Small Demons builds concordance to aid book discovery
November 16, 2011 | 12:17 pm
I ran across another one of those guest posts on Publishing Perspectives where the founder of a publishing-related business is invited to talk about the idea behind that business. This one seems to involve a method for enabling discovery of new books in the age of the e-book. Small Demons, explains CEO Valla Vakili, was born out of enjoying a book and wanting to go out and experience some of the things and places written about in that book.
Then it occurred to him that links to other people, places, and things, including other books, can be found in most books, and he could create a website that would become “a concordance of the world’s literature”.
Culture has a cadence, and that cadence reveals itself in the work. In the text, in the song, in the art. Where works influence each other, where creators interpret each other just as they do the world.
Borges knew this, in Kafka and his precursors. To read culture like Borges, though, to see what he saw — that’s inaccessible to nearly all of us. And yet today, technology is catching up to Borges. We can sift through works. We can look for the details that matter. Categorize them, visualize them, add depth and context to them. We can find Kafka, and his precursors. And in so doing, piece by piece, reconstitute that cadence, that natural way stories connect to each other, and to the world.
Apparently the idea is that the site will list out all the cultural references in a given book, and you can follow those references to other books or other works and see how they interconnect. At least, that’s what I take away from this article plus the Small Demons site itself. The essay goes into a lot of talk about how awesome culture is, but it is kind of unclear on the details of how the site works. I’ve signed up for the beta and will try it out.
Though when you get right down to it, there’s already another site that does something very similar, though not as focused on references to other works. TV Tropes tracks not only references and shout-outs to other stories, but it also catalogs the storytelling elements each tale uses, and is wikified so that if you want to find every story that features a given element you only need to go to that element’s page and find a list.
Regardless, Small Demons looks like an interesting way to find new books, and I’ll look forward to giving it a shot.