Sunday, February 25, 2007

Social network emerges on a book site

Colette Bancroft of the St. Petersburg Times has reported a story, "Bibliophiles, Unite!" about, a web service for cataloging private libraries that has surprised its creator.

Tim Spaulding, a grad student and web publisher, created a site that "allows users to enter the title, author or ISBN number of a book they own. The site retrieves information about the specific edition of the book, often complete with an image of the cover. Users can display their libraries as a list or as a virtual shelf with an array of covers." He didn't anticipate that it would transform into a complex social network of book lovers.

Bancroft reports that with 9 million books in its catalog, "would be the ninth largest [library] in the United States," if it were a physical structure. But numbers don't suggest the essence of this site, its vibrant life in book clubs and chat areas.

This is another example of a increasingly common web phenomenon: even when developers haven't planned for them, communities of interest often emerge spontaneously when a critical mass of traffic occurs on certain sites.

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