Friday, May 21, 2010

Local Books iPhone App

When modern technology and traditional publishing work in tandem, wondrous things can happen. The Local Books iPhone app gives me hope that cross-pollination between the old and new media worlds exists.

Launched this past January by LibraryThing, a major social-networking-through-books website, Local Books is free and lists bookstores, libraries and book-related events based on your zipcode. The venues are wide-ranging, from public and academic libraries to chain bookstores and indie bookshops. The events include author signings, speaking engagements, kids' storytime, and book discussions. The app allows you to search and sort by date, distance, and name of location, plus add results to a list of stored Favorites. You can also adjust the search range mileage and the time frame. Sounds like a bibliophile's dream.

But Carolyn Kellogg's review in the L.A. Times is hesitant. She writes,
"As good as the venue listings are, the search function seems, in this iteration, a little creaky. Searching for "skylight" and "skylight books" turned up venues more than 999 miles away, but never delivered the Skylight Books in nearby Los Feliz."
But ultimately Kellogg concludes that Local Books has the potential to serve as a literary Urban Spoon- that is, without the nifty slot-machine-like spinning feature. Local Books' potential relies partially on users' supply of "delicious info," as Kellogg continues the restaurant database metaphor. That is, LibraryThing subscribers can submit the information that feeds the Local Books app, forming a direct engagement between the old and new worlds of publishing. I like the idea that the literary community is fueling this service, a fact that becomes clear in the mishmosh of listings: Barnes&Noble juxtaposed with the Free Library of Philadelphia with Joseph Fox Books. I also like the idea that I can use a mobile device to access a hard copy book. That's what modern publishing should be aimed at; leveraging its technological capacity to benefit its traditional cousin. Finally we're playing nice.


  1. "The Local Books iPhone app gives me hope that cross-pollination between the old and new media worlds exists."

    Exactly. That's exactly what I hoped people would see in this. The extension—showing books, not just bookstores—as done on LibraryThing now, strikes me as natural and capable of really invigorating the offline book world. (So it's somewhat depressing that this app didn't catch on very well, and there's been scant interest in a local *books* app.)

    Hey, what's up with Shelfari? Can I offer you an LT account?


  2. INCREDIBLE. I had no idea the contents of his library were known accurately. I've been thinking about creating an LT account- the only reason I chose Shelfari was for the widget.