Archive for August, 2007

Wednesday, August 8th, 2007

Harry Potter book pile contest winners

Thanks to everyone for entering the Harry Potter book pile contest, and providing me with yet another incredibly creative batch of entries (you certainly don’t make judging easy!)*

The winner! j2.0 (janetmck on Flickr), with the aptly named “Parceltongue?” gets a $50 gift certificate to use at a bookstore of their choice.

Second prize—and a lifetime gift membership—goes to ellen.w (et al.), with proof that reading is social :)

And because there were just too many great entries, I’m also giving annual memberships to 5** runners up—pictured below.***

amarie with the Weasley clock bookpile.

Sabrinanymph with
“McGonagall goes after the quill”.

Jenglo with
“…he who shall not be named…”

Hogwarts student’s desk

And lastly, playful, who reminds us that there is life (and indeed, books!) beyond Harry Potter…

Stay tuned, we’ll announce the winners of the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows review contest soon.

You can see all of the entries under the LibraryThingHarryPotter tag on Flickr, and check out our own book pile archive for all the past contest winners.

*I blame the delay in posting the winners entirely on J.K. Rowling. After finishing book 7, I had to go back and re-read 1-7 again (thus cutting into my nightly work hours).
**For a total of seven winners—coincidence? I think not.
**Email me (abbylibrarything.com) to claim your prizes! Oh, and include your LT user names so I can update this post with the right attributions…

Labels: book pile, contest, harry potter

Wednesday, August 8th, 2007

Good days and strange days

Today we had our best day since since we hit the New York Times back in March. Members entered 65,606 books. Fortunately, the system held up well. We hit 17 million books.

Weirdly, we have no idea what’s going on! The numbers are way up for a Tuesday. We introduced a whole bunch of Dutch sources, but the word is only just starting to get out. Nor is it just a couple of users. Does someone know something we don’t?

UPDATE: There will be no more Dutch news today.

Labels: milestones

Tuesday, August 7th, 2007

Will the Dutch-ness ever stop?

We just inked a deal with AquaBrowser, an Amsterdam-based library catalog company. See the Thingology Post.

Labels: 1

Tuesday, August 7th, 2007

Rijksmuseum Research Library

After yesterday’s announcement of four major Dutch-language sources, we got an email from someone at the Rijksmuseum Research Library, inviting us to add them too. We were happy to.

As anyone who’s been to the Netherlands knows, the Rijksmuseum (site, Wikipedia) is Amsterdam’s phenomenal art museum. The Research Library (site, Wikipedia) is apparently the largest art historical museum library in the Netherlands, housing some 140,000 monographs as well as serials and auction catalogs. It’s also first art-history library in LibraryThing, and should be useful for bibliophiles with art interests.

Labels: dutch books, libraries

Monday, August 6th, 2007

Hallo! (Getting serious about Dutch books)




I’ve added four book sources for Dutch readers: the Dutch Royal Library (KB), the Royal Library of Belgium (KBR) and booksellers Bol.com and Bruna.nl. With luck, they’ll be a few more soon.*

This should be big boost for our Dutch site, LibraryThing.nl. Until now, there was only one Dutch-language source, TU Delft**. Between the four new sources LibraryThing now embraces virtually all in-print Dutch books, 70,000 cover images and millions of older books.

I hope this will make LibraryThing a much more attrative place for Dutch readers to catalog their books and do the other things LibraryThing is about.

Adding Dutch books required extensive work. Giovanni, LibraryThing’s newest (fractional) employee, helped us track down Bol and Bruna data, our first non-Amazon retailer. On my side it involved dealing with five new formats. Fortunately, much of the work will contribute to adding other sources.

There were some wrinkles:

  • Bol and Bruna are a single search on combined data. Neither feed was intended for personal cataloging, and I found holes in both sets that the other could improve. Even so, the data is thin by LibraryThing standards, lacking publication years and other important fields.*** The covers are great.
  • The Bol/Bruna mash-up was an innovation. LibraryThing trusts that both retailers want to let their customers catalog the books they bought at their stores. But if either tells us to stop, we’ll politely give up our affiliate accounts and withdraw their data. In appreciation for their service to Dutch-language readers, we have put Bol/Bruna links on all LibraryThing.nl work pages, not considering which contributed the data.
  • KB was a tough addition, requiring us to parse two new formats, SRU and Dublin Core. Unfortunately, I have yet to figure out how to execute an ISBN search. The KB data is high quality, but slow to retrieve.
  • KBR required the least attractive sort of data parsing, so-called “screen scraping.” Only titles can be searched, and the result list is very basic. But, when a book is selected, the data is good, and retrieval is fast.

We have also been reaching out to other prominent Dutch-language book sites looking to forge relationships and pick up or link to interesting content. Your suggestions would be most welcome.

Lastly, as those who follow it know, LibraryThing.nl has seen some controversy. A lot of excellent work has gone into the translation, which is farther along than any other. But there have also been uncollegial disagreements. In response I have urged members to respect the collective nature of the endeavor and instituted a Three-Times Rule, similar to Wikipedia’s Three Revert Rule. Except in very special circumstances, members may not translate a given phrase the same way more than three times.

Thanks to all. Comments, questions and criticisms wanted—as always.


*We are waiting for approval to add Proxis.be and implementation and/or approval from a number of other libraries in the Netherlands and Belgium.
**For much of LibraryThing’s existence we were also tying into the Catholic University of Leuven, but their Z39.50 server eventually went black.
***We had hoped to further supplement them with KR or KBR data, but we lack a working ISBN search for both.

Labels: 1

Sunday, August 5th, 2007

Welcome Giovanni!

Everyone say hello to LibraryThing’s newest employee, Giovanni Soltoggio—LibraryThing member Gio. Giovanni will be helping us expand outside the United States, tracking down data sources, talking about LibraryThing to Europeans, making important deals over small cups of coffee and so forth.

Giovanni hails from the Italian Alps—a valley called Valtellina—and now lives in Dusseldorf. He reads Italian, German and English. He speaks some Czech. His favorite authors are Haruki Murakami, Niccolò Ammaniti and Lorenzo Licalzi. He is sharp as a tack, but much nicer.

Strictly speaking, Giovanni is only 20% ours. Four days out of five he’s the European Managing Director for BookFinder.com and its European sites JustBooks.co.uk, JustBooks.fr and JustBooks.de (for which he writes the blog). He helped BookFinder make the jump to Europe. We’re very grateful to Bookfinder’s Charlie and Anirvan for letting him moonlight a little.

In a few hours I’m going to blog one of Giovanni’s first projects, finding us a decent store of Dutch bibliographic data and covers. He is working on an Italian one right now. We expect big things from him.

If you want to wish him well, or know of good stores in other languages, he’d love to hear from you.* Drop a message on his profile, or email him at giovannilibrarything.com.


*Finding good data is strangely hard. There are some commercial providers although they largely overlap with what Amazon provides for free. Smaller languages are hard. A few weeks ago we had an Armenian-reader up for a week of Facebook work. I spent much of the last day with him, trying to get hold of a source—any source—of Armenian book data. We would have been happy to link to one bookseller on every page. From a search engine perspective alone, our links are gold to small sites. No luck, alas.

Labels: 1

Friday, August 3rd, 2007

Amazon Vine and Early Reviewers

Amazon has just announced Amazon Vine. Basically, it’s our LibraryThing Early Reviewers idea—a way to get publishers’ pre-release books to interested and vocal reviewers. As they put it:

“Vine helps our vendors generate awareness for new and pre-release products by connecting them with the voice of the Amazon community: our reviewers. Vine members, called Voices, may request free copies of items enrolled in the program and have the ability to share their opinions before these products become generally available.”

Apparently Amazon had experimented with sending-out ARCs before. But we suspect they were not unaware of LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer program, which made Publishers Weekly, Pub Lunch and top publishing blogs. It makes a lot of sense for them to be doing.

So far the program is email invite only. They’re apparently basing invitations on being among their top reviewers. By contrast, Early Reviewers program is based around similar libraries, although we favor “vocal” members too. Ultimately, we think LibraryThing is in a better position to give books to the best readers, but there’s no denying Amazon’s scale and, if they put their mind to it, they’ve done remarkable things with recommendations algorithms before.

Lastly, Amazon is to be congratulated for stating unequivocally that will not be editing negative reviews:

“As with all Amazon reviews, we want your honest opinion of the product. Amazon will not edit or modify any reviews beyond small tweaks to fit within existing guidelines…”

This is in line with how Amazon has always worked. As James Marcus writes in Amazonia, their decision to show bad reviews was a gutsy decision at the time—a reminder of the “bad old days” of marketing! I hope they follow this up with what we promise: that negative reviews will not impact whether you continue to get Amazon Vine books.

Labels: amazon, ARCs, AREs, early reviewers