The developers behind the Book Genome Project and Booklamp.org have launched a Kickstarter campaign for “The Game of Books,” a new digital card and role-playing game designed to reward young adults for reading. Funding raised by the campaign would be used to design, produce, and distribute 4,000 Game of Books starter kits to U.S. libraries.
Founded in 2003, the Book Genome Project works with publishers to solve challenges in book discovery by using computer analysis of the language, theme, and characters in books. Similar to the way Pandora.com uses data from the Music Genome Project to suggest new music to users, Booklamp.org is a free reader recommendation tool that uses this data to suggest books that have a similar “DNA” profile to a book that a user has enjoyed in the past.
The Game of Books is another practical application for the underlying Book Genome Project data. More than 100,000 books have been assigned unique, digital “game cards” that offer readers experience points, digital badges, and other rewards based on a book’s content.
Each book’s digital game card can be viewed by scanning the barcode of a physical book using an iPhone or Android device. Readers play by going on specific literary “Journeys,” such as a Science Fiction Journey or Romance Journey, for example. To complete each Journey, players must collect specific badges, such as the “Tough Love,” a badge awarded for reading a romance novel written at a challenging reading level.
Similar to the achievement system on the Xbox 360 or the trophy system on PS3 gaming consoles, this digital game card and badge system rewards players for books that they have read, while over time generating a highly customized profile of their tastes. Aaron Stanton, founder of the Book Genome Project and Booklamp.org described it as an “imaginative Foursquare. Foursquare gives you rewards based on where you have been. This gives you rewards based on where your imagination has been,” he told LJ. Players can then share this profile among themselves or on social media sites.
The Journeys are also designed to encourage readers to branch out and explore, even if they continue reading within a favorite genre.
“To complete the Science Fiction Journey they may have to read books that earn them the Space Exploration badge, the Underwater Cities badge, and the Time Travel badge,” the Kickstarter page explains. Completing these Journeys—which will generally include about five to seven books—offers additional rewards, such as collectible bookmarks.
Readers who are fans of specific genres can also earn character levels by reading books with similar themes, becoming a Level 2 Vampire Reader or a Level 3 Fantasy reader after reading several books from those genres, for example.
Libraries have been targeted as the recipients of starter kits generated by the crowdfunding campaign to encourage participation by institutions that are already actively involved with literacy efforts, Stanton added. The program is designed to fit well with existing summer reading programs or book clubs.
“We want to make it fun to read with friends,” said Stanton. “You can compete or just compare what you’ve read.”