What if DRM Goes Away?
B&N and Microsoft: Why It's Not About Ebooks

BookAnd: A Social, Virtual Bookstore

BookAndI must be more of a visual person than I'd like to admit. After all, I use Goodreads to store and share my book reviews/recommendations but I don't use it much to discover what my friends recommend. My behavior is largely because Goodreads is a list-based service and it doesn't offer an immersive experience. Don't take that the wrong way though...I still like Goodreads!

I've also heard plenty of skeptics who say reading/books and social don't mix, reading is a solitary activity, etc. That's true at times, but when it comes to discoverability there's no substitute for recommendations from your friends. And I seem to be interacting more with my friends via Facebook than ever before. So it still seems to me there's a big opportunity to solve the discoverability problem through the social graph.

I recently discovered an interesting approach to book discoverability. It's a service that's still in the very early stages called BookAnd. BookAnd is a platform where you can build your own virtual bookstore (see the sign-up form here). The screen shot at the top of this post shows my bookstore under construction. It's not just about putting covers on shelves though. You can design your store so that it reflects your personality. If it sounds a bit like Second Life for books that's because it is. I can add tables, stands, chairs, plants, lamps, etc., to my virtual store. And while that's kind of fun, the best part of is that I can feature my favorite books, face out on the shelf, just like how you'd see them in a brick-and-mortar bookstore.

OK, this isn't exactly revolutionary. But think about the experience it could create if this virtual world were embedded in your favorite ereader app. So when you finish that next book on your nook and you want to go find something new to read why are you limited to whatever B&N wants to feature? What if you could easily visit your best friend's BookAnd store, right within the nook app?

That app integration is key. I don't even want to have to go to Facebook to discover what my friends are reading. I'm in the reader app so give me the option of seeing it all right there. That's especially important since we live in a world where even the most sophisticated tablets don't like the idea of displaying windows for more than one open app at a time. (Imagine having to work in Windows or on your Mac with only one window displayed at a time -- it's crazy!)

It's hard to say whether BookAnd or a competitor will catch fire but I definitely think it all hinges on that in-app integration. I hope the big players in this space will jump on that soon. It will only lead to better discoverability and therefore more sales, so why wouldn't they be all over this?


Paul Foth

What a completely sensible idea, Joe. Expanding on it a bit, and riffing on your earlier idea of being able to buy the electronic margin notes someone like Bill Gates or Warren Buffett makes in an ebook, how about being able to browse the BookAnd stores of folks like that, or of some of your favorite writers?

Daniel Meloy

Wow, this is a very cool idea. It's quite simple, a sort of "well why didn't I think of that?!" app. I think people will really enjoy this digitalized book browsing, especially since the majority of the BookAnd locations you'll be visiting will be your friends, and it's always fun to see how your friends like to organize their things, express themselves, and then you can catch up on their latest reads as well!

Also, while I agree that reading is a solitary activity, it leads to social activities. Some of the best discussions I've ever had are over books, and those discussions very often lead to non-book related discussions as well. Simply by reading a book you may fill an entire evening with your friends!

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