Back in February, I sketched out this idea on the back of an envelope. I’m pleased to say it is now a reality.
Bkkeepr allows you to track your reading and make bookmarks via text message and the web. It uses Twitter as it’s source, generating a timeline of everyone’s reading, as well as pages for people, and pages for books. Once added, users can add their books to the LibraryThing account, check library availability, and much more. There are also all the RSS feeds and widgets you’d expect.
I particularly like the bookmarking feature which allows me to remember not only my favourite thoughts and phrases from books, but to see what everyone else thought too. A step towards real social bookmarking, and a help to blogging all dog-eared pages.
Bkkeepr came about initially because I was always forgetting to add my books to LibraryThing, mostly because I wasn’t in front of my computer when I was reading. I can now text bkkeepr when I start and finish a book, and add to LT at my leisure. But the idea behind bkkeepr is something more than this: it is an attempt to provide an API for the physical book, to enable the creation of services around the enjoyment of literature; a Last.fm for books.
Like Last.fm, it is meant to be as simple and unobtrusive as possible, and as open as possible. I intend Bkkeepr to be as much a platform as a website, to enable interesting things with books on the web. As Last.fm has resulted in a range of mashups and services, so I’d like to see Bkkeepr generate charts and graphs of literary opinion and activity, to create a window on the lit zeitgeist. Despite the proliferation of book-related material on the web, the act of reading itself, because of its inherent disconnectedness, has remained almost invisible on the web, leading to a perception of its decline. I hope bkkeepr does something to change this.
For the geeks, there’s a lot more about bkkeepr on this development blog (which I’ll continue to update). I learned PHP to build it, it’s entirely built with open-source components, including the CodeIgniter framework, and uses freely-exchanged data from Amazon Web Services, LibraryThing, WorldCat and others. I’ve learned more about ISBNs than I ever wanted to know, and I hope it holds up.
Bkkeepr is currently ‘sponsored’ by Little, Brown, who I owe a debt of gratitude for taking a gamble on the site. I’m not much of a fan of advertising, but the ongoing hosting and bandwidth of the site need support, a publisher is the right partner, and I hope to continue to find sponsors who are sympathetic to its aims.
Finally, I built bkkeepr because it was a good idea (I think) that needed doing. It didn’t take long, it wasn’t the hardest thing ever, and it didn’t cost anything. I frequently detail on this site the troubles that publishers and the book industry in general are having figuring out what they should be doing on the web. I think that this sort of thing is one area where their energies could be focussed: not trying to compete with Amazon et al on sales or metadata, but providing meaningful services and experiences for book-lovers in the same way they’ve been doing through their content for years.