Innovation That Matters

Online bookstore with a voyeuristic twist


There’s no shortage of online booksellers, but a new UK-based store has come up with a novel way to keep users coming back. Shoppers at BookRabbit can upload photos of their bookshelves for viewing by the community at large, fostering comparison, interaction and—you guessed it—more shopping. BookRabbit, which just went through its public launch in May, aims to be an online bookshop that “dynamically connects readers, authors and publishers through the books they own.” It also claims to be cheaper than Amazon on the top 100,000 titles, and offers free delivery within the UK. More interesting, though, are the ways users of the site can share their passion for books, including creating their own personal bookcases and catalogues online and making recommendations to other readers. Each user is invited to upload a photo of his or her bookshelf—along with a user profile—and to tag the individual titles therein. Other users can then view all the bookshelves on the site, compare with their own and make connections with other readers based on the titles they have in common. More than 900 bookshelves have been uploaded so far, and they’re viewable by “latest,” “most connections” or “most discussed.” The winner for most connections so far, for example, is a user named Glynis, who has more than 100 books in common with other readers. Of course, in the process of viewing and comparing bookshelves, BookRabbit no doubt hopes users might get inspired to buy some new titles and expand their own collections. The site includes an affiliate programme that lets users put links on their sites or e-mails to show off their bookcases and earn a fee if anyone buys anything through them. With the likes of to reckon with, there’s no doubt BookRabbit has some formidable competition. On the other hand, there’s something highly personal and compelling about the ability to view the bookshelves of others, as multiple groups on Flickr can attest. In addition to what they contain, it’s interesting in an almost voyeuristic way to see how tidy the shelves are and what style of furniture they represent—not too hard to imagine this used in a localized way to foster dating connections among bookish singles, in fact. Alternatively, how about applying the same notion to other hobbyist product categories, such as a “my rucksack” photo section on a hiking supplier’s site, or “my make-up bag” on one for cosmetics?” Build some real community this way—particularly if it’s localized—and you may just stand a chance against your industry’s Amazon. Spotted by: Sharon Smith



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