Saturday, May 17, 2008

BookRabbit Displays its Shelves

What’s on your bookshelf doesn’t automatically mean that’s good or even that you have read it. In some cases it’s collectable and sometimes its place is given for a sentimental reason. When we look around our home office today we find some 30 plus books written by close family, 70 plus signed and written by friends and some 50 rare books. Next door there is another set of shelves with reference, lots of travel books, novels and others works. Our other apartment has thousands of books and six large bookcases, two of which are dedicated to art, design and photography. So what do you recommend to others and why and how do these represent you?

Today we have the launch of BookRabbit a new venture aimed at being a social book site, a bookshop and focused on redefining book buying on the Internet. It has had little problem in attracting media coverage and is headed up by Kieron Smith and backed by Charles Denton’s money.

So what do we think?

The idea is not new and others are doing similar most notably BookRabbit combines a social networking, browsing and a book shop offer. It plays heavily of people recommending books to others and offering their own bookshelves to entice others into reading books that they would not have heard of. It tries to create a ‘I belong’ community but are books enough and are they too broad and diverse a media?
There are some interesting issues. The book-world, unlike publishers and the high street, is not front list loaded. Most people’s collections are not time sensitive and consist on not only those books that may have failed in the market, but many that are now out of print. Importantly most book collections are eclectic and defy pigeon holes. Therefore the fulfilment offer needs to be far deeper and offer sources such as ABE or Alibris.

We had great fun searching and collecting together some 134 books of some friends and family, but didn’t find it easy. Many of the searches result in out of print results and understandably lack jacket pictures. The search results can be frustrating, rendering too many unwanted results and what many fail to address duplication and bad grouping. We typed in a good friend and prolific writer’s name ‘David Day’ and the results were to say the least frustrating, even on the advanced search.

The site has much that is fresh and new but why if it is building a community and trying to redefine book buying are discounts so high and across such a wide range of titles.

When we read this week of the apparent further demise of book clubs, such as Bertlesmann, we see new opportunities to redefine book clubs. Perhaps Shefari and Bookrabbit are some of these, but building community and selling books is not easy and we wish them well.