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BookVibe spies on social media to recommend reads

A new service scrapes your social network for books worth your time, and surprises Crave's Eric Mack by hitting the mark.

BookVibe scrapes your social networks to produce a surprisingly useful list of recommended reads. Screenshot by Eric Mack/CNET

In a world full of so much surveillance and fear and paranoia -- not to mention the need to keep an eye on those paranoid types -- one clear question remains unanswered: what about the arts?

Enter BookVibe, a service that culls through your Twitter network (Facebook coming soon) on a mission to surface book recommendations from people you know, or respect, or saw on CNN saying something ridiculous one time two years ago. Its algorithm tries to distinguish between actual recommendations of a title and just passing mentions about Tiger Mothers and George R.R. Martin.

The company behind BookVibe, Parakweet, scrapes the social Web for product recommendations of other sorts, and it's hoping that this foray into the literary world puts it on a collision course with the likes of Amazon and Goodreads (which are actually now under the same corporate umbrella).

"Amazon provides recommendations based on what you've bought," Ramesh Haridas, the company's CEO and co-founder told Digital Book World. "With Goodreads as well as with any other niche social discovery application, many of my friends who organically post updates about books on Facebook and Twitter are not active on Goodreads, for example."

After years of ignoring Amazon recommendations that seem to be more suited to predefined marketing demographics, I approached BookVibe skeptically. But when I took it for a spin by handing over my e-mail address and Twitter credentials, I was surprised by how well the resulting list of recommendations from colleagues and acquaintances that I "know" only in a digital sense, for the most part, seemed to suit my tastes.

There was "Infinite Jest," which I've been meaning to get to for years, and "Cloud Atlas," one of my all-time favorites, and a title from Dr. Suess that I somehow missed. Apparently, lots of people I know really, really like Neil Gaiman. Maybe it's finally time I jumped on that bandwagon.

Another interesting feature is the ability to browse the bookshelves of certain leaders, most of them of the Silicon Valley ilk, including a collection of technology journalists. Apparently, I haven't been tweeting enough about my favorite books yet, as my bookshelf is empty, but I can save you the trouble and recommend "What Technology Wants" by Kevin Kelly right here.

Have you tried out BookVibe? Let me know if it worked for you or not in the comments below.