How to find love, literally
Paperback publisher Penguin has launched a lonely hearts website to help readers – and authors – meet their soulmates
Sunday 31 August 2008
The majority of classic romantic novels end with either marriage or heartbreak. Now, book lovers around the world will have the chance to plot and develop their own real-life romantic stories as a major publisher launches the first online dating site aimed purely at literary enthusiasts.
PenguinDating.com was developed in conjunction with the established online dating provider Match.com after the publisher's online team came up with the initial idea as a way to extend the brand and pique the interest of readers. While sites such as GoodReads provide a virtual community for avid book readers, the Penguin site focuses primarily on lonely hearts.
The service – which went live last week – has already attracted more than 500 subscribers in its first three days, and will be promoted at the end of more than two million paperback novels.
Those who sign up to the dating system will be asked in their profile to list the book they have read most recently. They will also be able to search potential suitors' profiles for mentions of their favourite book.
Katya Shipster, a Penguin spokeswoman, said: "The idea behind the site was to get readers to be able to interact and connect on many different levels. We're trying lots of different online initiatives at the moment. We want the most amount of people to get the most enjoyment out of our books – and to possibly even find relationships at the end of it."
Hopeful suitors will be able to sign up to the site for free, but will have to subscribe should they wish to contact anyone.
The company is hoping that celebrated authors will provide content for the site – and maybe even hope to find love themselves. "A couple of our authors had actually met someone on dating sites prior to the PenguinDating being set up, although I can't say who they are," said Ms Shipster.
"Julia Llewellyn, who has just published The Model Wife, is going to be writing on the site, as well as Adele Parks. Alain de Botton is also very interested in writing something that will be linked to the theme of finding love," she added.
The Penguin site might be the first online site aimed at connecting literary love, but personal ads have long been an established fixture in periodicals such as the London Review of Books (LRB), which published a book, They Call me Naughty Lola, containing of some of the more quirky examples. David Rose, the advertising director at the LRB, who edited the book, said the ads began "with the simple idea of helping people with similar literary and cultural tastes get together".
Since the first ad the LRB received over a decade ago – which was from a man "on the lookout for a contortionist who plays the trumpet" – many readers from around the world have congregated in the small ads section in the hope of finding love.
"The advertisers are rarely inhibited by positive thinking and they don't tend to suffer the same degree of nervous overstatement found in other lonely-hearts columns," said Mr Rose.
Ads such as "Bald, short, fat, ugly male, 53, seeks short-sighted woman with tremendous sexual appetite. Box no 9612" have led to erudite, literary lovers forming relationships through the advertisements.
One of the most famous titles about "literary love among the bookshelves" was Helene Hanff's 84 Charing Cross Road. The story chronicles Hanff's 20-year correspondence with the chief buyer for Marks & Co, a London bookshop. Sadly, that particular story did not have a happy ending.
Penguin hopes that the future online romances achieved through its website are far happier: "The first Penguin wedding would be a great story," said Ms Shipster.
And if it doesn't work out, there are plenty of self-help titles in the bookshop for the heartbroken to read.
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