I'm collecting instances of online book finding systems that either work well by design or by accident on Blackberry web browsers. I do this for a couple of reasons:
- I have a Blackberry
- There's some idealistic views of what a mobile book finding device should be
- Most of those idealistic views are wrong
- Some of the actual uses are interesting (and easy)
- Two people clicked on a Feedburner ad for Blackberry in my RSS feed
Here's something like a run-down.
Purpose built systems from libraries
There are some library book finding systems specially designed for small screens. I don't have a huge list of them (yet). This is an announcement from Black Hills State University:
Patrons on the move can now stay connected with the BHSU Library. The E. Y. Berry Library-Learning Center at BHSU recently launched a new website for PDAs and other handheld devices such as Blackberry, to cater to the needs of the growing number of mobile users. Users can now search the library catalog, check their library account, and see library hours while they are on the move.
As far as I can tell this runs on a South Dakota wide network on top of the Aleph system. A second one from Ball State
Through our mobile Web site users can search the library catalog and serials collections; and see library hours, contacts, and information on our various collections and services while on the go. The site was designed for ease of use and navigation for mobile devices with their constaints on bandwidth, screen size and memory.
Non-library book finding systems that have mobile interfaces
My poster child for this would be LibraryThing Mobile
The idea is simple—you get the most important features of LibraryThing through your cell phone's "internet" feature. So you can check whether you have something—by title, author, tag or ISBN—when you're in the bookshop, browse your catalog, and read your reviews. You can even accesss your "Pssst!" recommendations. But I don't know anything about cellphone security, so you can't add items, and you can't look at private libraries—even your own.
Like the other systems mentioned to date, this is a read only interface - it helps me figure out what I own, or perhaps what I aspire to own if I've tagged it right, but it doesn't handle the need of scribbling down the name of a title that you want to remember for later or to look up something and add it to your list of books to read.
Mobile non-library non-book finding systems of general use
Here we escape the bounds of the library world and even the book world and look at systems which solve a more general problem of mobile personal recall and mobile search without necessarily being tethered to a particular book oriented problem.
Google Mobile has to be mentioned here - if you've stashed away a book list in your Gmail, you can search for it from your Blackberry's Gmail interface, and find it whether or not you had explicitly dumped it into a book finding system. This is the most general kind of search, and depends entirely on your personal ability to squirrel away useful information.
There's no mobile version of Google Book Search that I know about, and no mobile Google Scholar, more's the pity. The Google search engine is OK on a mobile phone but suffers from providing primarily pointers to non-mobile content, so you lose a lot.
Yahoo's delicious service fills the bill here too, if you have already decided to use it to bookmark books. It's pretty easy to construct a browser bookmark that would be something like
and then refer to that next time you were wandering through a bookstore or library looking for ideas. More elaborate URLs and more elaborate tagging supports more precise memory systems.
This last one probably should be first, because it's so awesome. Twitter has three mobile interfaces - an SMS based one if you have a cheap SMS plan, a Jabber based IM interface to go with Google Mobile Talk, and a mobile browser interface that I use because it has $0 additional fees and is acceptably fast.
Step one: collect a few hundred people in your Twitter friends list; make sure to include some librarians.
Step two: Post the question
I'm at the library. What should I read next?
Step three: Get personalized suggestions from people, or a reference interview if you aren't careful. Iterate until you find exactly what you want.
Step one in this is the obvious critical step - if you want good book finding, you need to build the set of people who will give you good recommendations.