This week new UK-based book social network BookRabbit sets out with a slightly different take on socialising online around books. BookRabbit is aimed at the ‘heavy’ book buyer (someone who buys more than four books a year).
People will find books they’ll like through their social network, but interestingly they will be able to tag up pictures of their bookshelves with a Flash-based application which lets them explore visually instead of via text. A little like Last.FM’s Audio Scrobbler software or Songkick’s artist profiler, BookRabbit’s “Automatic Bookcase” technology scans uploaded photos of bookcases against the ISBN database to populate a user’s profile and allow them to share tastes more easily. Initially the classifications will be monitored and regulated by BookRabbit, with the aim of reaching a ‘self monitoring’ Wiki model in due course.
Lastly, it will aim at the long tail of independent book retailers and allow users to buy direct through these small traders or via BookRabbit. This generates business for the 2,700 IBRs in the UK. BookRabbit will also aim at these book enthusiasts by aiming at the ‘head of the tail’ with cheaper prices for the first 100,000 titles on Amazon.
Additional features on the BookRabbit website includes video interviews with 1,000 authors, book reviews and recommendations by publishers and authors, the ability to buy all books in a series and a sort of wiki interface for customers to add and edit new or missing books directly to the catalogue.
BookRabbit has also teamed up with ICUE to allow consumers to preview and buy the latest books on their mobiles. ICUE provides the first chapter of books directly to the mobile phones of consumers who have interacted with poster advertising. So you text ‘geri’ to 64888 to read an extract from Geri Halliwell’s new book Ugenia Lavender – assuming you’d want to.
BookRabbit has a good interface and I see no reason why it won’t have a fighting chance as a niche social network.
Over in Los Angeles, Goodreads, a social network focused on book lovers, managed to get to 650,000 registered users, near profitability and even a found of financing in their first year since launch. And LibraryThing was partially acquired in 2006 year by ABEbooks. Then there is Amazon-backed Shelfari and others. In the UK there is also StoryCode which launched way back in 2005 but hasn’t been heard of much since.
BookRabbit is trying to crack the main problem with book sites: they don’t passively monitor what you are reading. All you need to do with Last.FM is listen to music, but how can BookRabbit know what you are reading at any one time without you laboriously uploading a picture of your book-case?
Perhaps their software is one answer but I can’t help think there needs to be a lot more mobile phone aspects to this, not just the deal with ICUE. Hash Twitter-tagging of “#reading” perhaps.