Archive for August, 2008

Friday, August 1st, 2008

Free Web Services API to Common Knowledge

Introducing the LibraryThing Web Services API.

The API will eventually do many things.

For starters it includes all of the data in LibraryThing’s Common Knowledge project, our groundbreaking “fielded wiki” for interesting book information (see original blog post). It includes fields like series, important characters, important places, author dates, author burial places, agents, edits, etc. If you’re interested in building or enhancing book-data applications, this should be very interesting.

Common Knowledge is always in progress, but the results so far have been quite impressive. Members have made over 500,000 edits, and certain data types have become exceedingly useful and comprehensive. I’m particularly proud of our Series coverage (eg., Star Wars), better—we think—than any commercial series data. 

Oh, and it’s free! The data is made available under the highly permissive Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike license.

Architecturally, the Web Services API is a straightforward REST XML-based API.  The back-end is modular, allowing us to easily expand the available methods in the future. It’s request and response styles were modeled closely on Flickr’s API—Chris is a big fan—so it should make it easier to find similar sample code. The documentation resembles theirs too.

Kudos to Chris for his work on this and let us know what you think (here).

Update: The other big announcement—another data release—won’t be happening today. Too much to do!

Labels: api, apis, common knowledge, web services

Friday, August 1st, 2008

Abebooks news: The scoop for LibraryThing

Today Abebooks, the Canadian bookseller, announced that it was being acquired by Amazon, a company that needs little introduction. (See Amazon press release.)

Abebooks owns a minority stake in LibraryThing. This means that, after regulatory approval and finalization, Amazon will become, through Abebooks, a minority investor in LibraryThing.

I congratulate Amazon on a shrewd acquisition. Abebooks is a great company, full of wonderful people. They have accomplished great things (link). I have no inside info, but I can foresee Amazon’s extraordinary technical infrastructure giving Abe a big lift.
Here’s the scoop:

  • LibraryThing did not have any knowledge of or influence over this deal.
  • The majority of LibraryThing is in my hands. Abebooks holds a minority of the shares, with certain notable but limited rights. This situation does not change when Amazon acquires Abebooks.
  • Amazon will not get access to your data. The LibraryThing/Abebooks terms are specific. Abe gets only anonymized and aggregate data, like recommendations, and they can only use it on Abebooks sites (eg., Abebooks.com, Abebooks.de). Nothing has changed here.
  • Abebooks customers won’t see much a difference. The name will survive and the Abebooks.com site will continue. Both employees and management will remain in Canada.
  • LibraryThing remains LibraryThing. We will continue to uphold and advance LibraryThing values, including open data, strict privacy rules and support for libraries and independent bookstores.

As always, I want your feedback on how to make LibraryThing the best book site on the web. I’ve started a Talk post to talk about all of this, or you can comment here.

Stay tuned for two more blog posts, both major. We have rushed two projects forward that demonstrate LibraryThing’s commitment to open data and support for libraries and other book lovers.

Tim Spalding

Updates:

  • Check out the blog post of Boris Wertz, long-time COO of Abe and co-founder of JustBooks.
  • Local Victoria TV has a story with a good photo of Hannes, the CEO.
  • It’s funny to watch the news fly by. 90% of the news stories rehash the press release without pointing to it, as if they are engaging in reporting. Odd

Labels: abebooks, amazon, canada