Call to the Lazy Web: Virtual Library Shelf
I’ve often lamented to my classes that the Internet has not yet come up with the electrate equivalent of the library shelf. Denizens of the library recognize the collectors’ delight in the surprising find, the book that’s near the one we wanted but not directly related to it. It might be two shelves up, or it might be at the beginning of the aisle. The new interfaces haven’t found a way to replicate that mode of book browsing yet.
So I hereby issue a call for an interactive library that functions like Google maps, rendering a dynamic collection of available books as if they were shelved. The user could scroll through the shelves, zoom in and out on particular places, see gaps where checked out books ought to be, etc. Since this is a fantasy, I’ll also stipulate the books should be rendered in appropriate sizes with spines in the right color. This could hook into Google Books and allow the user to page through books that pique their interest.
I realize this sounds like a cranky call for old modes. Why does Teevee need so many durn channels!? but we’ve lost hold of an aesthetic, intuitive mode of discovery as we’ve organized our book collections by keyword and shared-interest algorithms. (I love the “other people who bought this” function on amazon, for instance, but it doesn’t come close to the satisfaction of browsing books at a bookstore.)