Short version. We’ve just released our first foray into iPhone development, a free application called “Local Books.”
Local Books resembles popular dining apps like LocalEats or UrbanSpoon—but for book lovers. It shows you local bookstores, libraries and bookish events wherever you are or plan to be.
I’ve been using beta versions on my trips for months already; it’s the ideal travel companion. Even if you know your area well, you’re almost certain to find new places. We hope it will be a shot in the arm for physical bookstores and libraries—a new way to see how much bookishness there is around you.
At present Local Books does not show inventory from local bookstores and libraries. But, well, isn’t that a good idea?
Check it out on iTunes.
- Search for venues (bookstores and libraries) as well as events near your current location using the iPhone’s built-in location features.
- Search for venues and events at any location or by name.
- Venues can be sorted by distance, name, or type.
- Venues are color coded, following the maps on LibraryThing Local (colors correspond to the colors used on maps in LibraryThing Local).
- Each venue has a detail page with a map. Tap it to jump to the iPhone Maps application.
- Venues often sport a description, clickable website and phone number links, events, and a photo.
- You can favorite locations and events, and there’s a “Favorites” list where you can find them.(1)
Powered by LibraryThing Local. Local Books is powered by LibraryThing Local, the LibraryThing member-created database of 51,000 bookstores and libraries around the world. Events too are drawn from LibraryThing Local. Notably, since last night we’ve had a four-fold increase in events, as we started pulling in events from Barnes and Noble, Borders, Waterstones and Indigo/Chapters, as well as IndieBound.
Why We Did It. Creating Local Books wasn’t free. We hired an outside house to help us. (Well, semi-outside; half of ConceptHouse is our in-house programmer Chris/ConceptDawg.) There’s no “monetization” at all.
We did it because, despite the dozens of dining, clubbing and other location applications, nobody had done a good book one before. True, IndieBound recently came out with an elegant iPhone app.(2) But indies are not the only bookstores. And libraries, which far exceed bookstores and are almost everywhere, are absolutely critical. We’ve always thought of the book world in the largest possible terms, and we wanted an iPhone application that did that too.
Most of all, Local Books is our contribution to keeping the book world interesting. Amazon and other online retailers are great. LibraryThing is great too. But book lovers can’t be happy in a world with fewer and fewer physical bookstores, and a rising threat to libraries. The more we know about this physical book world, the better we can foster it, and the better we can use websites like LibraryThing and Amazon to improve our world, not replace it.
How You Can Help. Even with 51,000 venues, not every bookstore and library is in LibraryThing. If you know of one that’s not in there, go ahead and add it. If you represent the bookstore or library in question, you can “claim” your venue page, and start using LibraryThing to connect to your customers or patrons.
Even if they’re all there, most are still missing something—a photograph, a phone number, a good description, a Twitter handle. Events—especially indie bookstores and libraries—are a particular need.
It’s a virtuous cycle. The better we can make the data, the more people will find the application useful, and the more people who will make it better
Oh, and vote up the application, will ya?
1. The favorites feature in the app is not tied to your favorites list on LibraryThing.com. We didn’t want to require sign-in and so forth.
2. The IndieBound application does allow you to search for books, but only off their online catalog. There’s no tie-in to local holdings. Even if it had that, most Indie bookstores do not upload their inventory to IndieBound, and, again, neither bookstores or independent bookstores should be the only option for book lovers.
Special thanks to the “Board for Extreme Thing Advances,” our beta group, who put the application through it’s paces before release. We couldn’t have done it without you.