IndieBound for the iPhone!

Elizabeth Bluemle - April 21, 2009

Well, pickle my gears and blow me sideways, indie bookstores have made it to the iTunes app store! Hoot! Holler! Spread the word! Right this minute, I am staring at my little cell phone screen, and there, by gum, is that little red-and-white scribbly heart-ish "i"con staring back at me with the name IndieBound typed right there underneath. Clickable, leading to orderable. It’s enough to make an independent bookseller swoon.

Forgive my excitement, but it’s not often we bricks-and-mortar stores are this quick to embrace new technology (notwithstanding Powells’ innovative film forays and Northshire’s print-on-demand machine, "Lurch"). Of course, I immediately downloaded the free app and took it for a test drive.

Here’s what you get when you open up the IndieBound app: an initial screen titled Book Lists, which features a menu of the following: The April 2009 Indie Next List (divided into April 2009 Great Reads and April 2009 Notables); the Indie Bestsellers for the week (in this case, April 16), separated into the usual bestseller categories; the Spring ’09 Kids Indie Next List, with links for the Top Ten, Ages 4-8, Ages 9-12, and Teen Readers; the Spring ’09 Poetry Indie Next List Top Ten; and a cornucopia of themed recommendations under the banner of Winter ’09 Reading Group Recs, including Outstanding Debuts, Great Graphic Novels, Contemporary Masters, Mystery Marvels, Memorable Memoirs, and several more. (This last group doesn’t seem to be offered on the IndieBound website, or else is not easily found.) That is a lot of fantastic reading at a browser’s fingertips, and it’s designed very cleanly, very intuitively — that is, extremely user-friendly.

What happens when you click on a list? Let’s take Children’s Interest in this week’s Indie Bestsellers, shall we? The first several books are (not surprisingly) all four volume of the Twilight series and two of the Wimpy Kid books. Then there are a couple of stand-alone titles: Sherman Alexie’s Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, recently out in paperback, followed by The Book Thief and several other goodies in the top 15.

Let’s say you click on the Sherman Alexie. Here’s what you see:

Scrolling down, you get more info: and options to either buy the book online or find a nearby bookstore.

Either way, you get a screen of bookstore choices near you: (this is the BRILLIANT aspect of the iPhone, Big Brother concerns aside — it knows your location through GPS if you "allow" that function, so can find the closest indie source).

If you decide to order online, just click on the bookstore link and you’ll taken right to that book’s info and ordering page! Wahoo!

This really is a full-service application for finding and buying books online, and because it is based on indie bookseller recommendations from around the country, it offers more guidance and expertise than many other online venues. At the bottom of the screen are additional buttons for Book Search, Store Finder, and About (which explains IndieBound and how to use it).

There’s a terrific article in Bookselling This Week with more info about the app. Two suggestions to the ABA and the marvelous app maker, Matt Supko: 1) make book covers clickable links, especially since the image is so deliciously large it fills the screen (at first, users might not be aware that there’s more info below the cover); 2) trumpet the new app on the home page!

I’m seeing all kinds of potential for this app, including regional recommendation lists, backlist promotions (like the ABC’s upcoming Summer Reading Recommendations), and links to book trailers. The ABA is already planning to add e-books — so we indies may have another chance at that piece of pie.

It’s a brave new world, and I have to say, I’m liking it. How about you? Comments? Concerns? Brainstorms?

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