'Small Demons' website catalogues details in books

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The inherent nature of the novel is to exist in a realm beyond reality. As members of reality ourselves, we often try to escape into the highly idealized realm of fiction. Small Demons offers an interesting means to break down the dichotomy between the world we are in and the worlds we want to be in.

The general idea of smalldemons.com, which is still in beta testing, is to extract and then aggregate all of the details of a novel that exist in real life. Places, restaurants, music, people and movies all fit into this. Those details are then placed into the easily navigated and aesthetically pleasing design of Small Demons, in what the website calls a Storyverse. Each novel has its own Storyverse, which is connectable to other Storyverses that share the same details. Small Demons has plans for a sort of geo-social networking system similar to Foursquare with its twist toward an emphasis on books, further blurring the line between reality and the Storyverse.

The idea came about when Valla Vakili, one of the company’s founders, was reading the book “Total Chaos” by Jean Claude Izzo. At the time, Vakili was a loyal drinker of Laphroaig Whisky. Vakili, a former product vice president at Yahoo!, was so swayed by Lagavulin, the main character of “Total Chaos,” that he adopted his Scotch preferences and even found jazz music. Realizing the potential of these details in the story, Valla set out to create a mechanism to catalog and organize them.

Should you ever want to travel across Europe reenacting the adventures of Robert Langdon, from Dan Brown’s adventure novels, Small Demons makes this possible. You can look at comprehensive lists of locations featured in the books, as well as historical figures and themes mentioned in the book. Theoretically, you should be able look at a list of music featured in the books, to serve as a soundtrack to your excursion, and movies mentioned that you can watch on the transatlantic flight. These items have yet to be cataloged given the relative youth of the website.

Small Demons aren’t the only ones who see the vastly lucrative potential of what they’re doing — as of May 11, they have raised $3 million in Series A funding, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission. That happened while they were still in alpha and a vast majority of the public had no idea what their product was.

The company has come a long way since then, with a functioning beta with access available to the public, provided you sign up and wait a few days.

“At a startup, you don’t wait until you’ve got everything done,” said Richard Eoin Nash, vice president of content and community at Small Demons. “You start by letting people see what you’re up to so that you can make sure you’re on the right track. We’ve already got about 10,000 people who have requested invites.”

At the moment, the book supply is limited, given Small Demons’s approach of seeking partnerships with publishers instead of trying to get by off of Fair Use laws that artists such as Girl Talk use to legally justify
their music.

“We didn’t want to have an adversarial relationship with publishers,” Nash said, “which could have been the case had we gone the fair use route.”

The process of extracting and organizing details is a bit lengthy as well, as the process requires indexing by computers and then subsequent human touch-ups and corrections.

They company has plans to move out of beta testing by the holiday season and is building a larger catalog as more publishers get on board with the project.

Printed on Thursday, November 17, 2011 as: Website to compile real-life aspects of novels