AUSTIN, TEXAS – Finding your next great read could be as easy as walking down the street. Squirl, a new app that looks to connect readers, books, and up-and-coming authors, links literary locations with their real-life equivalents.
I encountered Squirl at SXSW 2015, where one of the developers showed it off, complete with a person in a giant squirrel costume in tow. What caught my eye was a screenshot that showed exactly what the app, once finished, will be capable of: walking past 221B Baker Street in London and having a notification pop up about A Study in Scarlet, the first Sherlock Holmes book.
Here's how it works: You install Squirl on your smartphone (it will eventually be available for both iOS and Android). Then, you go about your everyday business, and notifications will pop up when you pass by a location mentioned in a book. This, of course, makes the app more useful in a big city like New York or London than in rural or suburban areas.
Squirl will likely program a number of locations from public domain and popular books in to seed the queue, and hopes that users will do the same. However, Squirl has one other very important purpose: highlighting new and self-published authors.
Self-publishing for digital platforms has made it easier than ever to launch a book, but harder than ever to sell it. Squirl could provide small authors a novel and free way to advertise their books to the world. Whether readers will be more likely to read a book just because it contains a recognizable location is anyone's guess, but it's at least a clever and unobtrusive way to get the word out.
Squirl is still in development, and has no set release date, although it will presumably be available for free. Keep an eye on both the iOS and Android app stores to download the app when it launches.
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