The App that Puts You in the Book

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"Most things in San Francisco can be bought or taken."

So claims detective Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon, the crime novel set in and around the Tenderloin. With Falcon and its tough-as-nails protagonist, author Dashiell Hammett cemented the gritty, cynical voice that inspired the noir genre in film and literature.

Now, the detective and his fictional fellows are taking over our laptop screens -- and real-life haunts -- as well, thanks to the introduction of Placingliterature.com. Founded by an author, geographer and software engineer, the app aims to be a crowdsourced web application that features a map with pins connecting our favorite books to their real-life settings.

Unlike a lot of literary devices, this one's accessible: Anyone armed with a smartphone and a bookish sense of adventure can "check in" at their favorite literary characters' stomping grounds throughout the Bay, from the dark Lobos Creek sewer opening in Christopher Moore's A Dirty Job to the home of dissatisfied wife Lena Ying in The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan.

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As of early July, Placingliterature's interface is looking pretty spare. The Bay Area book selection is sparse and strangely skewed towards two or three niche authors, and though book icons appear across the world map, it still has a long way to go before calling itself an "online database" of world literature.

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A wider selection will draw more of the crowdsourcers this app needs right now, to generate both content and buzz. Otherwise, the bare bones of the app are looking solid. All that remains is to wrap them up in books and figure out how to show us what the books are.


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