Blake Dowling: Next great read? There’s an app for that

A hand holds a smartphone with a book shelf on the screen. A heap of colourful books. A concept of education and technology. Concrete wall background.
Gift ideas? Books are the way to go.

The Christmas Season is here.

What will 2021 bring for the people on your shopping list? One thing is a fact on the cyber front: Starting now, hackers and cybercriminals will be going into hardcore Grinch mode.

Expect a barrage of holiday-themed emails loaded with ransomware and other malicious non-presents rolling into your mailbox. Not just email attacks; hackers will also buy your old passwords from past data breaches on the dark web. So, make sure you are not using the same bank/Facebook password from five years ago.

Hackers like to text you links about free iPads and such, which ends up tracking your movements online as they try to take your cash and info. Same with phone calls; be very wary of anyone calling and asking you to verify anything over the phone — call them back at the actual company number to confirm.

That concludes your holiday cyber-tips. How about gift ideas?

Books are the way to go, as there is nothing better than sharing a book that you enjoyed with a family member or friend.

I read a lot more than usual in 2020 (as did many of us). I had great experiences with Sally Bradshaw and her team at Midtown Reader in Tallahassee selecting new books last year (Sally put aside for me “Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy” by Jeff VanderMeer) while navigating a retail business during the pandemic.

Midtown Reader had appointments for a time and other creative ideas to move through 2020, plus they shipped all over the globe and delivered books locally. If you want to learn more on that front, Sally and I discussed 2020 in detail on our podcast:

Visit them online if you want to hit the easy button on Christmas shopping.

One reason books are top of mind for me is, as just mentioned, I dove into the world of books by writing one in 2020/2021. I compiled my 2020 columns with an introduction to each one about what that month was like as a person and business owner; a diary of the pandemic, if you will.

I also included a nice intro from Ken Block, lead singer of the band Sister Hazel, where he describes a bunch of kids from Gainesville (us) ending up in Los Angeles marching down the Sunset Strip as band and management.

Anyway, thank you to everyone who picked up a copy, as we are well beyond where I thought book sales and interest would be four months since its launch.

If you do not have a go-to trusted adviser in books like Midtown Reader (or Tombolo in St. Pete), you should check out the app Booky Call.

Once you download the app and create an account, you will see an app that looks like a dating app as you swipe to show your interest in a book versus a person. One of the founders and creators of Booky Call is Brant Menswar from Florida (who is also a speaker, musician, and podcast host).

He joined me recently on our podcast, and the idea is pretty cool; the app learns what you like based on initial data you provide them on genres you enjoy coupled with book interest.

The more you swipe, the more the app gets to know you.

As Brant said: “We created Booky Call because we saw a real need for this among readers, whether they pick up a book once a year or go through a few a week. Every reader looks for something different from their book selections, much like they would in a romantic partner.”

iPhone screenshots of the Booky Call app via the Apple Store.

Since I was a kid, I have loved reading and picking up new books. Reading that first page is such a thrill.

By age 10, I advanced from the Hardy Boys to dystopian novels — way before they were a thing.

Check out the Ashes series for good ‘ol post-apocalyptic fun. I got through the first 10 before moving on.

As far as 2021, I just started reading a biography of Lemmy Kilmister; what an interesting tale. Before he was a rock ’n’ roll legend (as frontman of the new wave of British heavy metal band Motorhead), Lemmy was a roadie for Jimi Hendrix. How cool is that?

Booky Call app founder Brant Menswar and I during our podcast.

You can pick that up here for the music fan in your life.

I am unsure what is next for my reading, so it is time to let Booky Call point me in the right direction as my account is created and I am ready to swipe.

The app is ready, and “When the Stars Go Dark” is the next book for me.

We will see how it goes, and until next time, Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all.

Book recommendation on Booky Call.


Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies, author of the book “Professionally Distanced” and host of the Biz & Tech podcast. You can reach Blake at [email protected].

Blake Dowling

Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. His technology columns are published by several organizations. Contact him at [email protected] or at


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