Archive for February, 2007

Saturday, February 10th, 2007

How much do you want to pay?

We were inspired by something John Buckman is doing at the online record label Magnatune. When you buy a CD, Magnatune asks “How much do you want to pay?” and gives you a price menu. You can’t pay nothing, but you get some latitude. You can low-ball them a bit, or, if you’re feeling grateful, pay more.

It sounded like a fun idea to us. We’ve had people—and not a few—pay twice to thank us. But we’ve also had emails from people who say they’ll buy a membership next time they get their pay check, disability, etc. That kills us, so we’ve given out a lot of “pending” membership.*

The “typical” amount is the old fixed amount: $10 for a year’s membership, $25 for a lifetime membership. I’m dying to find out if we take a bath, break even or pick up a few extra bucks. Anyway, we’re going to try it out until Valentine’s day at least. (Speaking of which, don’t forget the ten-million book/Valentine’s day/President’s day bookpile contest.)

We learned about Magnatune’s idea watching a Japanese piece on John Buckman on YouTube. Buckman was in Japan to speak at the New Context Conference 2006. The guy in the cowboy hat interview him in English, added highlights from his talk, and explanatory wrapper in Japanese. (Here he explains the pricing idea, but those are the only English words, so I have no idea what he says about it.)

Buckman is, of course, also the founder of BookMooch, the largest book-swapping site out there.** LibraryThing and Bookmooch have warm relations—lots of shared users and mutual linking—and I’ve spoken to Buckman a few times. He “gets it,” so we’re happy to borrow an idea from him.

* My favorite “pending” account was the U. S. diplomat in central Asia, who wondered if she could pay us when she rotated back and we couldn’t offered to send us a check via diplomatic pouch. I really want to send a CueCat via diplomatic pouch!
** Judged by Alexa traffic (28,185 vs. 31,032 for PBS on 2/10), not that Alexa means much. PaperbackSwap has been around longer, and may have more members, but it’s a walled garden and, we think, not going anywhere until it opens up.

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Thursday, February 8th, 2007

THE ten millionth book

At long last (and after some intensive database searching), we are pleased to present LibraryThing’s ten millionth book. Drumroll please…

The city in which I love you: poems, by Li-Young Lee was added just after noon last Saturday, by user vinodv.* We’re giving Vinod a lifetime account for this honor. According to his profile, Vinod is in Cambridge, MA—Tim’s hometown, and just across the river from Abby. Hey, we could be hand-delivering a CueCat to go with that membership!**

The celebration continues though—get your entries in for the biggest baddest book pile bonanza ever.

*This was also apparently the very first book Vindod added to his catalog. Quel distinction!
**Only half joking, I think.

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Wednesday, February 7th, 2007

Ten million books and contest extravaganza

In honor of hitting the big 10 million book mark this week, we’re having a book pile contest bonanza. We’re combining three contests into one here—Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, and of course, ten million books.

The challenge. Start taking pictures. Your book piles can be love themed, president themed, or just the coolest damn book photo you can create.

The prizes. We’ll pick five winners, who will each receive a year’s membership to LibraryThing. The grand prize winner will receive a $100 gift certificate. The catch? That hundred dollars must be spent entirely on one book. So start looking around Abe’s Rare Book Room…* (Amazon is fine too.)

The rules. Post your photos to Flickr, as usual. Tag them “LibraryThing10mil“.**

The deadline. The contest ends on February 16th, at midnight, EST. We’ll announce all the winners on Monday, February 19th.

*This is harder than you might think. A signed and first edition copy of The Little Prince sold for $10,450 last year, and that was only the 7th most expensive book sold in 2006 on Abe. Sadly, we will not be buying you this $55,471 copy of The Tale of Peter Rabbit. So if you had the $100, what one book would you try to get?
**Users who already posted Valentine’s or Presidents photos to Flickr after I said this, can you change and/or add the tag LibraryThing10mil? Sorry and thanks.

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Tuesday, February 6th, 2007

Better work combining

Until now, work combination was an author thing, if two works didn’t share authors they couldn’t be combined. This is good enough most of the time. But some works have multiple authors with different ones taking the “main author” spot in different catalogs. And it didn’t work with authorless works.

For now, you can’t combine any work, but only ones that share an ISBN. The list of potential combinations is available on each work’s “book information” page (), at the bottom of the page. If it proves useful and popular, I may move it.

Here’s a good example—three editions of (multi-author) Cluetrain Manifesto that weren’t combined with the main one:

But not every suggestion is good. Here’s The Rule of Four. I have no idea what that Babichev book is doing there. It might be member error, a source error, a publisher reusing ISBNs or a rogue publishing reusing a known number instead of paying for a new one. Anyway, I suggest you don’t combine it!

Unfortunately, this doesn’t fix authors generally. The Cluetrain Manifesto is still listed under a single “main” author. We hope to change that soon.

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Tuesday, February 6th, 2007

Never the Twain shall meet, um, Gibbon

Frustrated that Terry Prattchet and Neil Gaiman keep getting combined? Unforunately, the system makes a few bad combination suggestions, and now and then somebody takes it up on them. To solve this I’ve added a feature to the author pages:

I kicked things off by permanently divorcing Edward Gibbon from Mark Twain (!). But I’ll let you guys tackle Gaiman. I’ve deputized the Combiners group (which, in the best LT tradition, sprang into being spontaneously) as the place to fight out whether Jack London and Emile Zola are really the same author.

More changes along these lines soon, including visible logs for combination action.

PS: I also cut down on the number of “Also known as” names visible, unless you click “see complete list.” Nabokov was getting absurd…

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Tuesday, February 6th, 2007

10 million books and 303 LT Authors

In continuation with our celebration of 10 million books, today we’ve also hit 303 LibraryThing Authors.* Sara Ryan / sararyan just became our three hundred and third LibraryThing Author. The best part? Sara’s also a librarian! Her first book, Empress of the World was excellent, so watch for her second novel, The Rules for Hearts, which comes out in April.

Keep watching for more of the 10 million books celebration blogging!

*I must not have been paying attention when number 300 must have breezed by me, but it’s always good to celebrate a palindrome, I say. Who doesn’t love a palindrome?

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Monday, February 5th, 2007

Ten million books!

On Saturday LibraryThing acquired its ten millionth book. Ten million is a bunch. Ten million means something. LibraryThing is no longer a “worthless jumble” of books and tags. It’s, it’s…

  • A meaningful jumble of books and tags
  • A hook to hang a bunch of pretty charts and graphs
  • An excuse for a book pile contest
  • A cause for celebration, and a party
  • A special cause for celebration for the guy who added number 10,000,000
  • An occasion to lay out future plans and goals

And probably a few other things. Anyway, it’s big enough that it won’t fit in one blog post, and with everything we have to do and all the vinho verde we need to drink this week, I’m expecting ten-million blog posts to drag on for days.

A meaningful jumble of books and tags. Ten million books translates into a piles of data, and piles of data means fun with statistics. And we’ve been having fun.

Today I added a new “combined” recommendation list. It draws on LibraryThing’s five existing recommendation algorithms to come up with a “best” list. I’ve replaced the longer list of recommendations on the work pages, wth a link to the Suggester page, where you can see all the lists.* (I’d be interested to hear if people appreciate the simplification or still want the full lists on the work pages.) Combined recommendations are available for 230,000 works. Because of variable work popularity, this amounts to recommendations for 72% of all the books in people’s libraries.

Alongside books, LibraryThing’s tags have also been growing. Although we’ve rarely celebrated milestones, tags are the untold story of LibraryThing. LibraryThing members have added thirteen million of them–an unprecented web of meaning in the book world. Check out a tag like chick lit, cyberpunk or paranormal romance and tell me what you think. I think LibraryThing members have arrived at something close to the paradigmatic reading list for these hard-to-pin-down genres.

On the subjet of tags, I recently did a statistical sample of Amazon’s book tagging. I estimate that since November 2005, Amazon customers have added about one-million book tags. When LibraryThing, a niche site, collects 13 times as many book tags as Amazon, one of the top-ten most visited sites, something is up. I’ll blog about it soon, but I think the basic answer is clear. Letting people tag “their stuff” works like gangbusters. Asking customers to tag “your stuff” doesn’t. People make their beds every day. But nobody goes down to the local Sheraton to fluff their pillows.

*Not quite. There are actually ten recommendation lists at play since, when the recommendations are sparse, we factor in a “flip-around” of the recommender-recommended relationship.

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Saturday, February 3rd, 2007

More Mosaics

“You are what you read” has turned into a bit of a mini-meme, with Chuck Close-style book cover portraits popping up all over. In addition to David Louis Edelman’s post that started it all, we have Geoff Coupe’s, followed by two excellent blog posts.

Mark Edon (that’s him at right) posted a Mac-oriented tutorial, including a very useful method for using Safari to quickly download all the images from the “All Your Covers” page.

4:14 has posted an extensive PC-oriented tutorial, replete with screenshots, which also gives guidance on grabbing images, as well as AndreaMosaic tips. And in a new twist, it goes all postmodern by using book covers to make a mosaic of… a book cover.

We love these things. Send in more, and we’ll start a gallery.

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Friday, February 2nd, 2007

Boston meet-up

Anyone in the Boston area should head to the Boston Public Library tomorrow (Saturday Feb 3rd) for a LibraryThing meet-up. (Directions to the BPL are here). It’s planned to coincide with the Friends of the Boston Public Library booksale.

We’re planning on meeting by Novel restaurant (first floor of the McKim building) at 2pm.

Hope to see you there!

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Thursday, February 1st, 2007

Black History Month bookpile

I don’t want to knock John’s cool all your covers toy off the top of the blog (quick, everyone who hasn’t already, go read that post), but it is February 1st, so I have to announce the winner of the Black History Month book pile contest.

So, congratulations to lilithcat (mojosmom on Flickr) for this fantastic music themed pile, which wins in my eyes for having both Eartha Kitt’s Confessions of a Sex Kitten and the Amistad opera libretto.* I mean, that’s range.

I’ve also made up a page showing all the past book pile contests (an archive, if you will), so go take a peek at that. And as always, we’re looking for suggestions for future contests.

The next one is going to be a presidents vs. lovers one—President’s day? Valentine’s day? All-in-one grand pile (lovers of presidents?)? You choose! As always, post your pictures to Flickr, and tag them “LibraryThingPresidents” and/or “LibraryThingLovers”. Get them in by February 21st at 3pm EST.**

*My sister was a shipwright at Mystic Seaport when they rebuilt the Amistad, but I didn’t know there was an opera until just now…
**UPDATE – deadline and contest has slightly changed. See this blog post for details. Basically, the prizes got better, and your photos have to be tagged LibraryThing10mil.

Labels: book pile