Archive for January, 2008

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

Powell’s books!

Powell’s City of Books

Click on a store to see holdings.

Powell’s Books, “the world’s largest new and used bookstore,” located in Portland, OR, has joined our neighborhood bookstore program.

This means that work pages now show store-by-store availability from Powell’s, alongside the other bookstores you elect. You can click to find out details, hold the book or buy it online.

There are a couple of ways of add Powell’s to your LibraryThing “experience.” The easiest is to go to edit your profile. Down at the bottom you’ll see bookstores, including Powell’s.

In keeping with the neighborhood focus on the program, we’ve split the data out individual Powell’s locations, and not counted inventory in warehouses, whether in Oregon or elsewhere. This meant that—barring last-minute changes—if it shows up on LibraryThing, they have it in stock where it says. We’ve also broken up results into New, Sale and Used categories.

As elsewhere, we pull in all editions of a work, from the paperback to the hardback to the CD version—even versions in other languages. In some ways, this “works”-level view of Powell’s inventory goes beyond what they do. (And in some ways it’s more annoying, since LT’s first result may be the French version on eight-track tape.)

Our thanks go out to our new friends at Powell’s. The catalyst was apparently a rabid LTer at Powell’s—can the user reveal himself?—but I found everyone there extremely sympathique and eager to get this done.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention LT has a Powell’s Group. I’d love comments here, but I also started a post on Talk.

What it means. First, we hope this makes our Portland members happy; they’ve been agitating for us to do something with Powell’s for a long time now.

It may be a bigger win. So far, our bookstore program has been small. We still have only eleven bookstores in the system, six Powell’s stores and five others. But Powell’s is the biggest independent and a leader of them. We hope it convinces others to take advantage of us on this—completely free—service.

We’re particularly interested in getting Booksense stores in. We already parse the Booksense format, so we could add a few hundred stores with virtually no effort.

The big picture. On the web, books are broken. A few small parts are solved or on their way—Amazon, Abebooks.com, Google, Powells—and this gives many the illusion that books are a solved problem. But the rest of the “bibliosphere” isn’t where it could be. Libraries and publishers, authors and most bookstores are adrift, and not part of the conversation.*

But things are changing. One day—not too far off—local bookstores will be fully “on” the web, just like Amazon is. They’ll not only have websites, they’ll have feeds and APIs, and sites like LibraryThing will be able to give and get data seamlessly. You’ll be able to find a book in your town as easily as you find a pizza. They’ll be truly part of the web, not just on it.

We’re not there yet. Most of the bookstores we’ve worked with have had another, different data format. None have APIs.

But it’s going to happen! And we think that, if we keep working to hook up the pieces, we’ll be part of the solution.

*My correspondent at Powell’s asked me for examples. Here’s my rant/reply:

You can’t Google a book and find out where in town to get a copy. You can’t Google a book and find out whether your public library has a copy. Your library doesn’t know the author is touring the area. The author doesn’t know which independent bookstores are selling the most copies, and so where to read. Bookstore software is crap and most independent bookstores aren’t online at all. The second-largest US bookstore chain—Borders—is less online that Powell’s! Libraries are absolutely *terrible* online; you will rarely get a library in the first ten pages of a Google search because search engines can’t “see inside” library websites. Library data is largely inaccessible and dominated by an inflexible data monopoly. Book data is mostly from Amazon or from a welter of other companies that don’t or can’t help any but the largest providers. Publisher websites a seldom more than 1990s brochure-ware. Small presses sometimes have good websites, but aren’t included in the book-data game. There’s no online network for authors and agents. There isn’t even a decent “works” system for books—and to the extent there are systems like this, publishers and libraries have completely different systems.

PHOTO CREDIT: Powells.com.

Labels: bibliosphere, bookstore integration, bookstores, powell's books

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

Groundhog Day Book Pile Contest

Photo credit: Flickr member x-eyedblonde; CC-Attribution

In honor of being sick of the glorious New England winter, I hereby announce the newest book pile contest theme: Groundhog Day.

Interpret it as you like! Extra points if you can raise the temperature in Boston. I’m cold.

More about Groundhog Day on Wikipedia, and of course, the Bill Murray classic.

The rules:

  • Post your photos to Flickr and tag them “LTGroundhog” (also tag them “LibraryThing”). If you make a new account it can take a few days for your photos to be publicly accessible, so post a URL to them in the comments here.
  • Or, post your photos on the wiki here.
  • Or, if all else fails, just email them to abby@librarything.com and I’ll post them.

The deadline: Friday, February 8th at noon, EST.

The prizes: One grand prize winner will receive a LibraryThing t-shirt, and one runner up will get a yearly gift membership (to keep or give away).

Find inspiration in our archive of past book pile contests.

Labels: book pile, contest

Monday, January 21st, 2008

LibraryThing in Hindi

Check it out: http://hin.LibraryThing.com.

We need sources! We’ve looked around for open Z39.50 connections to Indian libraries. The only one we found, Indian Institute of Technology, is no longer working.

We did something new with regard to our Hindi translation—we paid for it! It wasn’t happening fast enough on it’s own, so we found a very capable individual on eLance. I don’t think we’ll make a practice of it, but it was an intereting test nevertheless.

Labels: hindi, new langauges

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

ScienceLibraryThing

Following our release of The British Library, we’re continuing to offer new sources of data for your cataloging pleasure. Today, we’ve added 22 science and technology libraries from around the world: Academy of Natural Sciences, American Museum of Natural History, British Columbia Institute of Technology, Cal Poly – Pomona, Carnegie Mellon University, Central Scientific Agricultural Library of Russia, Cracow University of Technology Library, Earth Sciences Information Centre, Georgia Tech University, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Mountaineers Library, National Agricultural Library, National Park Service Union Library Catalog, New Jersey Institute of Technology, New York Botanical Garden, Nizhni Novgorod Regional State University Scientific Library, Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, Perm State Technical University, Rochester Institute of Technology, Russian Academy of Sciences – Siberian Branch, Tennessee Tech University and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Labels: new libraries, science, science libraries

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

Bonus Batch of Early Reviewer Books

Random House has once again given us a “bonus batch” of Early Reviewer books. Two books this time, and 230 copies in total.

You have until Tuesday the 22nd to put your requests in:

http://www.librarything.com/er/list

If you requested a book from the big January batch, you’ll find out soon if you won a book or not. Go ahead and request one of these too though, you could end up with *two* books this month!

And if free books isn’t enough for you, go play with our new Series feature (see the blog post below)!

Labels: early reviewers, LTER, random house

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

New feature: “Series”

Chris and I have added “series” to our Common Knowledge feature, creating a way to deal with book series like the Chronicles of Narnia, The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, Will and Ariel Durant’s The Story of Civilization or the Bluffer’s Guides.

We’ve started off simple:

  • A page for every series, with covers and titles.
  • A simple method of ordering works within a series.
  • A series-level tag cloud.
  • A mechanism for showing series overlap, as between the Chronicles of Narnia in publication and chronological order.

There’s a lot more we could potentially do. But this is just the sort of feature that should develop over time, with lots of input from users. Each series page has a short section on some of the important issues, and I’ve set up a Talk post for discussion.

I’ve also added fields for a work’s “Canonical Title” and “Canonical Author.” As of now, the values of these fields do not affect work or author titles. They will soon.

Labels: common knowledge, new feature, series

Friday, January 11th, 2008

Holiday book pile contest winners

Now that the holiday season is behind us, voila, the winners of LibraryThing’s holiday bookpile contest. First prize winner, Teampoush, gets a LibraryThing t-shirt for the subtly cool “Joy to the world” photo (look at closely at the books in the background if you don’t see it at first).

The two runners up are melannen with the impressive “New Year’s Day Bookpile” (what a way to start the year!) and SanityDemolisher with “Sleigh of Books”). Each will get a gift membership.

See all of the submissions here and here.

SantaThing report. I think SantaThing, while a little rushed, was a success! Almost 300 people picked out books for strangers, and had fun doing it. Next year, we’ll certainly make some changes*, but it was a good start. My sincere apologies to anyone whose books came after Christmas—we tried our hardest to get them in time, but it didn’t happen in every case. If you want to see what everyone else picked for their various Santa-ees, or if your Santa left you a personal message (most messages were transferred onto the Amazon order slip, but long ones didn’t fit in), go check it out!

UPDATE: we fixed the SantaThing page so you can peek at the suggestions on your own page.

http://www.librarything.com/santathing.php

The ordering process was actually kind of fun—I started to see themes of popular books. How many people got a copy of The Prestige by Christopher Priest? (Enough that I decided I should probably buy a copy for myself, if that many LibraryThingers recommended it).

*I think we’ll start the whole process earlier to give everyone more time to pick out books, etc. We also need figure out the shipping and billing logistics better! We ended up stuck with Amazon billing us separately each time we changed the shipping address (300 times) which hit our bank account’s daily limit on the number of transactions. Who knew? Well after Tim and I ended up using up our personal credit cards and spending over a week clicking on Amazon links, we decided – next year, yup, we’ll do it differently :)

Labels: book pile, contest, santathing

Thursday, January 10th, 2008

LawLibraryThing

In celebration, the Supreme Court has changed its motto. Thanks guys!

Following our release of the British Library as a source on LibraryThing, we’re going to be adding a bunch more specialized data sources.

Today, we’ve released thirteen law libraries: University of Texas Tarlton Law Library, University of Pennsylvania Law Library, Jenkins Law Library, Yeshiva University College of Law, Southern University Law Center, Seton Hall University Law Library, Pepperdine University School of Law, Massachusetts School of Law, Louisiana State University Law Center, Los Angeles County Law Library, Franklin Pierce Law Center, Columbia University Law School and Cincinnati Law Library.


Supreme Court photo by Flickr member Kjetil Ree, licensed as Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic, with shameless edits by Tim.

Labels: law libraries, legal, new libraries

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

The British Library, with thanks to Talis

Yummy, hot and British: Figgy pudding is the perfect metaphor for British sources on LibraryThing. (Photo credit: Flickr member Matito; CC-Attribution)*

We’ve added 33 new sources from the UK, including the British Library! See them here, or go ahead and add the BL to your account now.

The BL is a catch in more than one way. It’s huge, of course. But, unlike some other sources, BL data isn’t normally available to the public. To get it, our friends at Talis, the UK-based library software company, have granted us special access to their Talis Base product, an elephantine mass of book data. In the case of the BL, that’s some twelve million unique records, two copies Gutenberg Bibles and two copies of the Magna Carta.**

Together with the British Library, Talis has also provided access to their “Talis Union” (add here), covering many top UK public and academic libraries. In their words:

“[Talis Union] has been built over many years by professional cataloguers in libraries all over the UK. This database is a treasure trove of rare, old and out-of-print records as well as quality catalogue records for mainstream items.”

Together, the British Library and the Talis Union should prove first-line sources for LibraryThing members with books not currently for sale at Amazon or who prefer library data to commercial data.

More on Talis. As they put it, Talis is a “semantic technology company, with a heritage in bibliographic services and software.” They are adept at managing rich metadata.

This marks the first thing we’ve done with them, but we’ve been wanting to work with them for ages. They have been tireless proponents of Library 2.0 innovations and of open data. We are avid listeners to their podcast, Talking with Talis, and have even been on a few times (my favorite was the open data discussion). I am particularly grateful to Richard Walis, whom I met at a conference in Aarhus, Denmark, and who played Vergil during my initial descent into the world of Integrated Library Systems.

In return for access to Talis base, Talis customers will be getting access to LibraryThing covers and ratings data. We look forward to partnering with Talis on bigger projects in the future.

Here’s the full list:

  • The British Library (add)
  • Talis Union Catalog (add)
  • Aberdeen University
  • Abertay Dundee University
  • Bromley Libraries
  • Brunel University
  • Bury Metro Libraries
  • Cardiff University
  • City University United Kingdom
  • Durham University
  • Edge Hill University College
  • Edinburgh College of Art
  • Edinburgh University
  • Glasgow University
  • Imperial College London
  • Leeds Metropolitan University
  • Leeds University
  • London Guildhall University
  • Middlesex University
  • National Art Library
  • Natural History Museum (UK)
  • Royal Historical Society
  • SOAS
  • Sheffield Hallam University
  • Strathclyde University
  • University of Bath
  • University of Bradford
  • University of Bristol
  • University of Cambridge
  • University of Huddersfield
  • University of Northern Wales
  • University of Southampton
  • University of Wales

*We originally planned to release the BL right after Christmas. I was planning to take a photo our my family’s Chrismas pudding—contra this NYT article, figgy pudding is great—but everything moved too quickly, and before I knew it I was frantically spooning brandy over and over to keep the flame going.
**What’s so special about that? We have eighteen!

Labels: anglophilia, british library, christmas pudding, crambridge university, figgy pudding, new libraries, plum pudding, talis, talis base, talis union

Monday, January 7th, 2008

January Early Reviewers books

January’s batch of Early Reviewer books is up! This month has a mix of literary fiction, fantasy, YA fiction, Christian fiction, a memoir, non-fiction, health and how-to books, and more…

Sign up to get free advance copies of books, in exchange for reviews. (Please please please make sure to include your full name and mailing address — it speeds up getting a book to you if you win one).* More help available in the Early Reviewers Frequently Asked Questions.

Then go ahead and request books to read and review! The list of available books is here: http://www.librarything.com/er/list

This month we have 20 books (495 copies in all) from 10 different publishers:

The deadline to request books from this batch is Tuesday, January 15th at noon, EST.

*The country thing: This month we only have books that can be sent to residents of the US and Canada. I *know* there are interested reviewers in many other countries, and we’re trying to find publishers willing to give out books in those countries. I know it’s frustrating, but know that I haven’t given up yet.

Labels: early reviewers, LTER