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aNobii.com is a cataloging and social networking website for booklovers. On aNobii you can catalog your book collection on a beautiful wooden shelf and meet people with similar reading tastes. aNobii has an international following with information on over 10 million books, including 200,000 book reviews spanning 15 languages.

aNobii has just released an iphone app, and we’ve had a chance to try it out. The bottom line: this is the best iPhone app for booklovers we’ve seen so far.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the features that set aNobii apart:

Barcode Scanning

The barcode scanning feature is a major selling point. Rather than starting from scratch with their own system, aNobii has partnered with Barcode Monster, a startup that focuses on software that enables ordinary webcams to scan barcodes.

The interface is intuitive. Click on the “Scan” button and you’ll go into camera mode, with a semi-transparent hint that helps you fit the barcode into the right spot. You don’t have to press any button; the app starts scanning automatically when your hand is steady (using iPhone’s accelerometer to detect movements), and stops when it recognizes a barcode. On our first try it took about 5 seconds. We quickly got the hang of it, though, and soon were averaging scans in about a second.

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One thing to note is that when it scans, it keeps making the standard shutter sound. aNobii’s explanation is that Apple does not allow real-time processing of video recording at the moment, so they have to resort to taking still pictures rapidly instead. If you are scanning a bunch of books, the shutter sound can get annoying. You can turn it off by muting your iPhone.

Another caveat is that barcode scanning is only available to 3Gs users, probably because earlier models lack auto-focus. For those with a 3G or 2G phone, there’s a lite version that has the same features except barcode scanning.

After a barcode is recognized, the cover and the title appears. Click on the cover to see the details of the book.

Search

search

You can search for a book by entering the title, the ISBN, or by scanning its barcode. We’ve tried a dozen English titles from our office and aNobii has information for all of them.

Book info

details

For each book, you can see reviews, basic details, and which online bookstores are selling it. Not every book we’ve tried had as many reviews as we would like, though. It would be more convenient if there are links to reviews from other websites as well.

Wish List

wishlist

You can make a wish-list of books you want to read. This is a helpful reminder next time you visit a bookstore. This feature is simple and gets the job done.

Shelf

shelf

Using your iPhone as a barcode scanner, you can build your collection quite quickly. While the wooden shelf looks very nice, there seems to be little need to have your collection in your pocket. On the other hand, your mobile shelf will sync with your shelf on the aNobii website, which is more useful as you can share your collection with friends and fellow booklovers.

aNobii is $1.99 in the iTunes App Store.

Pros

  • Barcode scanning is fast and easy
  • Intuitive interface to build your collection or wish list
  • Allows you to find reviews handily – great for shopping at bookstores
  • Work seamlessly with the website version (http://www.anobii.com)

Cons

  • Barcode scanning is limited to 3Gs only (there’s a lite version for 3G and 2G)
  • Social network features available on website are not available on this iphone app

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