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All about books: Finding connections through the love of reading

A new Indian dating app, Bookmark, by readers and for readers, focuses on finding meaningful connections through books

People are using Bookmark to build a community for themselves.(Pexels)

By Aisiri Amin

LAST PUBLISHED 24.01.2024  |  01:03 PM IST

The popular Netflix series, Love is Blind, premiered on Netflix just when the pandemic had started confining people to their homes. This dating show was a bit different—people couldn’t see each other so connections relied solely on conversations. In a world that’s too used to swiping left or right as a reflex, this concept imagined a dating space without the bias of looks. A new dating app is taking this one step further and connecting people through a common ground: books.

Imagine a one-on-one version of Goodreads, where you could filter people around you based on the books and authors you like. It's with this idea that Harsh Snehanshu, Avrojyoti Das, and their three friends who are employed elsewhere and work part-time, launched the new dating and friendship app, Bookmark, in December 2023 for Android users.

Also read: A reading community in Bengaluru rooted in silence and safety

The concept is simple. It’s an app by readers for readers to find meaningful connections through the one thing that takes up most of their time: books. Readers can sign up on it to find a date or a book buddy. Their profile pictures are hidden and only revealed after they exchange 10 messages with their match.

The idea sparked from Snehanshu’s other venture, a reading community in Bengaluru, Cubbon Reads, which gained immense popularity last year. “Through Cubbon Reads we met a lot of people who also wanted to meet more readers and form more one-on-one friendships. So, we thought of creating an app where they can find a book buddy and/or go on a date with a fellow reader," Snehanshu says. So far, the app has got about 2,000 users across India.

Profiles in the app are designed to mimic a book with a preface, blurb, bibliography and even an epilogue. Similar to dating apps such as Hinge, profiles contain info from prompts, but these are book-related, such as, “Books I’m two-timing with" and “One book we need to talk about more". Since the prompts are book-focused, they give deep insights into who people are, Snehanshu says. It's a social experiment where it’s all about books, not looks.

Screenshots of the app. (Bookmark)

“In this app, you are one conversation away from knowing whether someone is liberal or not, a feminist or a chauvinist. For instance, if they like reading about nature or wildlife, they're observant. If they like reading fiction more, they have humanity. There is so much that books reveal," he says.

Rukhsar Khan, 27, was one of the early users of the app who had written “Haruki Murakami" for the prompt “An author I’d love to hate with you". “It was one of the most interesting conversation starters. People have strong opinions about Murakami, both positive and negative, so it was interesting to hear different perspectives and build connections through such discussions instead of just swiping based on superficial elements such as physical appearances," Khan says.

For some users of the app, it’s more about building a community for themselves. For instance, Athul, 24, shifted to Bengaluru last year and has been looking for people who share common interests. “I came across the app through Cubbon Reads and it’s been a boon. I have found book pals, not just in Bengaluru but also in other cities. There are no awkward introductions because you already have a common topic to talk about so it’s easier to have meaningful conversations," he says.

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While there are dating apps like Hinge that focus on connections through conversations and Bumble that has the option to find friends, Bookmark has entered the crowded dating app space as a breath of fresh air for many users who want to move beyond the awkward small talk and unconscious bias that dating profiles come with. Khan says, Bookmark is a “niche, well-made variation of existing dating apps and connects you to specific people who enjoy the literary world in the way you enjoy it and that’s rare."

Snehanshu and the team are currently working on the iOS version of the app which should be launched soon.

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