The wealth of information available online is staggering. While all of this information is available, the knowledge contained is not necessarily put to use by people in their day-to-day activities. A recent study suggested that users primarily access the Web through search engines. To do this, people must first decide they need information, navigate to the appropriate engine, and then distill their request into keywords describing it.
This mode of information access may be useful for many digital tasks, that is, activities that occur on or around a computer. However, it tends not to be as useful for those activities we normally associate with the physical world, such as browsing books in a library or bookstore.
Furthermore, since many of our actions are opportunistic and reactive. The requirements of having a computer, an Internet connection, knowledge of appropriate information sources and how to access them, and the patience to condense our needs into keywords, severely limits the situations in which it is practical to look for online information.
XLibris takes a step toward bridging the gap between the physical world of objects and the world of online resources, specifically within the realm of books. An information aggregation engine, XLibris is activated when a book's barcode is scanned while being checked out of a library. It then searches for relevant information about that book and related content and puts together a "micro site," the URL of which is e-mailed to the person who checked out the book. Designed to make extensive use of networked information resources, XLibris provides references for related books, journal articles, author biographies and links to pertinent web sites directly to mobile devices, kiosks or via e-mail.
XLibris locates books in the Dewey Decimal subject hierarchy to automatically search for the most relevant information about the book for the user, tailoring both the sources queried and the information returned based on the book's position in the hierarchy. XLibris illustrates how limited knowledge about a user's task coupled with information about the objects they are interacting with can be sufficient to retrieve relevant online information, facilitating the research process.