Whichbook.net: new ways to choose

June 11, 2007


Whichbook.net is such a good idea it’s surprising it hasn’t been shamelessly copied elsewhere. You move a set of sliders and get recommendations from UK library catalogues.

The selection shown in the image above (there are many categories, but you can only set 4) got me Paul Golding’s Senseless (“Be warned, this is an extremely frank account of homosexual practices. But it is also the most moving love story full of humour, sadness and despair.”) and there’s a link to borrow it from your local library.

Apparently, “books are read by one of a team of 150 people who are drawn from libraries and literature organisations and are specially trained to create the entries” – an excellent but probably pretty slow process which likely explains why it hasn’t caught on. But with the general ineptitude of search at places like Amazon, public distrust of sponsored “If you like this, you’ll love…” type promotions, and the hard work required to get LibraryThing-type services to work for you, it does seem like a winner.

The only downside is that it’s not very well executed – the site is horribly Flash-y and full of nasty pop-ups and ‘click here’ links that don’t work – but you can’t have everything.

Whichbook.net is a Lottery-funded project of Opening The Book, with a similarly disastrous line in Web Design. Despite claiming accessibility, it really isn’t – huge swathes of text are obscured by Flash images, and it doesn’t validate, not in XHTML or even CSS. For a modern, cutting-edge (supposedly) library provider, it’s a depressingly poor example – must try harder.

[Update 8/07: after I contacted Opening The Book, they removed the false ‘Valid XHTML’ claim from their pages, but claimed they were accessible. Their site is still borked in my Firefox view.]


  1. Yes, a pretty good system. But not very new.

    Comment by Hubert Guillaud — June 11, 2007 @ 8:43 pm

  2. True, but new to me, and there’s not much like it out there, which I think makes it worth noting.

    Comment by James Bridle — June 11, 2007 @ 10:23 pm

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