Thursday, October 27, 2011

When is a bookcase like Willy Wonka's elevator?

When it's designed by Chrome for Google Books, that's when - a bookcase that moves up, down, and sideways with just a click and a flick.

The designers at Chrome were presented with a challenge: what would a bookcase designed to hold a vast collection of ebooks look like? How could they make it both functional and fun?

The answer is a virtual spinning tower of bookshelves, a seemingly infinite helix containing 3D models of over 10,000 (and growing) titles. Set up more for browsing than searching, books are divided into 28 subjects. Click on the box at the top of the shelf to browse subjects, and when you choose, the shelves swoop to that section. Click on the shelves to spin them, or move up and down the tower of shelves. When you click on a title to select it, the book jumps off the shelf. click again, and the book opens to reveal a synopsis and a "Get this book" button, which takes you to the Google Books interface . (There is a category for free books, if that's what you're looking for, but all others are for sale.)

The developers say this WebGL bookcase works best with the Chrome browser (which I use) and a fast computer, so I had no trouble playing with it. Give it a try here. Here's a little intro video that shows how it works:

Happy browsing!

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