Aug 19, 2010 10:15 PM by Alison Haynes
NEW YORK (AP) - Chin Ma is 25 and looking for love. He paddles
regularly in the dating pools online, paying fees to navigate
millions of profiles based on lengthy checklists and compatibility
So how'd he find his latest prosdespite the potential buyout and hol on Alikewise.com, a newcomer looking to connect people free
of charge based on their favorite reads. It's a unique approach in
a recession-hardy industry that has dozens of niche sites serving
potheads to pet owners, millionaires to Mac lovers.
"Alikewise is more subject to your creativity than the larger
sites," said Chin, a management consultant from Brooklyn.
"There's more of that soft dynamic. You get to know people in a
Hobbies and passions like reading are often included when online
daters describe themselves or their dream mates. Site users can
search and be searched by the books and book opinions they put up
next to their profile pictures. There's also an option to respond
to general open-ended conversation starters that include: "Two
things I can't live without ..." and "The bravest thing I've done
Other users can leave comments about your books, and the site
s.nds notifications when somebody adds the same title or books in
the same general interest area.
"There are plenty of niche dating sites, but they struck me as
a bit too niche," said the co-founder, Matt Sherman. "They seem
to orient themselves over one particular interest or type of person
- athletics, religion. Our attitude is that books can be about
anything. They're a means to an end to get the conversation
Sherman thought up the idea a couple of years ago after breaking
up with his girlfriend, wondering if he'd ever find a woman who has
read Nassim Nicholas Taleb's "The Black Swan" or F.A. Hayek's
66-year-old "The Road to Serfdom." The site went live in mid-July
and has about 1,500 users, split about evenly between genders.
Among the most popular books posted? Fitzgerald's "The Great
Gatsby." Among the most posted authors of the moment? Kurt
Vonnegut and George Orwell. Stieg Larsson, Chuck Palahniuk and Jane
Austen also pop up often.
The top subscription dating sites boast millions of users (Match
counts 29 million), and the most popular free sites can have many
thousands. Sherman and fellow founder Matt Masina aren't looking to
compete by that measure. Who's to say what your love match likes to
read anyway? What does it really mean if they're paperback people,
Kindle lovers or hardcover fanatics?
Emmaleth, a 26-year-old woman from Fresno, Calif., put up "Oh,
the Places You'll Go!" by Dr. Seuss: "Hello?!?! This man wrote
the most poetic yet simple explanation of life! I LOVE this book
and honestly I CRY sometimes when I read it. Yeah, enjoy knowing
The Matts of Alikewise said the draw may be more about the crowd
than the love science behind their approach. "We think there's a
different caliber of person who reads," Masina said. "You won't
go onto our site and find guys with their shirts off."
Other sites exist for bookish on the prowl. . e Passions
Network, a less-than-flashy free social media and dating hangout,
has separate areas for writers and lovers of comic books, manga and
reading. Company president Michael Carter wouldn't disclose how
many users they have.
In the extreme niche department, there's a gathering place for
admirers of Ayn Rand's "The Fountainhead and "Atlas Shrugged"
that includes a dating area. Michael Kelley, 50, of Aiken, S.C.,
thought he'd give it a try after two failed marriages and intensive
study of Rand's work years later. He met a fellow devotee who moved
to Florida. They're still in touch and plan to take a cross-country
"I thought I could find somebody there who thinks like I do,"
Kelley said. "I thought maybe this is why my relationships with my
two wives didn't work out. They didn't have the same world view."
So far so good for the biography-loving Chin, who posted "The
Alchemist" by Paulo CoelPr and "His Way: An Unauthorized
Biography of Frank Sinatra" by Kitty Kelley, among others. He
invited the woman who posted "The Philosophy of Andy Warhol" to a
Warhol exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum.
"We had a great time," he said. "Hopefully it will turn out