free app for iOS and Android where you can take a picture of your bookshelf (a “shelfie”) and the app will automatically identify all of your books. It’s kind of like Shazam for bookworms.

2) What problem does is solve?

Shelfie solves two problems. The first is format shifting, that is, if you buy a print book we believe that you should also get the digital edition either for free or at the very least at a huge discount. The second problem we solve is book discovery and recommendations.

Here’s how…

Once you’ve used Shelfie to inventory your library, the app allows you to download the digital or audio editions of your paper books at a huge discount (usually 80-90% off what you’d have to pay normally). At the moment (summer 2016) we’ve been able to sign “bundling” deals with about 1800 publishers to offer about 450,000 titles. This is usually around 25% of the books on an “average” bookshelf.

Shelfie helps you discover new books that you’ll enjoy by looking at the patterns of how you organize your bookshelf and by correlating that pattern with the way that millions of other books are organized on other readers’ bookshelves. Where Amazon has “people who bought this also bought”, Shelfie has “readers who love this book put it on a shelf beside” — this is human curation of books at scale.

3) Who is your target market?

People who love books, readers who always want to have their library in their pocket, and bibliophiles who are always looking for their next book.

4) What results do you hope to see over the next few years?

We’re very keen to sign the last two of the “big five” publishers to offer print + digital bundle deals. We currently have agreements with HarperCollins, Hachette, and Macmillan. We’re working on bringing Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster on board.

5) What is next for the Shelfie app?

We’ve very excited about the social aspects of Shelfie. We recently built in features that allow readers to browse each others’ bookshelves. If you’ve ever been at a party and found yourself browsing the host’s bookcase, you’ll probably enjoy the “feed” in Shelfie.