Last spring, when I was at Google, I threw out a sort of off-the-cuff idea that what we really needed was a Facebook for books, a more intentional, extensive and non-profit-driven version of Amazon’s tools for connecting books through search records.
The more I think about it, the more I really like the idea specifically for scholarly books. The author of a mass-market book is generally more interested in sales (nothing wrong with that), but scholars are more interested in how their book circulates within particular canons, historiographies and so on. Existing bibliographic control systems link a scholarly book with other scholarly books in various ways, as do the bibliographies and citations within those books.
But once a book is published, it doesn’t contain any citational connections to books published after (or often even near-simultaneously) with similar or related works. My views on most existing systems of bibliographic control are known: I don’t think they do a good job of capturing the actual intellectual conversations involving a given book or article.
So seriously, why not nearly the exact interface design of Facebook, only instead of people, books? LibraryThing sort of could do this, but what you really want is for each book to be personified by a single controlling presence, to be “owned” by its author.
So, for example, I’d own the FaceBOOK page for Lifebuoy Men, Lux Women. I would send out a “friend” invitation to Maureen O’Doughtery’s Consumption Intensified, published six years after Lifebuoy Men. You would have different kinds of “friends” tagged by the nature of their relation. I’d also send “friend” invitations to books on modern Zimbabwe, books on African material culture, histories of Unilever, histories of cosmetics or other body products. Maybe you’d have a category of “acquaintance” for books that are theoretically or generally related: general studies of globalization, “biographical” studies of commodities in general, comparative studies of the body and beauty in modern societies.
For this to be really useful, authors would have to be somewhat judicious in their use of book-friending, keeping in mind that it’s the book that’s friending, not the author. So I wouldn’t use Lifebuoy Men‘s page to friend any of the books by people I know who work on virtual worlds or digital games, much as I like those people.