A couple of weeks ago the Bookspotting app was launched to much fanfare throughout the Scottish publishing world. Many thanks to Saraband and Publishing Scotland for the collaboration and efforts. And many congratulations on the achievement too.

The concept is fairly simple but a good one, being able to locate points of interest from Scottish books and authors whilst walking around on your iPhone. It can pick up your GPS location or alternatively you can search for an author, a place or a book title. You can walk down the road in Dunfermline and see where Iain Banks’ first collection of short fiction The State of the Art was conceived. Or head to Edinburgh and find the Elephant House where JK Rowling first penned her Harry Potter series (not that it needs much help!)

The look of the app is very much a homage to the famous Trainspotting artwork which the app also borrows its name from. I like that once the app is open you are greeted with a book of the day, and a list of titles that were published on this day in years gone by. It does a great job of bringing different authors and titles to the user’s attention without being in your face. But I have to question how much information they have available to draw from. It says ‘putting Scottish books in your pocket’ – does that mean it has every single Scottish book published? I understand there are a few limitations, but I (selfishly) search for a couple of Fledgling titles and they didn’t appear. A few appeared, but then it was only one from that author.

A couple of years ago when we were helping RJ Mitchell set up his blog we tried doing something similar, using Google maps instead of an app. We were (and still are to a point) technically limited so had to work with what we had. We worked with Mitchell to identify several key locations from the book, pinpointed them on Google maps, gave the locations titles and an extract from the book et voila! Compared to the app now it’s a dated and redundant method but it goes to show that with a little imagination you can go a bit further than just showing a city for a book. Maybe it’s something we can revisit again for other titles. And maybe the app will continue to evolve and develop with new features. Hopefully so!

It’s great to see a ‘smaller’ publisher doing something innovative and new, it should happen more often!

It does inspire you to think ‘What if’ or ‘I wonder how we can do that’.

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