When Tania O’Donnell was dating, she met a man online and returned to his home…where he proudly showed off his collection of books.
“It was about 20 books about Nazi Germany and 10 Andy McNab novels,” says O’Donnell, an author. “I could feel my vulva building its own chastity belt.”
A more uplifting story: Hannah Love, head of advertising at children’s book publishers Scholastic, met a man online. He asked her about her favorite book (The last unicorn by Peter S Beagle) and read it before their first real-life date, to which he brought his favorite book to lend her (from Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness series), thus assuring her at least one second appointment to return the book.
Reader, she married him.
Reading can make or break a relationship for bookish people, and literary preferences are very subjective. But a new app in development aims to take the guesswork out of literary tastes when meeting new people. Klerb has already been dubbed Tinder for bookworms because it matches you with people in your area based on your common interests in books.
For those looking for love, a prospect’s shelves can be a minefield. What if they just read the wrong books? “Usually I don’t care, but I once went back to a guy after a date, and the only book I could see was Fifty shades of Grey“, explains Alice Furse, head of advertising at a publisher.
“To be clear, I was more concerned about its taste than the possibility of flaws.”
Or even worse, what if they have no books at all? Filmmaker John Waters said, “If you go home with someone and they don’t have any books, don’t fuck them.”
With Klerb, you don’t even have to date them. You can simply meet people who like the same books as you or start a book club.
“It’s not a flirt app,” insists Abe Winter, the New Yorker who develops Klerb, still in testing. “Or a dating app of any kind. But Tinder, which is not without its problems, brings real value to communities by connecting strangers in geographic proximity. I try to bring that model to the reading.
“Readers crave discussion and introverts crave social outlets. It’s easy to socialize if you like to party or play sports; it is more difficult if you have academic interests.
“Based on an informal survey, about 10% of dating app profiles over the age of 30 talk about books or reading. This is an overlooked category for socialization. Goodreads is great on the book side, but isn’t a geo-based social tool, and I guess it doesn’t want to be.
Winter says he’s a solo founder with “low spend and no investment,” and is trying to make it work without the criticism of ad-based apps that harvest user data.
He has a waiting list and plans to roll out the app when he reaches enough interested users in enough geographic locations for the algorithms to work.
For people like Abbey Heffer, a doctoral student in Germany with a penchant for dystopian fiction, Klerb could be a godsend. “I wouldn’t use the app to search for a relationship – I’m happily married! – but I love the idea of screening potential friends based on their taste in books,” she says.
“It would make finding literary friends so much easier for people like me: immigrants who read in other languages, moms looking to talk about something other than babies, or just introverts who want to socialize… but gently.”