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Dating in 2024: Swipe right and talk over books, not looks

Can you connect with fellow bookworms and swipe based on personality instead of looks? Short answer: Yes!
Bookmark App, dating app in India

I was neither dumped nor looking for love when I decided to launch a dating app in India in August 2023. In fact, I had already become fatigued by all the reports my single friends sent across from their experiences of constant left and right swipes.

Yet, here we are with an app that wears a fresh logo, and casts a new silhouette on our phone screen with just one new promise to anyone who tries it—nosedive into interesting conversations based on books, not looks. It is called Bookmark. Conversations with a clear intent are promised. How? Your display picture remains hidden until you match and exchange ten messages each.

The urge to look beyond the usual dating apps trio

Shruti Sah, co-founder of Bookmark App and Cubbon Reads

Shruti Sah, co-founder of Bookmark App and Cubbon Reads

The mighty trio of the online dating world—Hinge, Bumble and Tinder—have serenaded my curious yet shy self for over five years. Upload pictures. Land on profiles. Swipe. Match. Chat. Ghost. Meet. Regret. A constant haze of who it will be, why am I on it, what to say next… Why do these questions still linger despite the hundreds of millions of minds the apps claim to have caught?

We are in 2024. We deserve better than just swiping on a moustache, a bald head, or a face veiled by glossy shades. When we go about chest-thumping after brand campaigns that speak about “real love” and “inner beauty” and diss at fashion shows, why are dating apps still big on a user’s display pictures?

We want to get to know people as they are and not through a façade of a repurposed picture from their mid-20s. Tell us more about the person beyond their “random shower thoughts” and “simple pleasures” that often elicit answers too vague for the understanding of a potential match.

My experience says that in this age, if dating apps really had to make it easier for us to vibe with someone, it would have to be via like-minded interests. Think about it. You are at a cosy house party hosted with ten others outside your sorority. There are several people who catch your attention. While one of them goes on about what relaxation and boredom means to them, another one sneakily leaves a book they are carrying along, peeking at you from their backpack. Just enough for you to take notice of their current read. Assuming you are a book reader, I am leaving it to you to decide which one you will easily jump into for a conversation.

Common interests ignite safety before anything. That is why there are new dating apps that swear to make connections based on like-mindedness. There is a popular one that matches people based on memes, another one made for men with moustaches, and then there are ones designed to bring people together based on music, fitness levels, teetotallers, and even personal diets.

Bookmark this!

dating app in India, Bookmark App

Photo: Bookmark App

I have seen interest-based personal connections happen at dance gigs, wine clubs as well as silent reading spaces. Even if it is not for the sake of chancing upon “the one,” familiarity based on common likes and dislikes ferments friendship.

My partner, Harsh Snehanshu, and I have been hosting Cubbon Reads, which we can proudly claim is Bangalore’s one of most loved communities, for over a year. It is a silent reading space hosted weekly for a few hours where people from any background in the city can come to read a book of their own choosing, regardless of its lengthiness, languidness, or lofty prose. No, I do not mean to take a dig on James Patterson’s The Jester. We just wished for it to be a space for everyone to come and silently read besides each other, just as two runners would hang out to run with each other or two musicians would meet to jam with each other.

Cubbon Reads is a reading community that encourages reading for the sake of reading and attendees can bring books from any genre, language, author, or newspapers, GRE prep material or even mathematics homework. There is also no mandate for greetings and no registration whatsoever. Come. Sit. Read. Scoot. Or linger if you would like to. So, essentially, you hang out with others you share a common interest with — reading in a breezy, sun lit open space, cooled under a canopy of trees thousands of years old.

The only time you would mutually and consensually speak to each other at every session is when group pictures would be taken together. Pictures are taken of book stacks made with copies brought by everyone that day. And if a book title catches your interest, its owner automatically levels up in your interest hierarchy.

“Could I just flip through your 3 Body Problem?”

“Do you really like the way Anuja Chauhan writes?”

“OMG, I have been searching for this particular part of the Tamil Pulp Fiction across all stores, but I obviously HAD to come across it here!”

A clear temptation. A visible spark. Melted ice. Sizzling twice.

How to Bookmark

dating app in India, Bookmark App

Photo: Bookmark App


Bookmark App is currently the only dating app in India for readers. It connects people based on not just what books they like, but also other attributes and interests about their personality, distance, the relationship they are seeking, gender preferences, and more.

Sitting on a goldmine of 125 million users already, we wish Goodreads had already solved this for us in the mid-2000s. Never mind, there is finally a new fun play thing on the block for readers (besides the existing literature fests, book launches, celebrity book clubs). 

The app launched last December and is available on both Android and iOS devices globally. So, if you stumble upon someone from Istanbul with Nilgün Marmara listed in their “authors to talk about” list (and not Orhan Pamuk), do not be left with a gawk.

So, what am I doing on the app if not looking for love? I have enabled the “Book buddy” mode. I bump into others who also detest Haruki Murakami as much as I do, who can introduce me to the world of P.G. Wodehouse and who empathise with my habit of cushioning my handbags with a hardcover even on my way to a bar. So, for all my happy friends in a cushy mushy relationship—if you love reading, this is a dating app your partner should not mind you lurking on.

Besides that, I am currently fulfilling a dear request from two of my single friends who are tired of their singleton lives, through the app. Luckily, one is a ramen geek and collects some of the finest cookbooks on the topic. The other one also shares a love for literary fiction and switches off her Instagram at 11 pm, despite having viral reels with a million views, to simply read. Maybe you could catch them both on the app. If you do, do not link this article to them should you match with them.

Anyway, there is no way you would be swiping on them with their faces on the profile as they will be locked by default. Face reveal happens only when you both have built some familiarity with each other through conversations. One cannot even upload their faces in the prompts as the app’s AI filter detects it. On Bookmark, the number of likes sent out in a day are capped at five.

Barring some initial hiccups and bug fixes, over 2,000 users have already installed the app. Some have shared about having found the most interesting conversation starters with no awkward small talk. Bookmark is certainly a niche app amongst the line up of all other dating apps, and we hope that it continues to be the preferred one for those who value consciously made connections.

Shruti Sah is the co-founder of Bookmark App and Cubbon Reads, the reading community popular in Bangalore.