18 August 2011

Does Your Book Have Enough Motion?

I was struck by this GalleyCat report on a web service called BookLamp that tries to do for reading what Pandora does for music: suggest what else you’d like based on what you’ve chosen in the past.

Pandora analyzes music according to what it calls “genes,” about 400 of them. What variables does BookLamp look at? According to GalleyCat, they’re:

  1. Motion: “Motion refers to the level of physical motion in a scene or book”.
  2. Description: “Description refers to the level of descriptive language that the author uses in his or her writing.”
  3. Pacing: “Pacing refers to the layout of the text on the page. A scene with high Pacing will have characteristics that quickly move the reader’s eye down the page.”
  4. Density: “Density refers to the complexity of the text. Text with high Density will take longer to read than a text of equal length with low density.”
  5. Dialog: “Dialog refers to the amount of spoken text between two or more characters in a scene.”
This reminds me of the old joke about the man looking for his keys under a lamppost not because he dropped them there but because the light was better. Are these really the metrics we use to choose books? Or are they just what a computer can easily measure?

When I checked out the BookLamp site and its underlying Book Genome project, I realized that there are a lot more variables involved. The five above seem to be part of what the creators call LanguageDNA. So the system seemed more promising.

I tried typing in Billy Bathgate as a novel I’ve liked. BookLamp suggested…another historical novel by E. L. Doctorow. I don’t think I needed software for that suggestion.

1 comment:

Ms. Yingling said...

I love the post by John Wilson:

All middle grade authors who want boys to read their books should take a look at this.