Why We’re Still Doing ITS

An investor recently asked me why I’m so committed to In the Stacks (ITS), and building our book app (which I’ve been bootstrapping for so long) when I could be an executive at a large company earning six figures. I’m exploring that here:

—Librarians promote diverse voices. We filter through the ordinary. Our book recommendations broaden perspectives, enrich lives, break down barriers and promote peace. Our app disperses these values, to serve up something surprising.

—ITS all about books being discovered, about connecting readers with books that will inspire them and change their lives.

—Our product is unique: The In the Stacks app pulls 5 book picks for users from a database of books librarians love. Our products are curated by librarians, and use algorithms inspired by library reference desk interview tactics, to filter by rating and keyword, offering the most relevant picks from our database, or a book seller catalog, to the book buyer.

—The current method of finding books to read is based on social recommendations from friends, and this method keeps us trapped in our biased bubble. We’re only exposed to a small aspect of the spectrum of possibility. Worse, we only see what people who think like us see.

—Book Discovery Is Broken, and we know how to fix it. Librarians are experts at information retrieval. We’ve been selecting books for library users for hundreds of years, from behind the reference desk, and now we’re bringing the experience, online, and out of the library.

—Because there’s a proven path to acquisition for the Librarian Brain database, algorithm and app. We’re loosely modeled after Clerkdogs, a video store clerk film recommendation startup sold to Netflix.

—Because I will never stop working on the problem of book discovery. I want my own books to be discovered. We want any other books we publish at ITS to sell. We want to help get the word out and change people’s lives for the better via storytelling.

—Because I’m not a quitter. And we’re not giving up on our almost 400 users and customers.

—We love connecting readers with books they’ll love. Off the beaten path books, rediscovered older reads, b-list, indies and bestsellers.

—Readers are looking for books to read, and librarians know books.

—A strong, positive belief in a common sense way (Ask A Librarian! Who knows better about books?) of finding and recommending knowledge, developed for decades, even centuries.

—In the Stacks is firstly my indie publishing company, ITS Publishing, and the Librarian Brain book app for reading discovery is a money-generating division to ensure we continue to publish (and produce) books that improve people’s lives, and that our published books continue to be discovered.

—I love being my own boss. I’ve structured my work so it’s family-friendly as well. Babies and books are my future. And writing and cooking. And video and storytelling. I’m excelling at managing a team. We love building something useful.