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SharedBook Enters the Web 2.0 Cookbook Market

When I met SharedBook CEO Caroline Vanderlip at the O’Reilly “Tools of Change” conference this summer, one of the first ideas I got from her company’s “reverse publishing platform,” which essentially allows users to pick and choose from a database of registered content and assemble their own books, was for personalized cookbooks. Looks like I was on the right track: Today, SharedBook is announcing a new partnership with Allrecipes.com, and this afternoon they’ll launch a web application called “Create-A-Cookbook” with a collection of more than 40,000 recipes to which users can also add their own content, including commentary and photographs.

A 20-page perfect-bound hardcover from Create-A-Cookbook runs for $34.99 (with softbound editions at $24.99). For almost the same basic price, Tastebook.com, launched just under two weeks ago by former Ofoto executives with financial backing and access to more than 25,000 Epicurious recipes provided by CondeNet, offers a hard binder with a customized cover and up to 100 recipes (which you don’t have to pick all at once). Like Create-A-Cookbook, Tastebook also allows its users to add notes to existing recipes or input their own favorite dishes. But one SharedBook insider, discussing the application with me over the weekend, was confident that Create-A-Cookbook would be able to distinguish itself from the competition, citing the ease of the Allrecipes dishes (“more for everyday or home cooks”) in comparison to the Epicurious fare on Tastebook, which draws upon the inventory from Gourmet and Bon Appetit.

In light of this morning’s item on the hidden costs of free content, it’s worth pondering, at least as a hypothetical: How much advertising would users of either service tolerate in order to bring the price of their books down? How much advertising to bring it way down? And not just on the website: Could you convince them to accept some form of advertising in the finished product, whether it was an actual ad—on the copyright page, perhaps—or specifying individual brands among the ingredients?

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