Tuesday, November 24th, 2015

SantaThing 2015: Bookish Secret Santa

We’re pleased to announce that the ninth annual SantaThing is here at last!

What’s SantaThing? SantaThing is Secret Santa for LibraryThing members.

Done this before?

» Sign up for SantaThing!


You pay into the SantaThing system (choose from $15–$50). You play Santa to a LibraryThing member we pick for you, by selecting books for them. Another Santa does the same for you, in secret. LibraryThing does the ordering, and you get the joy of giving AND receiving books!

Sign up once or thrice, for yourself or someone else. If you sign up for someone without a LibraryThing account, make sure to mention what kinds of books they like, so their Santa can choose wisely.

Even if you don’t want to be a Santa, you can help by suggesting books for others.


Sign-ups close MONDAY, December 7th at 5pm Eastern. By Tuesday morning, we’ll notify you via profile comment who your Santee is, and you can start picking books.

Picking closes FRIDAY, December 11th at 5pm Eastern. As soon as the picking ends, the ordering begins, and we’ll get all the books out to you as soon as we can.

» Go sign up to become a Secret Santa now!


Every year we tweak SantaThing a little. This year we’re happy to have Portland’s own Sherman’s Books & Stationery as our official local SantaThing store, Powell’s, Book Depository, iBooks, and Amazon (including national ones) as our booksellers. You can choose to have your books picked and sent from any of these stores at any and all price points.

Just like last year, the Kindle Only option is available to all members, regardless of location. So long as your Kindle is registered on Amazon.com (not .co.uk, .ca, etc.), you can elect to receive your SantaThing gifts as Kindle ebooks. See more information about Kindle and SantaThing here.

Every year, LT members give generously to each other through SantaThing. If you’d like to donate an entry, or want to participate, but it’s just not in the budget this year, be sure to check out our Donations Thread.


Some of our booksellers are able to offer free shipping, and some are not. Depending on your bookseller of choice, you may receive $5 less in books, to cover shipping costs. You can find details about shipping costs and holiday ordering deadlines for each of our booksellers here on the SantaThing Help page.

Go sign up now!


See the SantaThing Help page further details and FAQ.

Feel free to ask your questions over on this Talk topic. As always, you’re welcome to email us at info@librarything.com or you can reach Loranne directly at loranne@librarything.com.

Happy SantaThinging!

Labels: events, santathing

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015

November Early Reviewers batch is live!

The November 2015 batch of Early Reviewer books is up! We’ve got 96 titles this month, and a grand total of 2,360 copies to give out. Which books are you hoping to snag this month? Come tell us on Talk!

If you haven’t already, sign up for Early Reviewers. If you’ve already signed up, please check your mailing/email address and make sure they’re correct.

» Then request away!

The deadline to request a copy is Monday, November 30th at 6pm Eastern.

Eligiblity: Publishers do things country-by-country. This month we have publishers who can send books to the US, Canada, the UK, Israel, Australia, France, and many more. Make sure to check the flags by each book to see if it can be sent to your country.

Thanks to all the publishers participating this month!

Tundra Books MSI Press Henry Holt and Company
Chosen Books ArbeitenZeit Media EsKape Press
Crown Publishing William Morrow Raincloud Press
Jupiter Gardens Press Velvet Morning Press Random House
Wisconsin Historical Society Press Pneuma Springs Publishing Prufrock Press
Beacon Press CarTech Books Recorded Books
HighBridge Audio Yew Tree Books The Dial Press
Human Kinetics Booktrope Akashic Books
EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing BookViewCafe Avery
Leap Books Bellevue Literary Press Ballantine Books
Bantam Dell

Labels: early reviewers, LTER

Monday, October 26th, 2015

Q&A with David Mitchell

David Mitchell—award-winning author of Man Booker Prize shortlist nominees Cloud Atlas and Number9Dream—is known for his complex narratives, spanning decades of time and generations of characters, frequently with a hint of the paranormal. Mitchell holds an M.A. in Comparative literature from the University of Kent. In addition to his own novels, he also translated the memoirThe Reason I Jump into English from the original Japanese.

Slade House is Mitchell’s seventh novel (out October 27th, from Random House), and is our pick for November’s One LibraryThing, One Book group read (starting November 9th). On the heels of last year’s The Bone Clocks, Mitchell’s latest is a sharp riff on the haunted house story, with its own rules and surprises.

David was kind enough to chat with LibraryThing staffer Loranne about haunted houses, Twitter, and his latest work.

Slade House fits within the broader world you created in The Bone Clocks, while also being a self-contained haunted house story. What spooky tales are personal favorites/did you draw on for your inspiration?

The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs sets the gold standard, for me. Lordy lordy it’s good. Stylistically polished, philosophically attentive and with its cosmology and present time-line in perfect balance, it’s no accident that this English short story from 1902 appears in so many anthologies of the supernatural. Poe casts a long shadow from an earlier era, but you read him more for sound, colour and flavour than to be outwitted; ditto H.P. Lovecraft.

For the longest successful single-narrative haunted house story that doesn’t develop into horror, I’d go back to Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, which is both a flawless novella and an exploration of the genre: are the ghosts parapsychological or psychiatric in origin? M.R. James’ dreamlike stories beguile more than they frighten a modern readership, but stories like his often-anthologised “Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come To You My Lad” persist in the memory for decades. Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House prefigures an evolutionary jump in the 1970s with cinematic American novels by Stephen King and his generation. King often confounds the Ghosts + Gore = Horror equation, and I don’t see how it’s possible not to be influenced by The Shining, once you’ve read it. (Kubrick’s film is justly famous, but differs from King’s fine novel in several key points.)

The last influence I’ll refer to here is an American book whose title and author I’ve forgotten: it was one of those Choose Your Own Adventure books from the early 1980s which my local library in Malvern stocked—they were hugely popular, and the resourceful librarian had to reinforce the spines and covers with adhesive clear plastic. The book I’m thinking of was set in a witch’s house, and one of its plot-lines ended up with you dropping a tea-pot and smashing it on the floor. You said, “I’m sorry, I’ll pay for it,” and the witch replied, “Oh but you will”: and no matter how many fragments of porcelain you picked up, you could never finish—nor could never stop bending down to pick up more. Sisyphean and dark or what?!

Interviewer’s note: I was a huge Choose Your Own Adventure fan as a kid myself, and now I’m dying to know which one this is! Any LibraryThingers out there have a guess?

I think part of why the haunted house story resonates so well is that many of us recall a strange house that others automatically avoided (for reasons supernatural or not) from our childhoods. Is there a “haunted house” that you remember from when you were growing up?

Cool question. There’s a totemic quality about childhood, meaning that pre-adulthood endows you with an ability to award sentience to inanimate objects. That stain on the wall is a melting face; that swirl of grain and knots in the pine wardrobe is a Cyclops bent over in laughter; those creaks in the nooks and crannies of the night are—obviously—the footsteps of the orc made out of chewing gum you were dreaming about just now. My point is that kids experience every house as potentially haunted, even the small post-war, cookie-cutter mass-constructed houses that me and pretty much everyone I knew in my childhood lived in.

Since you ask for one specific house, though, I’ll offer up a bungalow owned by one of my mum’s friends on the English coastal town of Bognor Regis. Mum took me on a visit there around 1980, when I was eleven. The trip wasn’t a great idea. My mum’s friend’s malign mother also lived in the bungalow and she disliked children. Also resident was a grandfather clock, and in my perception, it and the old woman were somehow one and the same. The clock watched the long hallway and its rhythmic ‘thunk-click, thunk-click, thunk-click’ was like a wood-and-bronze cardio-pulmonary system. One morning I stopped the pendulum with my hand. The silence was thunderous and I grew scared that I’d killed the clock. I tried to set the pendulum swinging again, but instead of a calm and even rhythm like before, the pendulum swung irregularly and drunkenly, and any further remedial measures just made things worse. In fiction, of course, I’d then discover the corpse of the unpleasant old woman: in reality, I did what any honest and conscientious Sunday School boy would do: flee the scene of the crime and deny all knowledge. Three times, before the cock crowed.

The structure of Slade House is similar to that of The Bone Clocks: each section follows the perspective a different character than the one before, skipping ahead at nine-year intervals. What was your favorite section or scene to write and why?

I like Nathan in 1979 because in it I’m setting up the story and because the boy is such a square peg in a round hole. I like Gordon the cop in 1988 because Nathan set up expectations which I can now confound. I like Sally in 1997 because of her insecurities and the fast succession of house party scenes allows me to (try to) get a bit David Lynch-esque. I like Freya in 2006 because through her I can explore the origin stories of Slade House. I like the fifth and final section, because I get to occupy the body of the novel’s antagonist, and it’s always fulfilling to endow characters with the requisite three dimensions. So really, I liked writing all of the sections: if you’re not enjoying it, it’s usually because you’ve taken a wrong turn, so you need to backtrack and work out how to fix it. Then you enjoy it again.

You’ve explored Twitter as a storytelling medium more than most—Slade House having evolved out of The Right Sort, and now with the companion piece of @I_Bombadil. What’s it like writing a story for Twitter vs. working on a novel?

Working on a novel is like describing a landscape over which you are floating in a slow-drifting balloon, with powerful binoculars, on a bright afternoon with perfect weather conditions. Working on Twitter fiction is like describing a landscape of tunnels and gorges you are glimpsing through the fogged-up window of a bullet-train. Twitter fiction also demands short names: have a name as long as ‘Benedict Cumberbatch’ and you may as well knock off early and go home.

»For more from David, check out our full interview here!

Labels: author interview

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

One LibraryThing, One Book: Slade House

We’re back for another round of the site-wide group read, One LibraryThing, One Book.

This month’s pick is the upcoming novel from Cloud Atlas and The Bone Clocks author, David Mitchell, entitled Slade House. Out October 27th, Slade House is a riff on the haunted house story, and explores five different characters’ encounters with the titular Slade House, spanning from 1979 to the present day. It’s a standalone novel, which also takes place in the same universe as last year’s The Bone Clocks. If you’re a fan of Mitchell’s work, or just like a good spooky tale (especially about creepy, old houses), I think you’ll enjoy this one!

UPDATE: I recently had the opportunity to interview author David Mitchell! For more on Slade House and his work, check it out!


For the uninitiated, here’s how One LibraryThing, One Book works.

Official discussion will begin on Monday, November 9th, at 12pm Eastern. Slade House is a very quick, shot read, so we will not be breaking this one up into chunks as we have with past OLOB picks. Until discussion kickoff, we ask that members not create any new Talk topics for Slade House. On the 9th, go right ahead!


If you have any questions about One LibraryThing, One Book, or want to see what we’ve read in the past, check out our OLOB blog archive.

After Slade House, we’ll be taking a bit of a break until the new year, at which point we’ll be voting on our next OLOB pick.

Questions? Comments? Feel free to post them in the One LibraryThing, One Book group, or drop me a line at loranne@librarything.com.

Labels: One LibraryThing One Book

Monday, October 19th, 2015

LibraryThing App!


We’re thrilled to announce the official LibraryThing iPhone App!

Free accounts. We’re giving away lifetime memberships to anyone who uses the app for the next month. Register for a new account using the LibraryThing App, or sign into the app with an existing account, and you’ll be automatically upgraded.

What it does. This is our first version, so we’ve limited it to doing the most basic functions you’ll need for cataloging on the go:

  • Browse and search your library.
  • Add books by scanning barcodes. Scanning to add is VERY FAST!
  • Add books by searching.
  • Browse and upload covers, using the iPhone camera.
  • Do minor editing, such as changing collections and ratings. Major editing sends you to LibraryThing.

Check out the app at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/librarything/id948824489?mt=8

Come tell us what you think, and join the discussion on Talk. Need help? Check out our App Help Page.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there an Android version of the app?
Not yet. With luck, we’ll do that next. Tim outlined some of the key reasons why we did iPhone first here.

Does it work on wifi? Offline?
Wifi, you bet. Offline, no.

Can I use it on my iPad?
It’s designed for the iPhone, but works on the iPad. NB: iPad cameras don’t have a built in flash, so you’ll want to make sure you’re scanning barcodes in a well-lit room.

Will you add X, Y, or Z features?
The app will never do everything, but future versions will do more. Your feedback is welcome on this Talk topic.

Labels: app, new features

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015

October Early Reviewers batch is live!

The October 2015 batch of Early Reviewer books is up! We’ve got 82 titles this month, and a grand total of 2,130 copies to give out, including new books from Umberto Eco, Dean Koontz, and David Mitchell. Which books are you hoping to snag this month? Come tell us on Talk!

If you haven’t already, sign up for Early Reviewers. If you’ve already signed up, please check your mailing/email address and make sure they’re correct.

» Then request away!

The deadline to request a copy is Monday, October 26th at 6pm Eastern.

Eligiblity: Publishers do things country-by-country. This month we have publishers who can send books to the US, Canada, the UK, Israel, Australia, France, and many more. Make sure to check the flags by each book to see if it can be sent to your country.

Thanks to all the publishers participating this month!

Henry Holt and Company Kregel Publications Lion Fiction
Tundra Books MSI Press Taylor Trade Publishing
Humanist Press CarTech Books P.R.A. Publishing
In Fact Books Akashic Books Beacon Press
Avery Vinspire Publishing, LLC Velvet Morning Press
Pneuma Springs Publishing Recorded Books HighBridge Audio
Random House EsKape Press Human Kinetics
Ballantine Books ForeEdge Brandeis University Press
Booktrope Bookkus Publishing BookViewCafe
Wisconsin Historical Society Press Putnam Books Tantor Media
EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing JournalStone

Labels: early reviewers, LTER

Monday, September 14th, 2015

LibraryThing’s 10th Anniversary

Happy birthday to us! LibraryThing hits the big 1-0 today, with 10 years—and 99 MILLION books—of cataloging under our belts. As you can see, we’re all having our cake (and eating it, too) to celebrate.

Thanks to each and every one of you, and here’s to the next 10 years!

Come share in the warm fuzzies over on Talk.

For more about our Ten-Year Celebration, check out our new feature to enhance music and movie cataloging, and watch for our iPhone app, coming out shortly.

Labels: 10th anniversary, birthday

Monday, September 14th, 2015

Music and movie cataloging (but we’re still a book site)

Short version: LibraryThing is and will remain a book site. But we never stopped people from cataloging other media, like movies and music. We’re now making it much easier to do. Check it out and add your non-book library at https://www.librarything.com/addbooks.

Medium version: LibraryThing is a book site, and will remain so. But many members, especially our small libraries, have always cataloged other media, such as movies and music. We allowed it, but didn’t support it well at all. In particular, we disabled non-book searching on Amazon, allowing it only on our library sources.

A few months ago we introduced a robust concept of media format. We’ve now opened up cataloging other media on the Amazon sources, which are far easier and better for the purpose.

Check it out at https://www.librarything.com/addbooks


Long version:

Why Are We Doing This? Adding other media has been planned for years. The main driver has been small libraries—churches, community centers, small museums, etc.—a major constituent of LibraryThing’s success. Although small libraries mostly collect books, they don’t limit themselves to books any more than public and academic libraries do. Our failings in the area really hurt us.

This change means that LibraryThing is now a “complete” cataloging system. This lets us reach small libraries as we never could before—something we plan to do even more strongly when TinyCat debuts.

We are also conscious that many “regular” members wanted to catalog their non-book libraries. I want to, anyway, and I know I’m not alone.

Worried? We are conscious of some members’ worries, for example that LibraryThing is “turning into” a movie site. These are valid concerns. Here’s how we responded and will respond:

Screenshot 2015-09-14 14.16.30
Movies have been on LibraryThing for a long time.
  • LibraryThing is a site for book lovers and readers. This isn’t going to change.
  • Books get me and the rest of the team up in the morning. That isn’t going to change.
  • LibraryThing has had movies and music since the beginning—hundreds of thousands are already cataloged. Directors and composers have had author pages since the beginning. The recommendations system has recommended movies and music since the beginning. If movies “pollute” LibraryThing, it’s been polluted for a long time.
  • Now, however, we know what’s a book, a movie, and so forth. Knowing means we can adapt the site’s features to deal with that. As a start, by popular request, we’ve changed our site search to “facet” by format. Other accomodations, like a way to refuse all non-book recommendations, can certainly be considered.
  • We don’t expect a crushing influx of non-book media or members. But if LibraryThing appeals to new people who want to catalog all their media, that isn’t a bad thing.

New Features. The following features have been added, or changed, in order of importance.

  • Add Books sources now include music, movies and combined sources for all the Amazon national sites (e.g., “Amazon.com books, music and movies”).
  • To build awareness, we’ve added one “Amazon books, music and movies” source to all members’ sources. If you don’t want it, the new Add Books sources system makes it easy to delete. There are also sources for just movies and just music.
  • Amazon-added movies and music have covers, based on the ASIN, not the ISBN. This change also gives LibraryThing ebook covers.
  • We’ve added media-based faceting in site search.
  • You can search both Amazon and Overcat by UPC.

Cataloging Non-Books Media. Movies and music aren’t books, but libraries catalog them with some of the same basic structure and concepts. Movies and music have titles, publication dates, subjects, Dewey classifications, etc. “Authors” is more complex. Library records generally mix directors, actors, producers and screenwriters into one set of contributors, with their roles not always marked. Amazon records are better here, clearly delineating the various roles. But they don’t have the name-control libraries have.

We’ve solved this as follows:

  • When possible, movies get director as their main author. This is always possible with Amazon records, but not with library records.
  • We’ve improved how we handle author names from Amazon, leveraging Amazon data against what we know from tens of millions of library records. So, for example, we’re handing “The Beatles” as “The Beatles” not “Beatles, The.” This change improves Amazon cataloging generally.
  • Where listed, actors, producers, musicians and so forth get secondary author status and roles. This means that actors have LibraryThing author pages. (But they had them before, as noted above. If this proves a problem, we can mark them somehow as a site-wide feature.)
  • We’ve improved media format detection of MARC records within Overcat, especially for odd MARC formats, like DANMARC (a specialized MARC format used in—you guessed it—Denmark).

Let Us Know. Let us know what you think on Talk.

Labels: cataloging, new feature, new features

Friday, September 11th, 2015

Edit and reorder sources in Add Books

Good news: We’ve improved the sources system within Add Books a lot.

Bad news: We had to transition to an entirely new sources system. Most members kept their sources, but some members and some sources couldn’t go into the new system easily. If you lost sources, you may need to choose them again. Fortunately, the new system’s a lot better at that.

You can find the new options on Add Books:

Everything now happens in a light box. The “Your Sources” tab allows you to reorder and delete sources.

You can browse and choose sources, divided into “Featured” and “All Sources” on the other two tabs.

As you’ll notice, a fair number of our sources are currently down. We’re working to get as many up again as possible, and add new ones. If you’d like to help and know something about Z39.50 connections, you’ll find we give our current connection details when you click the yellow warning marker.

You’ll also see other, very significant new stuff. But that’s a matter for another blog post!

Three cheers to our developer Ammar for the add-books changes!

Labels: cataloging, new features

Thursday, September 10th, 2015

Cover Improvements!

As we’ve hinted, we’ve made some big changes to covers on LibraryThing recently. There are more covers to choose from than ever, and we’re excited to show you what’s new!

1. All of the Covers from Amazon

No, really, all of them. LibraryThing now shows all Amazon covers for your books and other media—this includes covers for books with ASINs (and no ISBNs). So many of your ebooks, CDs and DVDs now have Amazon covers available to use.

You can also see stats on your cover usage—where your covers come from, and how many of them you’re using from various sources. To see where your covers are coming from, check out the Book Covers section of Stats/Memes.

2. Change your cover, keep your ISBN

Changing the cover for one of your books to a different Amazon cover no longer forces you to change the ISBN of your book. You’ll still have the option to switch ISBNs if you like, but it’s no longer required. When switching to a new Amazon cover that’s associated with a different ISBN, you’ll see the dialog box pictured at right, with a check box to indicate whether you’d like to change your ISBN, too.

3. Cover Flagging

Members have long been able to flag cover images that are not valid covers for a given work, by voting “yes” or “no” on an individual cover. Now those flags really matter—covers with enough flags can’t be chosen as the main cover for a work. Like this picture of some seals on a beach, which is definitely not a cover.*

To try it out, select a cover image, click the “Information” magnifying glass, and then click the “Flag this cover” link in the detail box that pops up.


4. Real fake covers
Screenshot 2015-09-10 16.57.20Lastly, works without covers are now showing the title on the fake cover. See example, example, example. Or see the image to the right.

The trick is, the words aren’t superimposed on the covers. We’re actually making images that include the words on the covers. This is a neat trick, allowing us to produce “fake” covers at any size we want, wherever we want–on any page, inside or outside of LibraryThing.

So far this technology is only on work pages. It’ll be spreading elsewhere soon.

Questions? Comments?

Any questions or trouble with new covers? Come join the discussion on Talk.

* Covers will be flagged down if:
  • Vote “yes” totals at least 4.
  • Vote “yes” totals at least 3x vote “no”.

Labels: covers, new features