Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Goodbye Bookstores - Hello... book "stores"

Yesterday I went to a strip mall that used to have a Borders bookstore in it. It was sort of sad - I had frequented it more than a few times - just browsing the latest releases, looking over the titles in the technology "section", maybe taking one or two volumes back to a reading table with a cup of coffee...

Ah, yes - the "good old days."

As I was reading the Google blog - they had a short video about a new Chrome experiment they were toying around with - a virtual bookshelf application. The idea is that you have an infinite, virtual bookcase that shows (literally) hundreds of thousands of books - organized by one of 28 categories.

You can choose a category - and the bookcase zooms into position. You can then "spin" the thing and because it's like a coiled double helix (think Slinkee) - you can just go round and round and move the entire thing up and down to browse to your heart's content.

When you see a book you would like more information on - simply click it, and you'll see the front cover. When you click the book - it opens (like a real book) to reveal a synopsis and a QR code (those strange barcodes you see everywhere) so that you can open the title on your device.

Now, it's still in the "experimental" stage - and they recommend you use Google's Chrome browser (naturally) and a "powerful computer with a good graphics card" - and there are plenty "your mileage may vary" disclaimers - but it's still well worth a look-see.

They are visually presenting a lot of information that could be (and is) presented in the typical "list" format. I mean, you've seen the listing of books with covers but it just lacks the brevity and excitement of looking through a bookstore shelf.

Apple was at the forefront of this type of visualization - but they did it with your music collection. Their "Cover Flow" technology allows you to "flip through" your collection of "albums" by displaying the cover artwork - rather than a listing (like a playlist).

I think this is where the future of software and user interfaces is going - especially given the fact that our devices are getting smaller (less screen real estate) and there is more information. This type of visual paradigm is perfect for displaying huge amounts of information in an itty bitty space.

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