The idea of a zoomable user interface has been around for a long time, but I mostly find it to be an unpleasant experience in practice. So I was surprised to find myself enjoying zooming around the virtual bookstore called Zoomii.com (which I first came across on ReadWriteWeb). A couple of things made the experience work reasonably well. First of all, there is no special client software to install, which says a lot about the state of web programming and modern browsers. It’s easy to see how this is an extension of the kind of thinking behind Google Maps. The zooming animation isn’t great, but it’s passable. Next, the spatial scaling is consistent and unambiguous, which is to say, it’s as if you’re getting closer to a farther away from real three-dimensional books. One of the things I find disorienting about zoomable interfaces is when the fonts scale differently from the rest of the geometry. I lose the sense of where I am. The navigation in Zoomii is solid. And finally, I just love browsing real books in real bookstores, and this is a pretty good proxy. And I may need to get used to it, since the existence of real bookstores tends toward zero for large values of soon.
What I’d really like to do is use this UI for my own book collection. It should be straightforward to mate Zoomii with the wonderful book managing site LibraryThing. In theory, I love grouping my books in thoughtful clusters, but in practice it’s too much of a pain, and so my books like scattered all over the house. Having them all in one big convenient virtual library would give me the best of both worlds.