Google’s Infinite Bookcase

What might a bookcase designed to hold digital books look like? Alternative question: what might a virtual bookcase designed by engineers look like?

From the Official Google Blog: “Designing an infinite digital bookcase”.

“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. It holds 3D models of more than 10,000 titles from Google Books.

The books are organized into 28 subjects. To choose a subject, click the subject button near the top of your screen when viewing the bookcase. The camera then flies to that subject. Clicking on a book pulls it off the shelf and brings it to the front and center of the screen. Click on the high-resolution cover and the book will open to a page with title and author information as well as a short synopsis, provided by the Google Books API. All of the visuals are rendered with WebGL, a technology in Google Chrome and other modern browsers that enables fast, hardware-accelerated 3D graphics right in the browser, without the need for a plug-in.”

For TechCrunch (“Google’s Infinite Bookcase: An Abstract Browser For Limitless Libraries”) the double helix corkscrew structure conjures up Tower of Babel suspicions. But, here’s a real Tower of Babel made of books.

Either way, it’s a fun thing to play with. Check it out yourself (best used with the Google Chrome web browser): Google Infinite Bookcase.

And here’s a video demo of the Google Bookcase:

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I run the ThinkLab at the University of Cambridge, and research digital habits, productivity, and wellbeing.

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