Dispatches from the Digital Revolution
By LANA POPOVIC
What if there were a Facebook/Twitter hybrid dedicated entirely to booklovers, an arena reserved for cataloguing, rating, reviewing, and discussing both your favorite books and the ones you wish someone had warned you not to bother with before you wasted a week on them (ahem, Special Topics in Calamity Physics)?
And what if this online venue also allowed you to purchase your books there, once your appetite had been whetted by browsing through the selections of fellow bookworms with compatible tastes?
Sounds like a pretty nifty amalgam of social networking and e-tail, which means Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook, or some other American industry giant must already have it in the works, right?
Wrong. For a country that pretty much invented social networking, the United States has fallen behind while Europe leaps ahead with the British-Italian aNobii—derived from the Latin for “bookworm,” and designed by those who have clearly tapped into the Latin-loving geekdom of book people—a social networking site aimed exclusively at avid readers. It allows users to catalogue the books they’re currently reading or have read in the past, either by searching the aNobii index, browsing the most popular books, or, cooler yet, scanning the barcodes of their print books with their smart phones; aNobii has already launched both iPhone and Android versions of its app.
Once they’ve added their books, users can rate them with a five-star system and review them, as well as begin discussions with their aNobii “friends” or “neighbors”—users with similar tastes whom they don’t personally know. Recently, aNobii made it possible for users to buy books directly from the site, by signing with such publishers as Penguin, Random House, HarperCollins, Hachette, Pan Macmillan, Bloomsbury, Canongate, Faber, Wiley, and Harlequin UK. Ebooks will be available by the end of this month, and by next year, aNobii will be selling print books as well.
While researching aNobii, I decided to sign up as a member. What can I say? I’m a true sucker for animated bookshelves, and the idea of finding readers with similar tastes to mine to “follow” (in this sense, aNobii emulates Twitter more closely than Facebook; members aren’t required to approve any friend requests, which makes sense given that the information being shared focuses on reading habits rather than favorite keg stand positions) was tantalizing.
And man, is it SO cool.
I added thirty or so of my favorite books in my first visit, and was immediately sucked in to reading other members’ reviews and ratings, as well as browsing users with similar shelves. aNobii also allows you to list your books as public or private, so if you have racier favorites you’d prefer not to display to the world at large, you can find those who share your appreciation for the finer points of The Pirate and the Pagan in a more discreet way.
I’m still exploring the full range of services offered by the site, and will be posting further updates as I become more immersed in the aNobii world. The site is still most popular in Europe, particularly Italy, and I was able to locate only one person I actually know currently using it. aNobii’s American counterpart, Bookish, was announced in May this year and should have been launched by the end of the summer, but there’s still no sign of an imminent launch.
In the meantime, I’m taking it upon myself to spread the good word about aNobii. Signing up is super easy, and for anyone with a book fetish, it’s a deeply rewarding procrastination method. And who couldn’t use more of those?