Follow This Blog: RSS feed
Neverending Search
Inside Neverending Search

Google Digital Bookcase

Google launched its 3D digital bookcase as a Chrome experiment this week.

The WebGL Bookcase, is a virtual rotating book spinner containing nearly 11,000 Google Books titles organized into 28 subject areas.

According to the Official Google Blog:

As digital designers, we often think about how to translate traditional media into a virtual space. Recently, we thought about the bookcase. What would it look like if it was designed to hold digital books?

A digital interface needs to be familiar enough to be intuitive, while simultaneously taking advantage of the lack of constraints in a virtual space. In this case, we imagined something that looks like the shelves in your living room, but is also capable of showcasing the huge number of titles available online—many more than fit on a traditional shelf. With this in mind, we designed a digital bookcase that’s an infinite 3D helix. You can spin it side-to-side and up and down with your mouse.

To browse the books, click the subject button near the top of your screen to open the list of subjects, click on a book to pull it off the shelf, click on a cover and open it to display author, title and synopsis, and of course, to take you to Google Books for the option of browsing book info or purchasing.  The little QR code on the bottom left corner of the page allows you to open the title on your mobile device.  Happily one of the 28 subjects is free books.

My school connection and browsers were not able to get me to the point where I could actually see books on the spinner, but here at home everything works fine.

Except . . .

This is a bit like a messy bookcase in someone else’s house.  You browse and browse but you don’t know where to reach.

While, all this random discovery within a broad subject area is kinda fun for any book lover, if you are really searching for a specific title or a specific topic, however beautiful it is, this bookcase is not for you.

While some bloggers referred to this experiment as a type of digital librarianship, all this 3D bookiness feels more slot machine than library (and perhaps as addicting as the former).

Google, if you are reading, did I mention how much my students, teachers, and I miss the NewsTimeline, the WonderWheel, the Directory?

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. Mary Clark says:

    Thanks, Joyce! I saw the WebGL bookcase yesterday and after playing with it for a while, couldn’t see the point. Now I know it’s not just me.

Speak Your Mind