Rakuten Kobo has acquired Shelfie, a service which enables customers to get free or discounted e-book versions of their print books.
The deal includes technology assets, IP, and the infrastructure on which the service runs. Kobo has also hired Shelfie’s team, which specialises in the application of big data and machine learning for book discovery.
Shelfie ceased operations in January and Kobo has worked with the company to offer its customers the opportunity to transfer their e-book libraries to Kobo’s platform, ensuring customers would continue to have access to their digital books. Over the coming months, Kobo will work to integrate the Shelfie platform into its Android and iOS apps, enabling readers to add their print libraries to their reading history to generate more tailored e-book recommendations, as well as the option to get digital versions of print titles they already own.
Founded in 2013 by Peter Hudson and Marius Muja, as BitLit Media Inc., Shelfie grew to offer more than 450,000 e-books and audiobooks that booklovers could purchase at a discount or download free of charge. Using any iOS or Android device, users snapped a photo of their bookshelf, and through patented technology, Shelfie scanned the spines of every book to identify titles and give readers a complete inventory of their collection, and served them the available equivalent titles in digital—free of charge or at a promotional price. The service also used the titles on the shelf as data, combined with digital reading data, to generate personalized recommendations.
Michael Tamblyn, c.e.o. of Rakuten Kobo Inc, said: “We know our best customers move fluidly between formats, reading digitally and in print, and we welcome this opportunity to bring their entire reading life together. People who come to Kobo already have a history of reading in print that we don’t want to ignore. This acquisition will allow us to expand our ecosystem by incorporating Shelfie’s innovative advances in book recommendation, discovery, and bundling, which is especially interesting considering our large network of bricks-and-mortar bookselling partners."
Hudson, c.e.o. of Shelfie, said: “We’re proud of what we’ve built, and in Kobo, have found the perfect platform to expand on what Shelfie has to offer, on a global scale. Finding the next book to read is a challenge that resonates with many booklovers, who increasingly are looking to personal recommendations as opposed to algorithm-based suggestions. With Shelfie’s technology, avid readers will easily be able to find the next must-read book.”
In 2013, Shelfie was shortlisted for The Bookseller’s FutureBook Innovation Award.