Developer: Square Wheel
Price: $0.99
Version Reviewed: 2.0.1

iPhone Integration Rating: ★★★☆☆
User Interface Rating: ★★★★☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

All right, I’m a literary junkie. I’m the girl who’s always armed with a book (or two, or three) in her bag, and I like to rely on recommendations for my new purchases. Sadly, any avid reader knows just how easy it is to lose track of the suggestions doled out by friends.

Next Read is meant to be a crisp, organized way to keep track of all of those book recommendations by storing them in a convenient iPhone app, and it works pretty well. You can add books to your list of suggested reading using either the Amazon-based search function or “Quick Add,” which requires both a title and an author, or an ISBN number. The app’s hyped feature, however, is its rating system. Square Wheel touts its “completely customizable” scoring system, which allows you to assign weights based on the origins of the suggestion. Did you hear about it on the radio? Plus one point. From a friend? Plus three. You can create your own categories and edit the pre-existing ones, too. Your list of suggested books will automatically sort itself by ranking, awaiting your next foray into a bookstore.

The interface is clean and sleek, with tabs for the different sections. You can sort suggested books by score, source, author, or genre. There’s no option to sort by title, which is a weird omission. When you tap on a book, you’re presented with a few options. You can raise the ranking of a book, “zero” its score (delete it), and view its details, such as price. You can also jot down notes on the book, browse for Listmania lists, and hop over to Amazon to read reviews, details, or even buy the book. You can also share your lists with other Next Read users over Wi-fi. While I doubt that I’ll find many other users around me, it’s a nice thought. For now, Listmania provides plenty of book lists, if you’d like to download them. Overall, the app nicely organizes your reading list.

As for the rating system, it works fine, but I can’t really see myself using it. For starters, I don’t consider books based on who recommended it to me; I’d rather just be presented with a simple option to not rate my books. For those who want to keep track of their sources, though, it provides a neat way to do so. Because you can adjust a book’s score even once it’s in a category, you can always just ignore the ratings and use the system to figure out whose recommendations are actually worth your while. If you like ratings, then the rating system works. If you don’t, it’s just a triviality.

Integration with Amazon handles well for the most part. I loved being able to look up reviews so easily, and being able to buy the book within the app is a plus. (Instant gratification!) However, I experienced some crashing while viewing Amazon through Next Read. Instability is a pity, especially when coming from such a well-designed app, and getting ungracefully dumped onto my home screen is just annoying. If it wasn’t for the crashing, it would be a great way to browse for books.

My other main gripe lies within the structure of the app itself. Yes, it’s great to be able to look to the future of my literary horizons, but what about the past? When you “zero out” a book, it’s deleted forever. There’s no library-like function where you can go back to review your past reads, or keep track of how many books you’ve read lately. Also, there’s a function where you can shake your iPod to get reccommendations based on a random book from your list. I’d love it to pick a selection based on my entire list, a la Pandora or, rather than a single book. I had Holly Black’s Tithe on my list, and it turned up a bunch of Stephenie Meyer’s novels. Ugh. Not quite, Next Read. Let’s try that again. I also wish that Next Read was integrated with other sites, such as Barnes and Noble or Borders. Amazon doesn’t always have the best prices, especially when the local B&N won’t charge me shipping.

All in all, this is an app for a select audience. If you’re a lover of literature who needs to keep track of books, well, this app is probably worth your while. It’s a very slick way of keeping tabs on your eventual reading to-do list. If not, you probably haven’t gotten this far into the review! The bottom line is that while Next Read won’t do everything, it fulfills its specific mission well enough to make it a keeper. Square Wheel currently has Next Read priced at $0.99.

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