Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Be very, very quiet......

We are going on a book hunt! Well, not exactly a hunt, but a Shelfari! And what, pray tell, is a Shelfari? Shelfari is this wonderful new website that my friend Blake shared with me. (Thanks Blake!) Essentially, it is a social networking site, but this one revolves around books, so it is not nearly as creepy as some of the other ones out there. What you do is create a free account (the whole thing is free which means everyone can use all of the features) and then you create your shelf. You can put whatever books you want on your shelf, although since they also have a "reading list" feature it helps if the books on your shelf are ones you've read. You can write reviews for all of your books, give it a star ranking, create tags for them, see other people who have that book on their shelf, see if there are any discussions going on about the book etc. Or you can just put them on your shelf and leave others to speculate about what you thought of them. A lot of people do that. I personally find that annoying.

The social networking part comes in with the discussions. You can join groups that share your interests, and if you don't see one you like you can start one of your own. You can also make groups private which means the moderator controls who can join (if you want to be all elitist about it, or if your group becomes mega popular and you need crowd control). You can leave messages on people's pages, you can send requests for friend status (although as far as I can tell the only thing that friend status does is place them on your profile page). Speaking of your profile page you can make it as descriptive or non-descriptive as you like. There is only space for one picture by the way and most of the members I have come across don't use a real photograph, or at least not one of themselves. The site also will show you the people who have the most overlap with your bookshelf.

The site is still in beta mode, which means a lot of the functionality that you would hope for isn't there, yet. For instance, the search feature does keyword only which means when you search for Kurt Vonnegut you get all of his books, but also any other books with Kurt or Vonnegut on them. However, the company responds quickly to emails that you send and even have a feedback survey where you can submit ideas for improvement. You also do that via email if you want. Since it is still in beta testing it means they are looking for ideas on how to improve their product. So suggest away!

If you enjoy books I highly recommend this site. Not only does it give you an opportunity to shout to the world how much you loved or hated a book, but you can find great recommendations for new things to read. So put on your pith helmet, bookmark the page, and go on a Shelfari. But be warned! It's addictive. If you are interested my user name is Librarianwho.

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