3d book browsing with PicLens

August 8, 2008

Today is BookMooch’s two year anniversary! Yay!

As a birthday present to myself, I spent some frivolous time playing with the PicLens browser plugin, making it work with BookMooch. PicLens is a 3d image browsing program, mostly useful for sites like Flickr.

However, I thought it would be fun to browse books visually. This is what it looks like as you’re scrolling through the 3D book space at BookMooch:


when you click on a book, it zooms forward like so:


To make this work, install the PicLens browser plugin, and then click on the piclens icon Picl3 in your browser when you’re looking at someone’s inventory.

The PicLens folks made it very easy to support their plug-in — all that it needs is a Media RSS feed, which is just like the old RSS feeds I have at BookMooch, but with small & large images indicated in the data feed.

As soon as I got this working, I realized that this would be really useful for browsing large numbers of books, such as browsing topics, browsing nearby books, or sifting through search results.

Unfortunately, that would be actual work for me, rather than the 2 hours this took, because I have to make RSS feeds for those other pages, in order for PicLens to work. I might do that in the future, maybe.

There are a bunch of Flash-based image browsers out there, and that is probably the way I’ll go in the future to bring book-cover-browsing to BookMooch. With a Flash-based approach, every web browser could look at books using a 3d visual interface, and not have to install anything.

Here is a video I made of browsing someone’s BookMooch inventory with PicLens. You’ll notice that some of the books don’t have book covers, which is a little awkward, but it works. Also, I’ve noticed that I sometimes need to reload an inventory page before the PicLens logo goes “blue” to indicate it worked (technology, sigh).

Reserved books irk some folk

On another topic, I’ve gotten tons of feedback from people saying they don’t want to be notified of available books that have been reserved for others. Loud and clear, gotcha! I agree, and I’ve also gotten feedback from people that don’t want to even see as available on the web site, books which are reserved for others. I agree with that too.

I will be rewriting-from-scratch how the reservations feature works, so that reserved books are literarily not in a person’s inventory, and are only visible for the person they’re reserved for. That means reserved books won’t appear in searches, RSS feeds, or email notifications. And, when a reservation expires, it’ll be added-as-normal to the inventory, so people will get wishlist notified as per normal.

However, this is going to take me a bit of time to get to, because…

Taking a vacation: Learning German in Berlin

Last year I had the idea that I should spend one month a year living in a foreign city. Last year, it was Stockholm.

This year… I’m renting an apartment in Berlin, and taking intensive language courses in German. When I was 18 years old (21 years ago!) I thought my future career was teaching philosophy, and for that reason lived in Berlin for 3 months, gaining a little bit of proficiency at it. I’ve always wanted to come back to Berlin (I left weeks before The Wall Fell), and it’s taken me 20 years to get around to it.

I’ll be taking a more-or-less complete break from programming for a month, to clear my brain, and see how much German I can cram into my head!

If you live in Berlin, would like to meet me, and don’t mind listening to your language being mangled, I’m looking for an activities partner with an posting at Erste Nachhilfe.

43 Responses to “3d book browsing with PicLens”

  1. Luna said

    Hi John,

    Happy Birthday, BookMooch and thank you for posting about PicLens! We truly appreciate it. We’re delighted to hear that you are enjoying PicLens and we hope your readers will too.

    For interested readers, please check out http://piclens.com/demo/ and http://blog.cooliris.com to learn more.

    Thanks again,
    Luna and The Cooliris Team

  2. Alisoun said

    I have HUGE reservations about the reserve function anyway. Have recently been emailing two people as the book was reserved for me to mooch as an Angel for someone overseas but was reserved incorrectly and now this is causing angst to three people! Also, even when reserved correctly for me it just seems to add another step to the process of getting a book. Liked the other system much better. Apart from that am still loving bookmooch!
    Thanks John!

  3. Zillah said

    I’ve found the reserve feature wonderful- now I get chances to mooch books on ‘ask first’ that otherwise are snapped up before the owner gets my email. I can also find out for sure that someone didn’t want to send me a book rather than that I only missed out because of world time zone differences, which sounds trifling but is actually a lot more soothing 🙂

  4. aqualectrix said

    Now, I really love the idea of cover browsing. It’s a whole different way to look at an inventory or topic, and really helpful for those of us who identify books visually.

    BUT — as you point out, a lot of books don’t have covers. And plenty of books with the same ISBN have been printed in different editions with different covers, so what you see is not necessarily what you get. (Moochers are great at noting this stuff in condition notes, but that doesn’t help for cover browsing.)

    Being a LibraryThing user, one of the things I really miss at BookMooch is choice of cover pictures and the ability to upload my own. If you do decide to implement some kind of cover browser, I think a feature like this becomes a lot more useful and necessary.

    (Alas, LT’s just-released cover service does not seem to be an answer: while it may provide coverage of more books, there’s still no way, as far as I can tell, to use the service to display a choice of covers for an ISBN.)

  5. Bunny said

    Happy birthday Bookmooch!

    It’s wonderful that you are going to fix the reservations so they no longer “exist”! It’s frustrating to see books available and get to click the mooch button only to be denied, so I’m really stoked!
    Just wonderful.

  6. Dora (Greece) said

    Happy birthday Bookmooch!!
    My own birthday too, today!!

    It’s been a lovely experience since I became a member!!

  7. Ruth said

    Happy Birthday BookMooch!

    I’ve run into three books this week that I really, really wanted only to find out they were reserved for someone else, so I’m very glad that the reservations system will be changed.

    Enjoy Berlin!

  8. Janet said

    Happy Birthday John and all other BookMoochers! Good mooching! Janet

  9. Kitty said

    I’m getting used to the whole reservations thing, but I definitely think that modifying it so that reserved books aren’t visible in a user’s inventory would be best. Thanks for making that change (or, at least, promising to do it).

    The only real issue I have with Bookmooch is the lack of useful search methods. I mean, fine, if you’re looking for a specific book, or something by such-and-such author, then that’s fine, but there’s no real way to search for something new. Say, a certain genre, or books about a particular subject. Increasing the searchability of people’s inventories would be great, especially since many book titles are unhelpful &/or misleading.
    What do you say John, can we hope for better ways to search/sort our books? Pretty please? 🙂

  10. Happy birthday, BookMooch! And congrats on the German vacation! I love Germany — my family’s visited twice, and it’s a fantastic country. Of course, we traveled a lot more in south Germany, because my mom’s obsessed with that end of the country, but we still saw some of the north. Vielen Gluck mit dein Studieren!

  11. Friedman said

    Glad to hear the “reserve” feature will be re-vamped. (Don’t like to be informed that a book I very much want is available, only to find that it is not available to me! I’d rather the feataure be removed, but I guess it’s here to stay).

    Happy birthday to BookMooch. Enjoy your vacation.

  12. Cheryl said

    I think I’m in the minority on this, but I’d rather get notified about books that are reserved for someone else. If you’re going to allow reservation to happen at all (different topic), then I want a way to know books are out there. I’m not keen on BM fragmenting into little clique groups that only trade among themselves for stuff that is in demand, which seems to be a potential danger to me. That seems against the grain of a truly equal trading system. I’d rather get rid of the reservation system altogether than have BM fragment like that. I don’t have any data to say that is actually happening, but a reservation system that hides reserved books seems exactly what would help that along.

  13. Charlotte said

    This is my 6oth birthday. Happy Birthday Bookmooch. I am ready for the reservation improvement too.

  14. Myrna said

    While I have used the reservation system and it works well, I think that I have to agree that I would rather see it not there and everyone have an equal chance at the books I post. Great service and I wish Book Mooch Happy Birthday.

  15. AndreaC said

    I kind of have an issue with reserving, in general. I think it should be more of a few and far between situation so that a reserve button or system isn’t even necessary! Lately, seeing that books are reserving just bothers me, then why put it up!? Just send it to that person anyway. I think it’s kind of greedy to reserve a book on bookmooch for a friend just because you want your friend to be the only one with a shot at it, but you want your point, too. If you want to “trade” on the side or only trade with a select few, don’t do it on BookMooch.

  16. Shauna said

    This looks like fun!

  17. Alitheia said

    I have to say I’m not really in favor of ‘hiding’ reserved books(how would it show up in your point history, regular history, etc? and would you still get tenths?), I’d rather it just get worked into the system that you don’t get wishlist notifications for a book unless it’s truly available. I’m not sure, but wasn’t something like that discussed for when non-available out of country books are put up?
    Anyway, I highly disagree with several statements above, one being to totally get rid of the reserve system. The new system has some kinks to get worked out (mainly the wishlist notifications), but overall it seems to be used in a positive way. I personally only reserve books for three reasons; One, a good friend has it wishlisted (I don’t always reserve in this case, but the friends I reserve for are ones I’m trading with on a regular basis, ones I angel mooch for, and in most cases I know will re-list the book after reading it and continue to pass the book on); Two, international members who due to the time difference don’t have as fair a shot as people in my time zone, I will sometimes (not often due to postage costs) reserve a book for them for 24 hours and then if they haven’t mooched it within that time period it becomes available to everyone else, I do this because as everyone seems to be complaining about the reserve system I don’t think a lot of them realize a lot of non-U.S. members go through the same thing because a lot of people in the U.S. won’t even consider sending internationally and I like to try to even the odds a bit when I can; Three, someone who has already mooched a book from me has a non-listed book of mine of their wishlist, I will sometimes list it reserved for them because it not only saves me postage, but it is somewhat better for the environment to not be sending one book packages all over the place. That being said I don’t reserve the vast majority of my books and want to point out something I think is being missed by several people above; A book can be marked reserved without the owner marking it that way (as in the case of ask first senders), those books are ones everyone had a chance at, but an international member got to first and to destroy the reserve system would be to make it a great deal more difficult for not only international members, but those willing to send internationally that might not be able to afford it all the time and can’t have worldwide status.

    Okay spiel over, I wanted to say I can’t believe it’s been almost two years since I got addicted to BookMooch (seriously, I joined the October after it’s invent and haven‘t run out of new books yet), it’s been a long journey with a few moments that were particularly scary (agh, the wishlists you had to page through? Thankfully that was fixed so quickly, it almost made me give up BM ;), but it was a wonderful one and thank you so much John for letting us all be a part of it, I not only haven’t run out of books to feed my habit, but have made some truly wonderful friends in the process 🙂

  18. DJ said

    Enjoy your vacation! We’ll be here when you get back. 🙂

  19. Tatiana said

    Prior to the reservation system, I’d get a book notification. Mooch the book only to have my mooch canceled because it was being “reserved” for someone else. Personally I like the reservation system especially for the Angel program.

    1. I think email notifications should NOT go out if the book is listed as reserved.
    2. I think the book SHOULD be visible in the persons inventory however.

  20. Chikoy said

    I say kudos to the current reservation system. Many of the books I wanted were found in inventories of members on the “Ask me first” mode, and I’ve lost track of the number of times someone beat me to the punch because I was waiting for the owner to give me permission to mooch. Things are way better now.

    Still, I’m looking forward to the notification revamp after your Berlin trip. Now, if improvement on searchability follows that revamp, BookMooch will be nearly perfect for me:)

    Hope you enjoy Berlin.

  21. Alan said

    I’ve mooched a bunch of international books recently (British authors). Most of these were “Ask First”. In the past, I would not have even bothered with these since they are heavily wishlisted and by the time I asked they would have been gone.

    Bottom line, the new reservation system is GREAT!

    However, it would be nice not to see reserved books in my Wish and Save-for-Later lists. I would still like to see them in my inventory. They could show a “Reserved” tab similar to the “To Send” tab and they should be invisible to other members.

  22. tudorpot said

    The new reservation system is excellent. The only reason I agree to hide reserved books is to stop me being grumpy about not being the person they are reserved for- grins.
    Keep up the good work.
    Re search function- it would be good if the function were improved. I love audio books but searching for them is horrendous, as cd and audio cassettes can’t be requested in the search. Also, searching by genre/subject doesn’t work.

  23. morpha said

    I feel that the reserve function is valuable and have benefited from it both by being able to reserve a book for a particular moocher & also by having a book reserved just for me. That being said, I do get a bit annoyed when I get email notifications about books that are reserved for someone and I also do not like trying to mooch a book that is not available to me.
    I agree with tudorpot’s comment about the search function. I also love audio books and would like to be able to mooch them, so being able to search for them would be helpful. I have found that searching by genre/subject works somewhat, but not nearly as well as I would like.
    In addition, I am interested in copies of certain magazines, and would like to be notified if any issue of a magazine is available so I wouldn’t have to search for and load each separate issue into my wishlist. I certainly don’t have time to add by hand every single issue of a magazine into the database that isn’t already there.
    Now that I’ve done my bit of whining. I must say that I absolutely love Bookmooch and have been enjoying the opportunity to read get free copies of books that have been on my “to read” list for years.
    Thanks for all your hard work!

  24. Gerry said

    Hi, everything that Alitheia said is valid for international members. Whenever I used to do the ask first bit, the books would disappear. Now’s its reserved till the owner replies. And/or I find an angel to mooch for me. It’s a truely great thing, the reservation system, please don’t get rid of it. Thanks.

    Enjoy your vacation!

  25. Nanci said

    I also appreciate the coming change in Reserves, so I don’t waste time clicking on an “available” book that really isn’t available.

    One more suggestion: Could there be some sort of key beside books that are from outside the USA. If that seems too egocentric, then many keys to tell you where it is from before you click–or how about this, only on the people who won’t send outside their own country?


  26. Denise said

    OMG that PicLens is so much fun. I’ve been zooming through people’s inventories. Another addiction to add to the list…sigh.

    Oh yes Happy Birthday Bookmooch!

    I love the reserve system for Ask First but not for friends reserving for others – thats like rejecting someone’s mooch because they aren’t a friend – so I’m glad I won’t be reading about books I can’t get because I’m not someone’s friend. Changing the reserve system for the Ask First purpose is a great enhancement and thank you!

    ok now back to zooming lenses at book covers….

  27. andrea said

    I like the reserve system because of the way that it is used with the ask first system (I think most of the reserves that I’ve seen on my wishlist are because of this and that’s great) and because of how we could use it with angel listings (which are still being used to spare everyone the disappointment of receiving wishlist notices for reserved books). If reserved books were hidden from view, that would be a great improvement…
    Just wanted to reply to Nanci’s comment, using advanced search you can restrict the search to US (or any other country) books only…

  28. Sheila said

    This new 3D browzing is great! Love it! I downloaded it. However after looking at it for awhile gets dizzy. Still a great program!

  29. Fullmoonblue said

    Enjoy Germany and best wishes with the language courses! Ja! (And thank, umm, Gott for BookMooch…)

    Okay. Done with my own limited German. Best wishes improving yours. 🙂

    Elizabeth (“fullmoonblue”)

  30. kath said


    I installed piclens, and it says that this site is not yet piclens enabled. It works on amazon, flickr.. etc.

    Any idea why it won’t work here?

  31. cartside said

    Viel Spass in Berlin!
    I was wondering… there’s two difficulties I’ve encountered when looking for books. Multiple listings of the same title (so adding to wishlist if not available gets a bit tricky) and if a book is available, often it’s outside of my country (UK) and may not be available to me. Would an additional search function for books in own country be a possibility? Or books available that can be sent to own country.
    Obviously, both issues may not be easily resolved, but I thought I’d suggest it anyway. Do you have any widgets/advertising elements for blogs? I’d like to promote bookmooch with more than just a link from my blog.

  32. fillytilly said

    Hey Kath,

    Did you figure it out yet? I was getting the same message but at some point I did something that made it work. That’s really helpful, huh?

    But then I did this and was able to get it to work too:

    I pulled up my own inventory list then, near the top of my computer screen at the right where the “Tools” icon is I saw the >> symbol. I clicked on that symbol and got a list of things and then clicked on Launch PicLens and it worked.

    Good luck!

  33. Eliza said

    Happy birthday, Bookmooch!
    That sounds awesome, re: reserved books not showing up in searches and on wishlists. Thanks! Have fun in Berlin! Viel Glück!

  34. Michelle said

    I LOVE PicLens! I can’t wait til it totally takes over web browsing. It’s PERFECT for looking at inventories (and later wishlists…….)
    As to covers not showing up…how do we get them to. Several of mine that are blank do have pics at Amazon, so I’m not sure why they don’t here. I’d be happy to upload photos of covers if you tell me how to do it for the ones without.
    As to the reserved stuff…duh…I hadn’t even thought of contacting a Mooch angel while I was waiting for a reply *feeling stupid… The first time I ‘asked first’ I saw the note that it was reserved for me, then when I went back to my wishlist, there it was to mooch and I thought “WHEE!, they must be okay with the mooch!” , so I mooched it right away…..resulting in a canceled mooch because I obviously jumped the gun when I saw that mooch button…..I’m probably the only one who did that, so it’s probably not a problem, and I’ll contact an angel next time anyway while the book is on hold.
    Thanks for continuing to make the site ROCK!

    Oh, and have fun in Germany…I went to ‘high school’ there about the same time you were there (82-85). Saw the wall, but missed it coming down.

  35. Bree said

    Thank you for looking at the reserving system! I have had to ugly mix-ups, both ending without a book for me with the new system. Much appreciate you streamlining it!

  36. tudorpot said

    I wonder if it’s possible to have listed on a member’s page books that are reserved for them?

    There is also the issue of angel mooches- transferring the reservation to the angel from the moocher. Just something to consider.


  37. Pearl said

    Wonderful idea to skim thru covers. If you tweak the wishlist too, could you find a way to add publishers. I hand add a list of publishers that often carry titles of interest…

    Have a great time in Germany. Good things come to those who wait 20 years.

  38. Laurie McCanna said

    I don’t understand the “Reseve” feature either, and it does seem to make Bookmooch less democratic. I work in software design and there’s always a balance when introducing new features, because adding a new feature is a bell you can’t unring. There will always be a few users who become passionately attached to the new feature, making it extremely painful to remove.

    That said, I heart bookmooch. Our family shares an account and we’ve been able to expand our reading horizons inexpensively.

    It would be lovely for there to be more tie-ins with LibraryThing, which has an incredible depth of features. I just found out that they list the books in your inventory by which series they belong to, which is cool. They also have book covers for older and more obscure books.

  39. Zjanette said

    I hope you have a great time and really want you to know I love BM.
    My birthday is in September and I have only one wish. A very fast BM-forum so I don’t have to subscribe to 100 emails a day.

    Could you put that on your to-do list please, please, please????

  40. Oranges said

    Just want to let you know. A) Sweet website and B) Figuring out how to browse with PicLens would both awesome and sexy.

  41. DJ said

    Request: Is there a way we can get more options for the ship internationally question?

    Specifically, I am willing to ship to Canada and the US, but none of the options (No, Yes, will ship small/hard-to-find book) accurately describes this.


  42. Friedewulf said

    This is a great site. Love it. Perhaps an option to search for a specific publisher in the advanced search to help narrow down possibilities ?

  43. Lexi said

    I love Bookmooch. I like the idea of “ask first” reserve for international moochers, who I know can get the short end of the proverbial stick, but I agree with a commenter above who said it should not be allowed for “friends.” Reserving for friends seems to me to go against the democratic “ways” of Bookmooch.

    I third (or fourth or nth) the plug for better searchability… but I think I remember reading in the blog that the search function is based on genres that Amazon decides on, not you, so you can’t fix it. Anyway, if you can, we’d love it!

    Thanks for all you do.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: