A rabbit from a hat?

<p>At a first glance, the launch of BookRabbit looks perplexing to say the least.<a href="http://www.bookrabbit.net/index.php" target="_blank"><img width="120" height="160" align="right" src="/documents/UserContributed/image/Bookseller%20Images/rabbit.jpg" alt="" /></a></p>
<p>The idea is that book lovers traipsing the streets of the UK will use a mobile phone, or perhaps a passing computer, to find their nearest bookshop, and check its stock. &quot;If you want a bookshop then the rabbit will get it for you, if you want a book then it'll get that too.&quot;<br />
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It is all too easy to see this as another miss-step in Samedaybook's digital strategy.<br />
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Formerly known as Methvens--a small chain of mainly southern-based shops--in 2000 the group <a href="http://www.thebookseller.com/news/25711-methvens-net-reinvention.html">r... itself as a web-business offering &quot;sameday&quot; delivery on book orders to certain branches</a>.</p>
<p>The idea wasn't bad (at the time a strategy of combining 'bricks' with 'clicks' was seen as the ultimate weapon against the growing threat of the upstart Amazon.com), but the ambition was never reflected in the retailer's website, and in the end <a href="http://www.thebookseller.com/news/28008-samedaybooks-rethinks.htm">the costs involved meant that the service had to become &quot;nextday&quot;</a>.</p>
<p>Things did not really pick up after that: perhaps not helped by the fact that the retailer now had a business branded as Samedaybooks offering the somewhat less exciting proposition of <a href="http://www.samedaybooks.co.uk/index.php">&quot;sameday dispatch&quot;</a>.<br />
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The sad death of managing director Alan Clifford and the increasingly difficult environment for smaller booksellers meant that its shareholders eventually <a href="http://www.thebookseller.com/news/40301-denton-secures-samedaybooks.html... out to investor Charles Denton</a>.<br />
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Denton promised investment, new digital initiatives, acquisitions and less reliance on retail stores. He has been true to his word. In barely three months, Denton has bought an online auction company, closed two shops, brought in Waterstone's head of e-commerce Kieron Smith, raised &pound;750,000, and changed the company's name to the only slightly bizarre ArgentVive. <a href="http://www.thebookseller.com/news/44205-sameday-pulls-out-of-book-shop-d... also tried to buy the always interesting Countrybookshop.co.uk</a>.<br />
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The group has now formed Retail8 Limited a business whose strategy is, through the development of online businesses, to become a major provider of internet based solutions to enterprises across a wide range of industries.<br />
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You could scarcely make this up.</p>
<p>Except, it is all too easy to scoff. And there is something about BookRabbit, I quite like. For a start the website is &quot;next generation&quot; when compared to the <a href="http://www.samedaybooks.co.uk/index.php">Samedaybooks site</a>, or even its rival <a href="http://localbookshops.tbpcontrol.co.uk/tbp.web/customeraccesscontrol/hom.... The implementation has been swift, and in making use of GoogleMaps, I doubt it has cost very much to build.<br />
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Of course, the site needs to work, and for most of today it hasn't--at least not properly. Also, letting random users, such as me, edit bookshop entries doesn't seems like the best idea.</p>
<p><img width="268" height="153" align="left" src="/documents/UserContributed/image/Bookseller%20Images/bookrabbit.gif" alt="" /></p>
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<p>But these are obviously teething issues.</p>
<p>The initiative shows that, along with <a href="http://www.bookdepository.co.uk">The Book Depository</a>, <a href="http://www.countrybookshop.co.uk/">CountryBookshop.co.uk</a>, and <a href="http://www.lovereading.co.uk/">LoveReading.co.uk</a>, UK independents are becoming real pioneers online. Not every idea will stick, not even those that are done well, but the book trade's willingness to keep innovating shows that it isn't facing its last curtain call as <a href="http://www.thebookseller.com/news/46207-high-street-book-shops-under-thr... have predicted</a>.</p>