Another interesting article I read this week about cataloguing your library of books online.  There are already a few sites and applications out there which allow you to do this, such as the Visual Bookshelf application on Facebook, or Librarything.com .

The benefit and interest of such sites is that it’s a facility for sharing your reading interests with other readers, allowing you to review and discuss your favourite books, make links with others who have enjoyed the same books as you, and through them to recommend and be recommended other books you might like.  It’s basically a global online book club, and just one of the really interesting ways in which publishing is moving into the new millennium, proving, in my opinion, that there will always be room for the humble printed book in our new digitalised era.

The problem with the sites that already exist, however, is that you have to enter each title in your library individually.  Given that those most likely to use these sites are those most likely to be avid readers with extensive collections of books, you can imagine that this becomes very time-consuming.  I’ve only managed to get round to adding 15 or so titles to my Visual Bookshelf on Facebook and those titles are far from representative of my whole library.  So it was interesting to hear about a new site which is being trialled at the moment: Book Rabbit.

It differs from the other sites mentioned in several ways.  First of all, it will have a commercial function, with users being able to order books through the site or to place orders with their local bookshops, but it also aims to be a flexible online community of readers.  So rather than having to laboriously add your books in one by one, you will apparently be able to take a photograph of your bookshelf, upload it, and with some fancy technology Book Rabbit will somehow be able to read the titles on the spines of your books and add them in automatically  (of course, I would have to rearrange my shelves first so that all my books would actually be visible, they’re a bit higgldy-piggldy at the moment!).  Then you can create a network with other readers who have at least one other book in common with you, and actually ‘browse’ their shelves and get their recommendations.  You are also able to define and categorise your books yourself, so that if you consider a book normally pidgeonholed as ‘science-fiction’ to also be a really good ‘romance’, you can say so, thus potentially introducing readers to genres and books they would never normally have picked up in a shop.  There will also be features such as video interviews with authors.

I think it sounds like a really interesting concept, and something I would definitely try.  It seems to combine so many of today’s big phenomenons: online social networking and marketing, youtube style videos and user-led content.  It is good to see people in the publishing industry being inventive with the (relatively) new media of the internet, and making use of it in a creative way, rather than just bemoaning that the digital era will surely be the end of printed books.  I think this shows that it definitely doesn’t have to be, but that with new technologies publishing can expand and diversify in exciting and profitable ways.  It will be interesting to see what happens when Book Rabbit develops past its beta stage and is made public in April.

This sort of links in with the debate about e-Books and digital readers such as Amazon’s Kindle, but I’ll leave my thoughts on that for another time.

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