Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Local Books iPhone application!

» Take me right to iTunes

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.

Features. Features include:

  • 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 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.

Labels: iphone, librarything local, local book search, local books


  1. anne-mark says:

    Terrific! Will it also work with the Ipod touch, using WiFI?

  2. Tim says:

    It will certainly work. I'm not sure how it will know the location though. You probably have to search for the place.

  3. STCC Library says:

    Works great – I also downloaded Gale's "My Library" iPhone app. Local Books is clearly superior.


  4. STCC Library says:


    I'm using it with a Touch. It found my location no problem.

  5. jxn says:

    It's great to see this development. I heard a Minnesota Public Radio broadcast a few weeks back, and the speaker (founder of GeekSquad) was musing about the potential that someone might develop a google phone application that points out nearby locations of things relevant to books, characters, authors, etc. in one's favorite books.

    I thought that Common Knowledge might set you guys up uniquely well to pioneer such a thing (I should love, for instance, if I travel to Paris to be told that I was within a few miles of the place where Proust was writing).

  6. Tim says:

    Is it seeing other things in DC?

  7. nutz4reading/crazy4reading says:

    I am thrilled to see this. I have already downloaded it to my IPhone. It doesn't see anything near me right now. Will play with it more later at home. Love it!!!

  8. Dee says:

    Please make one for Blackberry!

  9. vanderwal says:

    I was blocked from downloading it onto my iPod Touch because I lacked a microphone. Anybody else hit this problem?

    Location is done by the device, which can use WiFi location, cell triangulation, or GPS as the determining mechanism.

  10. Megan says:

    Throwing in a "hey cool!" and a request for future development on the Android platform.

  11. moirae says:


  12. Kathleen Cobcroft says:

    Yay, it's neat! Downloaded and voted for…

  13. Christopher Holland says:

    I changed the requirements so that iPod Touch 1G owners can download it. It may take a bit before Apple updated the iTunes page though.

  14. Caroline123 says:

    Sounds great! I use my iphone extensively; look up book reviews on the amazon app. when I'm out shopping at a bookstore. This is a great addition. Will be adding it now. Thanks!

  15. vanderwal says:

    Christopher Holland, Thanks!

  16. Anonymous says:

    Any plans to update LibraryThing Mobile to take advantage of today's better mobile web browsers? This would be great for users of all sorts of smartphones.

  17. Christopher Holland says:

    Any bugs can be reported in the Talk discussion thread mentioned at the end of the blog post. Or you can email me: christopher at librarything

  18. Shrew says:

    Any way to make it searchable with keyword "librarything"? Seems like that would be useful to people who already know they're interested in LT but aren't reading the blog/announcements.

  19. Aarontay says:

    Good timing. Given that I just created an entry for my library last month! it occurs to me If you add the ability to search the catalogue you would just have given all libraries a free iPhone app for their users!

  20. Christopher Holland says:

    We've added librarything to the keywords and we now await the whims of Apple to update the index.

  21. Anonymous says:

    I found the app by searching 'Local books'

  22. Michael says:

    Ok, so when do we get an Android app? 😉

  23. dimi says:

    How exciting!
    I second Megan's comment–please make one for the Moto Droid.

  24. pimplomat says:

    Another request to make it available to Android users. Thank you.

  25. dontask says:

    Another request for an Android ap from an Android user!

    Remember all the news earlier this week about the new Google phone? That's Android. And there are plenty of other Android phones out there.

    My prediction is that Android is going to be taking up an increasing share of the "smart phone" market. So if you want to reach this market you need to do a Droid ap.

  26. asyouknow-bob says:

    That's an app that's actual motivation to get an iPhone.

  27. Meg says:

    Love it!

    Travelling through Mittagong and Canberra Australia and finding all the bookstores on my iPod touch with local wireless. This is great!


    Meg (merry10)

  28. dontask says:

    Re: Asyouknow-Bob's comment that this ap is a reason to get an IPhone:

    All of us make the decision as to which smart phone is best for us.

    I live in New York City.

    There have been widespread reports in NYC of problems with ATT's network crashing in NYC because the network is overwhelmed by the demand for data caused by IPhone users.

    So for me I would not want an IPhone because I don't want ATT!

    If you have made the decision to use the IPhone then that is the best decision for you. We all have to weigh the considerations of which features of which phone and which cell phone carrier.

  29. Mark says:

    love the app so far! Great for travel. It would be wonderful if I could access my library, and the related inventory of local stores though – I use LibraryThing to maintain my book shopping list amongst other things, and being to figure how which store near me has something would be awesome!

  30. Anonymous says:

    Thank you very much for this application, I was wondering if Library Thing would be producing anything for iPhone.

  31. Dani California says:

    Another request here for an Android app. Love my DROID phone. Love Librarything. Would love to see the two go together like that. Nudge nudge, wink wink?

    I am also not above bribery. I happen to have a shiny new nickel right here, if that helps sway your decision… ~_^


  32. Anonymous says:

    Android user here!

  33. Aussie says:

    Another Android user!!!!

  34. Front Studio says:

    Request for an iphone (or whatever device you prefer) app that allows me to access my librarything library!! Would be awesome to have access to my library at my fingertips.

  35. Mark says:

    Hi Front Studio – I want the iphone app to access my library as well.

    However there is a mobile interface already, at:

    but it is very simple and doesn't integrate with all the Local features.

  36. gothougeekly says:

    Another vote for a Pre application!

  37. Carl says:

    Windows Mobile user here, don't forget about us too if you port this to other devices! In the meantime I'll give this a spin on my iPod Touch.

  38. zwelgje says:

    Als would love this on my Nokia s60v5…

  39. Yann says:

    When will you release an Android App ?

  40. Pablo says:

    Is great but very buggy, very often when it start keep a lot of time (30 sec aprox) "Loading" and then crash and go back to iPod Touch menu :S
    Another thing: my home page on LT is too overload with a lot of things I'll never use. Why not learn of Google lesson? Less thing better!

  41. phrasal verbs list says:

    I decided to look around your site more and one of the best ways to build loyalty is to offer free content like you do here. I appreciate your site and your helpfulness.

  42. Anonymous says:

    Android, Android, Android!

  43. warren farrell says:

    comfortable lab…..

  44. mbernardi says:

    I too have an iPod touch, and would like to be able to access my LibraryThing book details when I'm in a book store. Some way to copy data for offline use and an ability to view it would be marvelous.

    Automatic sync with the live copy (when WiFi was availible) would be the icing on the cake.

    At the moment the only way to do this is via csv download and import into a database app.

  45. lechumur says:

    Another request for a librarything app on android. Would love to help if needed.

  46. unkletom says:

    I recently got an Android and many of my favorite websites have apps but alas, Librarything doesn’t. I’m seriously disappointed.

  47. Yet another “‘hey cool!’ and a request for future development on the Android platform.”

    Now that Android sales of new devices have surpassed that of the iPhone and since LibraryThing has one already I dearly hope that LibraryThing could make this a priority.

    I asked about / suggested making additional features (to the Goodreads app) a Kickstarter project. Same suggestion applies to the LT Android app.

    Look forward to LT’s comments. (Or anybody else’s if LT has an API that allows the development of an app without it being an official project.)

  48. Women says:

    I downloaded the App and it’s really nice to have. I had the 1.0.0 version and it was quite buggy. But the recent 1.0.1 version has removed the numerous crashes the first version had.

    I’ve never been to Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Boston, etc. But I love the history of where we’ve been as a people.

    The Library of Congress App is a good start to what I hope is many to come for historical sites across the nation that will not only educate, but also bring the viewer into the location with pictures, video, and sound bits about each location and the surrounding architecture.
    Stephanie Mcnealy

  49. Tore Hjulig says:

    For example you in an strange location looking for a very near eating house. With iPhone, you can pinout your position on a map so you can figure out how to get there from where you are. iPhone 3Gs finds your location fast and accurately using a combination of GPS, Wi-Fi, and 3G towers. As you move, iPhone updates your location automatically.

  50. signrock says:

    Very cool! Just got my Epic and would love this for my phone.

  51. Ravi says:


    I would like to maintain my library database (of library thing) on my iphone…would you come out with an app like that? this will help me while I look out for books, check my wishlist, to check if I have already bought that book and so on…

    iphone resident library app would be great.

    thanks in advance

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