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BookRabbit, launched last week, is a new website which aims to do for books what Last.fm has done for music on the web.
Aimed at keen readers, BookRabbit combines the recommendation features of Last.fm with a social network, while users can also buy books from the site.
How does it work?
First, users need to set up their profile pages by uploading pictures of their bookshelves.
Eventually, BookRabbit plans to introduce 'Automatic Bookcase' technology. As Last.fm's Audio Scrobbler technology automatically populates your profile with the music you listen to via Last.fm and iTunes, this will scan books on your shelves from uploaded photos and populate your profile with these titles.
For the moment though, this needs to be done manually:
Once you have uploaded photos of your bookshelves, you can tag each book by selected it and searching for the book title and author via the site's database:
This is fairly time consuming, and anyone with hundreds of books to display on the site will perhaps want to wait for the automatic software, but it is an easy enough process.
Once you have uploaded a few books, BookRabbit will use these to find matches with other users to help you find likeminded readers, and follow their recommendations.
The site will display users who have read the same or similar books from you, and allow you to browse their bookshelves:
As with most social networks, you can connect with and add friends from the site, discuss books, share reviews and wishlists, all of which can be very useful when you are looking for the next book to read.
If you find a book you like on someone's bookshelf, then clicking on the spine will bring up further information about that title:
If the book is available via the site, you will be able to purchase it; otherwise BookRabbit will help you search for local shops which may stock it:
You can also just browse through books by category on the site, and buy direct from BookRabbit. The site claims to check its prices against Amazon, offering the top 100,000 titles at lower prices than the online retail giant.
Once you have chosen a title, the product pages are nice and clear, with price, delivery and returns information displayed prominently, as well as useful tools for buyers like other users' reviews, discussions about the book, as well as the Amazon style 'people who bought this also bought...'
Payment options include PayPal, which is useful for people who either have no credit cards, or prefer the relative security of shopping via this method.
The checkout process is good too, with no pre-registration and not too many steps to follow:
Having played around on the site for a few hours, it's difficult to find too many faults with it. The website is very easy to use and understand, with good, simple navigation and clean presentation of content.
Browsing for books on this site is pretty easy, and helped by the ability to get recommendations from other users.
The only slight drawback for me is that, until it can automatically read my bookshelf, the process of adding your book collection to the site is slow, and nowhere near as easy as Last.fm is for music.
In addition, it would be a good idea for the site to provide recommendations directly to me, based on the contents of my bookshelves.