Small Demons Is Sophisticated Wiki for Books, Aims to Change Discovery Market

Obsessive readers, take note: just-launched Small Demons collects user-contributed details -- real-life people and locations mentioned, things like foods characters like and cars they drive, historical references and other books and movies based on the book -- so you can easily find new things to enjoy as well as read.

Founded by former Yahoo! product VPs Valla Vakili and Tony Amidei, the then-stealth company raised $3M in May from undisclosed investors.

Here's how it works. Type in "Harry Bosch," the protagonist in author Michael Connelly's mystery "The Black Echo," and you will see pages created for items like the history of the character's name. In this case, the detective is named after Hieronymus Bosch, an early Netherlandish painter of religious and moral concepts. From there you can find books about the painter -- but no purchase links.

"Discovery is the ultimate problem we're trying to solve and the ultimate value we're trying to create," Vakili said in an interview with O'Reilly Radar. "If you're a reader and you go online to find a book related to the book you're reading, you have some very standard options: the 'people who bought this also bought that' function from Amazon; ratings and reviews from people you may or may not know. I feel like a lot of this is pretty washed up. And the thing that's being substituted for it now is the social signal -- your friends are reading this; your friends are reading that. That's pretty weak, too. There's a much stronger source of discovery, which is the book you're already involved in."

So far, Small Demons offers a better experience than Wikipedia's book entries, which tend to contain fewer context citations and don't have images beyond a book cover. Small Demons has big graphics, maps and links to other sources of information. The focus appears to be on popular fiction and literature; it's not clear how many books are on the site.

As for the content, Small Demons worked with publishers for some of the early content, but crowdsourced curation is the future, Valla told O'Reilly Radar.

Valla tells LAUNCH via email that he believes crowdsourced knowledge will become one of Small Demons' assets and that the community will keep the content accurate.

Not everyone can contribute just yet -- you have to be accepted into the beta first. Those with access can add references and share personal photos of places and things mentioned in books.

Members will earn points and badges for their contributions and can become curators of subjects they are experts in, with their profiles displayed on the topic page.


Each book or book series features a short description and allows you to make the subject a favorite and share it via Facebook, Twitter or email -- although these functions are not currently active yet in the beta.

You can see a map of places mentioned in authors' books. Hover over the images of people and things mentioned in a book and you'll get the snippet of text where the author references them.


Small Demons
Twitter: @smalldemons

Valla Vakili
Twitter: @sideposts 

Tony Amidei
Twitter: @subface