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List Your Library

Steve Johnson is a writer who I have come to trust to address the cultural and social dimensions of new technology. He wrote in Slate this week about Amazon’s new Search Inside feature which I praised here yesterday. He has…
October 25, 2003

Steve Johnson is a writer who I have come to trust to address the cultural and social dimensions of new technology. He wrote in Slate this week about Amazon’s new Search Inside feature which I praised here yesterday. He has an interesting concept to fuse the new feature with the kinds of community building impules which Amazon has cultivated via its Lists and Reader Recommendation features – people could list their libraries on the web.

Here’s what he writes:

“We all know people who are better collectors and curators than they are writers or thinkers: You wouldn’t necessarily want to read an essay by them, but you’d love to spend a week browsing their library. By making Amazon libraries public, you could search through those libraries in addition to your own. The only drawback I can imagine to this system is that the potential combinations are so tantalizing, and so fun to explore, that it’s hard to imagine having time left for actually reading any of these books.”

As someone who obsessively scans bookcases whenever I visit someone, the appeal of this is immediate, but I think he underestimates the work involved in listing all of your books. He explains, “Of course, you’d have to describe the contents of your library to Amazon, but unless your library is of Jeffersonian proportions, that’s no more than an afternoon’s work.” Frankly, Jefferson was a wimp compared to many serious modern book collections, mine included…

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