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Mystery solved: Boise’s BookLamp sold to Apple

The reasons behind the mysterious shutdown of Boise’s BookLamp — a firm developing analytical tools for the fast-moving book world — is now revealed, as the startup has been sold to Apple and will reportedly serve as developers of new iBook-related tools for the computing giant.

BookLamp, working out of Boise’s WaterCooler incubator, had been developing an analytics service that would recommend books based on prior purchases and interests, using native language scanned from existing books. Recommendation technology, which certainly not new, is nevertheless hot: the new era of big data requires analytics to provide accessibility, and this is the kind of technology developed by BookLamp. Both Oyster and Scribd have launched all-you-can-read services for eBooks, and Amazon launched the touted Kindle Unlimited earlier this month. Apple, which still has designs on making waves in the eBook field, apparently liked what they saw in Booklamp’s efforts — enough to buy the company for a price between $10 million and $15 million. From TechCrunch, which broke the story:

But the startup’s serious business of providing content analysis to e-book distributors was happening behind the scenes. Among its customers were Amazon, Apple and a group of publishers in New York. For them, BookLamp provided data analytics services that ranged from automatic book screening for proper categorization (Apple) to providing a platform for the publishers that they could use for screening manuscripts to consider whether a book would sell well with a particular demographic, or how much marketing budget should be allocated to it.

Part of the reason that Apple made the move to acquire BookLamp was because of this long list of clients. “At first Apple and BookLamp talked about growing their contract, but then they talked more from a strategic standpoint,” a source says. “What Apple wanted to do was, instead of contract, they wanted to make sure whatever work was done was done just for them.”

And what is that work? The details are not clear yet, but the source says, “in broad strokes, the goal that [founder Aaron] Stanton and three of the folks he was working with from the original BookLamp crew is to beat Amazon at their own game.”

The good news: It’s one more data point to prove that cities like Boise in the New West can foster high-flying startups, as several firms, such as MarkMonitor and First to File, have roots in Boise. The bad news is that with Boise’s BookLamp sold to Apple, there’s one less startup in Idaho that can further grow the New West economy: It’s always cause for concern when there’s a brain drain in the region, and it would have been much better news had the BookLamp team continued their work in Boise versus Silicon Valley.

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