The Sony Reader e-bookstore is partnering with iDreamBooks.com, a book discoverability site that aggregates book reviews and rates titles, to offer iDreambooks’ ratings on the retail site. Launched a year ago, iDreamBooks aggregates thousands of professional and amateur reviews and ratings, offering a percentage score for book titles in much the same way the Rotten Tomatoes site offers aggregated scores for films.
The partnership between the Sony e-bookstore and iDreamBooks goes live today. Consumers visiting the Sony store will be able to click-through each book listed to a title page with the iDreamBooks icon—a cloud icon with a percentage figure that indicates the percentage of reviews that liked or did not like the book.
Founded in 2012 in San Francisco by Rahul Simha, Vish Chapalamadugu and Mohit Aggarwal, iDreamBooks.com (“Never Read A Crappy Book Again”) aggregates more than 3,000 sources—mostly publications but also blogs—as well as soliciting consumer ratings/reviews on the site. In a phone interview with Simha, he said the company has about 5 employees including the three founders. He compared iDreamBooks.com to Rotten Tomatoes and said Rotten Tomatoes cofounder Patrick Lee was an early investor in the venture. The venture has also received funding from venture capital firm 500 Startups.
Simha said the goal of the company is “to create an authentic and trustworthy rating system for books. We’re like Rotten Tomatoes, you can rely on them that their ratings system can’t be gamed. It’s a great tool and we’ve tried to create something similar and useful.” Simha said the site launched with a focus on Big Six publishers and rating top frontlist bestsellers, but he said that as they aggregate more reviews into their system their focus is shifting. “We’re adding more and more reviews and adding the backlist and we’re switching our focus to what we’re finding is being reviewed.”
Simha pointed to Amazon.com and scandals over buying rand fake eviews and said, “user reviews are getting increasingly diluted in quality. Authors are taking matters into their own hands and getting their friends and fans to leave them favorable reviews.” Simha said the iDreamBooks’ algorithm relies on aggregating both professional review publications—Simha said their system uses PW reviews—and consumer user ratings. Their ratings feed, he said, is mostly automated but is also combined with manual “curators” who review the results.
The site also invites writers to apply to be regular iDreamBooks.com critics. Once vetted these critics get a special logon that allows them to add book reviews to the system. “Those that apply to be critics have to satisfy certain criteria. We vet their competence,” Simha said. On the iDreamBooks.com site, each book gets two percentage ratings, one from professional or vetted book critics and next to it, a percentage rating by fans/consumers. The site also provides a link to book retailers (although the list doesn’t include indie physical bookstores) for purchases, a plot synopsis of the title and it offers social reading mode that allows its users to compile a list of their favorite books.
Simha says the site generates revenue from paid partnerships like the Sony Reader store partnership, although this appears to be their first partnership deal. While he declined to name other paid partnerships he said the site also licenses its data and that they plan to eventually offer marketing deals for individual authors or groups of books in the future. “Some authors have approached us about promoting books,” Simha said, “which we can do on our main page.”