1. I checked out Shelfari, a new book-oriented social networking site that’s getting some buzz based on Amazon.com buying a stake. I even joined up and built myself a bookshelf. On the positive side, I like the highly dynamic Web 2.0 interface, and the search engine seems to have a deep reach. On the negative side, I wish every AJAX site in the world didn’t have to look like Digg, what with all the bright colors and giant fonts. I think a more aesthetic design would better suit the book community.
Random House also announced an innovative “browse widget” service, Insight. From a technical point of view, this is much less impressive than Shelfari. It relies on a browser plugin for Flash, which means that Random House’s technology managers and consultants are about five years behind the times. Flash widgets are out — AJAX/JSON is the superior technology in every way (and requires no browser plugins). At least Shelfari’s techies got the memo.
Whether using the latest methods or not, both Shelfari and Random House are working towards a worthy long-term goal: a networked world for book publishers, book sellers, book distributors and, most importantly of all, us book readers. None of these new services seem like home runs to me, but I think they’re all steps in the right direction.
2. Bloomsbury, home of Harry Potter and John Banville, is going to publish the novel Harry, Revised by Mark Sarvas.
4. Robert Birnbaum interviews the increasingly interesting Martin Amis.
5. Here’s the latest news on Publishers Group West: the idiots in AMS management who caused this noble book distributor to default on payments to numerous independent book publishers think they should be getting a bonus this year. Somebody please string these criminals up.