Last month I mentioned BookRabbit - a new UK-based online bookshop/readers' networking site. At the time I had a few reservations and although I found aspects of it appealing I wasn't convinced that it was 100% 'for me'.
Well, www.bookrabbit.com is fully up and running now. I have placed my initial order and received it very speedily and I must say I'm rapidly turning into one of those madly proselytising new converts.
Taking advantage of BookRabbit's introductory free book offer on initial orders placed before 28 May, I tried out the system by ordering Emma Darwin's The Mathematics of Love and Hugo Hamilton'sThe Speckled People. Finding them was easy. Ordering them was easy (there's a PayPal option in addition to all the usual credit and debit cards). Delivery, which is free, took two working days. My freebie - a lucky-dip selected by BookRabbit on the (as yet scant) evidence of my literary tastes - was Ali Smith's The Accidental, which I'm very pleased with. The freebie arrived ahead of the others, the day after I'd placed my order.
Every week, BookRabbit compares the 100,000 top-selling titles against Amazon UK to ensure that BookRabbit's prices are cheaper. With no postage to pay, and no minimum order, this is very good news for buyers (and bad news for bank balances, as it certainly encourages the instant, impulse purchase - as if that weren't already temptation enough on Amazon).
As for the networking aspect, that's entirely up to the individual. You can interact as much or as little as you wish. Nothing about it is mandatory. You have the option, on every book you browse, to add it not only to your shopping basket but also to your 'wish list' (which is publicly viewable) or to your 'my books' list, which gradually builds up a picture of your reading habits and home library.
You can also upload photos of your bookshelves. I didn't think I'd bother with this but have posted a couple just for fun. You can start a discussion of any bookish topic you wish, and others will join in - it's all incredibly easy and could quickly become addictive. Your profile can link in to your blog, so the more you interact on BookRabbit, the more readers will land on your blog. I imagine that the discussion boards would also be an extremely good way for authors to reach and interact with existing and potential readers.
I've seen a few comments in the bookblogosphere saying that BookRabbit all looks terrifically complicated and scary, but believe me, if I can get the hang of it in less than half an hour, then anyone can! Its beauty lies in its basic simplicity and ease of use, while its advantage over conventional online bookshops is its almost limitless potential for personalised use. It can be whatever you want it to be.
And for those who don't want to be bothered to manage their own blog, it gives access to a whole cyberworld of readers who will be happy to share their thoughts on books and reading. But you remain in control. Nobody else can see what you order. Nobody can become your online 'friend' if you don't want them to. You don't have to think of anything to say or find anyone to say it to if you don't wish. It is perfectly possible to be a 'silent' member, ordering books and reading other people's discussions without any pressure to interact at all.
In full missionary zeal mode, I'm now linking to BookRabbit every time I mention a book here. I'm also looking forward to seeing their forthcoming range of blog-compatible widgets (not sure exactly when those will be available). There's lots of advice on the site to help get you started, including video demonstrations of each feature. And you can keep up to date with news and developments on the BlogRabbit blog.
Go on. Give it a whirl. You know you want to!
3 days ago