The mash-up of literary content and technology continues unabated, as Squirl, a Houston-based start-up company, plans to roll out this month the beta version of a location-based app intended to provide a high-tech portal between imaginary landscapes and their real world inspirations.
After users create their literary profiles on Squirl’s platform, book excerpts pertaining to physical landmarks and other locations will pop up on user's mobile devices when they are in the vicinity of the actual places. Both classic and contemporary reads will be represented, and both publishers and authors will be able to add locations to the app. Users can also link their books to both bricks-and-mortar retailers and e-tailers.
Squirl has tried raising money through a Kickstarter campaign. On its fundraising page, it explains the technology this way: “Imagine passing by a street corner in New York City or a cafe in Paris and suddenly an excerpt from a book pops up on your phone. Literary serendipity! You might want to sit down for a cup of coffee and a croissant and start reading… Read the excerpt, look around you, feel the vibe and smell the air.”
Jef Van Der Avoort, one of the start-up’s two co-founders, whose background is in technology and communications, said that Squirl will launch the app even though he and his business partner, attorney Serie Wolfe, did not reach their goal of raising $75,000 on Kickstarter. Squirl’s Kickstarter campaign, which is now over, raised less than $12,000 from 58 backers during its 30-day run. The official launch of Squirl will be in March 2015, at the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, Tex.
While Squirl is available only in English during the beta testing, multiple languages will be added after the app launches in the spring.
Not only will Squirl enable users to explore literary locations, it will also allow them to join conversations with authors and fellow users. , Squirl also hopes, at some point, to create a book tour app.
Van Der Avoort insisted, finally, that the Squirl app “is not about search, it’s about discovery.” He explained: “You can follow authors, characters, books, locations. Squirl creates much more engagement with what you are reading.”