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Addendum to original post:

Matt Supko contacted me today and offered a note of clarification regarding the ABA/Indiebound’s plans for an IB iPhone app eBook purchasing option:

At no point has ABA been in direct partnership with Lexcycle.  We had been planning to use a publicly documented protocol which any developer may use ( http://www.lexcycle.com/booksellers ) to send ebooks to Stanza for reading.  Those plans are now under review. Otherwise, our ebook strategy remains unaffected.

Again, we’ll be in touch when we have something exciting to announce!

– Matt Supko, Web Content Coordinator, American Booksellers Association

Book curation is much on my mind lately. And it’s also on the minds of some of my favorite people.

Thanks to #AmazonFail, we now know that we can’t believe everything we find in search is everything there is to find. Automated lists based on alogrithms and key words work quite well to a point, and have their place in the world. But, when it comes to something as specialized as finding a book that will fit my interests and tastes and changing whims — I’d prefer to trust that kind of search to a human being who has made a professional career of matching books to people.

Unfortunately, at the same time that more and more books are finding their way into the world, more and more of the people who help us find our way through the stacks are finding themselves out of work. Ironic? Well, maybe. Depressing? Definitely. And, as not to be all gloom and doom on a Monday, I’m holding the sad stories for Part II of this 2-part post.

Today is all about the hope and happiness — and you can’t beat the ABA iPhone App for happy!

IndieBound on Call!

IndieBound on Call!

The awesome IndieBound for iPhone app announced early last week is my new best friend. It’s like having my favorite indie bookseller at my beck and call, ‘cuz with it I can:

  • Browse indie bookseller recommendation lists (The Indie Next List, The Kids Indie Next List) and bestseller lists (The Indie Bestseller Lists)
  • Search for books from a comprehensive database of in-print titles
  • Review detailed book information
  • Buy books online from indie bookstores
  • Find local, indie bookstores nearby, or across the United States
  • Find other independently-owned businesses, like coffee shops, movie theaters, and bicycle stores

After downloading and trying it out, I simply had to talk with Matt Supko, Web Content Coordinator for the American Booksellers Association and the guy behind this very cool app, and find out how it came to be:

KM: When did the idea for the IndieBound iphone app first originate, and how long did it take from start to finish to get it created/approved by Apple/and officially launched?

MS: Probably the first mention of an IB for iPhone app goes all the way back to last summer, but we didn’t decide to really jump on it until early December. I worked on it in my spare time from December through March (I do a lot of other stuff for ABA, too!). The backend, web service stuff was easy to do, but to make the app itself I had to teach myself Objective-C–that took a while! Then we had a beta test with some booksellers and some publishers and everybody in the office with iPhones frantically trying to break it. It went to Apple early this month; came out on Monday.

KM: What has reaction been among IndieBound bookseller members; iphone owners; and tech trade pundits/reviewers of new apps?

MS: Booksellers have basically said: “Thank you.” They’re excited, whether they have iPhones or not, because they recognize how large a market this is and what the future potential for independent booksellers is in the mobile marketplace. I think it caught a lot of people by surprise, even though Avin let it slip in his address back at Winter Institute. My goal was to make an app that was fast and fun to use, and everyone I’ve seen who has actually *used* the app has agreed that it came out well. We’ve had very positive reviews in the App Store so far, and I’m pleased that most people seem to immediately get what the app is all about.

KM: Rumor has it you will be adding ebook purchasing capability/access — can you elaborate, or is it still being worked out?

MS: Sure. ABA’s E-Commerce Solution is working feverishly right now on ebook functionality for members’ websites. This will be a complete, robust ebook solution with availability in multiple formats–notably Palm (eReader) and ePub–etc. Concurrently with this, we’ll release an updated version of the iPhone app that adds ebook search functionality and an “also available as an ebook” feature to relevant titles on the book lists. Users will also have access through the IB app to ebooks they have purchased on any ABA E-Commerce Website. Ebooks will download directly into Lexcycle’s popular Stanza app for reading.

I can’t give you an ETA, but it’ll be ready sooner than you think. I think it’s worth pointing out that, with the exception of Stanza, most other ebook solutions for iPhone (Fictionwise’s eReader, Amazon’s Kindle app) also currently require you to purchase on your computer, then sync to the phone. Further down the road, we’re planning to integrate ebook purchasing directly into the app as well, avoiding the hop to Safari.

KM: Philosophically, what is the ultimate goal of the IndieBound App, and does IndieBound have other such innovations in the pipeline?

MS: The goal of the IndieBound app is the same as the goal of the whole IndieBound movement: to raise awareness of the importance of shopping local, and to call attention to the vast curating expertise of independent booksellers. That’s really where I feel our niche is in the App Store right now. There are plenty of apps that will let you search for books, but if you don’t know what you’re looking for, they’re not going to be much help. Our app does both: it includes a search, and carefully-curated book recommendations. And that’s what we’ll continue to focus on even as we add additional functionality to the app. Do we have other innovations in the pipeline? Of course!

***

I, for one, am incredibly impressed. No, it’s not the same thing as shopping/browsing AT an indie bookstore, and you can’t get that sense of community via an app, but it’s a really great way to take some of the expertise housed in our wonderful bookstores and make it more widely available.  Check out the IndieBound app for yourself – but be warned — it can lead to major book shopping!

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