Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Your statistics: Ebooks and audiobooks

Our recent ebook push had one major flaw—something was up with the profile statistics page.

That’s been fixed, and the result is stunning. Instead of a few dozen ebooks, most users should see hundreds. My stats, for example, include fifteen LibriVox ebook editions, 45 Project Gutenberg editions and fully 99 Open Library editions—all free.

Check it out:

Labels: audiobooks, ebooks, kindle, open library, statistics

Monday, November 16th, 2009

Local Book Search: A new way forward for bookselling

We’ve just released a slew of new features (see overview). We hope members like them all, but Local Book Search is the most important. I won’t mince words: it is intended to change bookselling forever.

The Idea. It’s a simple idea: a location-based search for books. After all, you can ask Google for pizza where you live. But you can’t do it with books, until now.

Just Show Me the Feature! Here are some sample links:

Imagine if all the bookstores and libraries in central London were searchable.

The Vision. More and more people look to the web, even for local information. I can’t remember the last time I checked a newspaper for movie times or local music. Bookstores, however, have largely stayed off the “local web.” Those that expose their holdings do it inconveniently. Many don’t at all, either because their systems are old, or on principle. And nobody has ever tried to tie it all together, like Local Book Search attempts to do.

Physical bookstores often complain about online prices, but a lot of the problem is just convenience. If I lived in San Fransisco and wanted a copy of Steinbeck’s The Moon is Down, I probably wouldn’t bother to call up all my local bookstores; Amazon is quick and easy, and will surely have it. Local Book Search find a half dozen copies, new and used, in just seconds.

At a minimum, this is a cool test. Maybe bookstores will prefer to keep their holdings information to themselves and shut us out. A bookstore near me won’t participate because they think the information is “valuable” and, if it were online, “people would know what we don’t have.” I think that sort of thinking is the road to a world without bookstores.

Online bookselling is here to stay. It’s a wonderful thing. Same-day online delivery, as recently offered by Amazon, is something new. But physical book stores are also very important. We hope local book search can be one of the things they need to survive and prosper.

Who are you searching? The list currently stands as follows:

How are you doing it? We’re doing it in a mix of ways. A number of bookstores, including Powells, Porter Square and City Lights, send us their files. We have special permission from Abebooks too, so we pre-parse the Abebooks sellers.* (Members have helped us connect them to LibraryThing.) Indigo/Chapters gave us their blessing, and a convenient way to do it.

The rest involve just-in-time searches. Every system is different, so we’ve written a special connector for each, but the usual pattern is some sort of multiple-ISBN fetch. In every case, we’ve obeyed a site’s “robots.txt” file–going only where we’re allowed, and hitting a website no faster than once per second. That’s also why we’ve stayed off some biggies, like Barnes and Noble–their store holdings pages are prohibited by robots.txt.

Why aren’t there more indies? We introduced basic bookstore integration back in 2006 (!), taking only indies. It never really took off, because we couldn’t convince IndieBound to offer access to the files, and, I think, asking booksellers to upload their file to IndieBound and then LibraryThing was a hard sell.

Since then, we’ve pushed hard to get indies involves, with no success. We even lost our first participant, when Ann Arbor’s Shaman Drum went out of business. Those who follow our Twitter stream will remember a lot of hand-wringing over the topic. (In fairness, IndieBound has expressed interest, but they are still working on their platform.) So, we went and did it outselves, with whom we could.

The “connectors” all take about the same amount of time, whether we pick up 400 stores in Borders, or a single store in the Strand. So, by time, we’ve spent most of it integrating with indies. We have a decent list of other indies to add, when we get the chance.

The Future. Obviously, we know this is bigger than LibraryThing. If you have an idea about where it should go, chances are we’ve had it too. We’re working on it.

We are, incidentally, aware that we’re weak on the library front. We have 40 libraries now and, if all LibraryThing for Libraries sites agreed, we could get up to 170 systems (more than 1600 buildings). Unfortunately, you can’t really screen-scrape most library systems; they tend to break under the strain. Nobody really has the data necessary, except perhaps for OCLC.

So, OCLC, how about it? Our peanut butter. Your chocolate. Don’t libraries deserve to be part of this? Can we let bygones be bygones?

What we need? Bookstores who want to participate should send me an email (tim@librarything.com) or a Tweet (@LibraryThingTim).

Bookstores concerned about LibraryThing servers hitting them too hard should also write us. We’re keeping close tabs on how often we scrape sites. (We also cache results for 24 hours.) In many cases, we could do it more efficiently, if we were allowed to access search pages, not just product pages. And we can try fewer ISBNs. Or, if you are able, we can parse your files and never hit your site.

All told, we think the traffic is good for you—it will get you sales. But we are conscious of limited technology budgets, and will work with you to increase the benefit, and decrease the potential cost.

Kudos. Thanks are owed to:

  • LibraryThing members who are helping us connect Abebooks to LibraryThing.
  • Abebooks. In theory, local book search could cut them out of the equation, as people walked into a store, instead of buying online. But they saw it as a valuable service to their members, and an overall win. Abebooks deserves applause for taking a risk.
  • Indigo/Chapters. Every time I deal with them, I marvel at how easy they make things. No meetings, just agreement to test it out. Indigo, like Abe, is Canadian. Is there something in the water?
  • Powell’s, Porter Square Book and (tiny) City Lights Books in Sylva, NC deserve thanks for being with us from the first. Because their method–sending us files–is so much easier for us, we’re planning to create some special features for them.
  • Programemrs Chris and Mike, and non-programmers Dan and Stephanie. The “Get this Book” and “Local Book Search” project took over two months, and involved huge amounts of new code, and also data entry. As Chris remarked, for most companies, “this would be a site.” It is an awesome achievement.

Come talk about it. Come talk about all this on Talk.


*Abebooks.com sellers already total over 1 million books, and we haven’t caught up with all the Abe-to-LibraryThing work members have done. We think they’ll end up around 1.5 million books total.

Labels: abebooks, booksellers, bookstore integration, bookstores, local book search, used bookstores

Monday, November 16th, 2009

New Feature: Get this Book

This post does not discuss what I consider what may be the most innovative and promising new feature, Local Book Search. I’ll get to that in the morning. (See it in action.)

Over the night we added a small avalache of features (for a list of Talk posts, see the top of this post.) This post talks about the “Get this book” feature.

Show me the feature! Check the Get this Book feature for Romeo and Juliet. Then come discuss this here.

Why the new features? For years now we’ve had a feature called “Buy, Borrow and Swap”—involved bookstore and library links, and integration with swap sites.

Two things moved us replace this feature:

  • We wanted to make it better—to integrate with as many sources as possible, so we show people what was out there, and send people to links that existed, not a lot of blind links to pages that might or might not exist. First, as discussed here, Amazon tightened up its linking policy, forcing changes.
  • Amazon required it. As a site that uses Amazon data (although we also use some 690 other sources), we had to follow their rules, which required us to drop links to competitor sites, except on secondary pages. We didn’t want this to be a net loss for the site, so we decided to make the best secondary pages we could imagine. (Three programmers kept imagining for two months straight, and this is what came out.)

The new pages are accessible from any work page, and are pictured at the right.

Ebooks. Another book site integrated with a single attractive, but not comprehensive ebook supplier. So we decided to integrate with fourteen. We’ve included both pay sites (Kindle, Sony Reader) and free sites (Project Gutenberg, Hathi Trust).

Not pictured:

The integration is deep. For Hathi alone, we’ve linked 398,000 LibraryThing works, and OpenLibrary adds another 178,000 full scans. Because our catalog is so vast, and our data so “ratty” (it comes from over 690 source), LibraryThing can do a lot better than parsing ISBNs. This is how we connect to so many ISBN-less sources. My favorite is the Online Books Page, which collects links to some 30,000 books found here and there online, mostly one-off scanning projects at universities and the like.

There are, of course, more. We’re not parsing Barnes and Noble ebooks—which will become important if the “Nook” takes off. If you don’t see your favorite source, let us know. We’ll work to add it.

Audiobooks. I haven’t taken to ebooks yet. (For starters, my reader is broken.) But I listen to a lot of audiobooks. For people like me we’ve added links to three audiobook suppliers—Audible, iTunes and the wonderful, free, amateur-driven project LibriVox.

Live Price Comparison from BookFinder.com. Many of you use the price-comparison site BookFinder.com, so, with their help, we decided to integrate a good piece of it into the site itself. BookFinder reaches out to dozens of new and used booksellers, and comes back with good deals and rare buys.

Live results are a core principle of the site, so caching is for as little time as possible. The results are also distinguished by being cross-edition—a fairly new concept in price comparison. You can change the ISBNs or titles BookFinder uses, to get price-comparison that fits you best.

Swap sites. Swap-site integration has been with LibraryThing for some time now. We’ve spiffed it up, and added a long-missing site, PaperBackSwap.com. As a lot of members belong to more than one site, gathering them all together like this should be valuable.

All Sources. “Get this book” are just the best slices of a much larger pie. Check out All Sources (here, for Romeo and Juliet) to get all the sources. As with other parts of the site, the data is fundamentally under your control. If you don’t see your favorite bookseller or book database, go ahead and enter it. We also want help improving the data.

Your Quick Links area is editable. To edit it, check out Edit Quick Links, which looks like “All Sources,” but works a little different.

What’s missing. Here’s how we plan to improve the page, and how you can improve it too.

  • Members need to be able to add new ebooks.
  • We need more ebook sources. Seventeen is great. There are probably thirty we should have.
  • A lot of sources need improvement; they don’t have all the link types they could have.
  • We have second slate of “book database” integrations coming up, including a full conversion of all Wikipedia citations.

Come talk about the new features here.

Labels: audibooks, bookfinder, ebooks, get this book, local book search, swap site

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

Help put used bookstores on LibraryThing

We’re about to push a slew of new “local” features, including the first-ever “local book search.” To make this as good as it can be, we need to connect as many bookstores as possible to the LibraryThing Local system. We previously asked for help with IndieBound stores. We’re now asking for help with a really hairy category category—used bookstores.

Check out this page and pitch in: Help put used bookstores on LibraryThing

It lists all Abebooks.com booksellers—mostly, but not exclusively used—and allows LibraryThing members to connect them to LibraryThing Local venus. Once connected, the local page gets a link to their Abebooks page, and is entered into our upcoming Local Book Search feature.

I’d like to thank Abebooks for cooperation here—allowing us to include results from their affiliates. I say “generously” because “local search” has the potential to cut Abebooks out of the transaction. They feel—and I think they’re right—that the loss will be small, and will be offset by the value of giving their affiliates another way to expose themselves to the world, and book lovers another way to discover their books.

As usual, we have a Talk discussion going on about this—how best to do it, etc.

Update: We pushed this a few hours ago, and the response is already huge—more than 130 linkings, by two dozen members. As with IndieBound, I’m in shock at how readily members take up the call. We won’t let you down—the upcoming feature is going to be great, and all the better for this work.

Labels: abebooks, indiebound, local book search, used bookstores

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Free movie passes to “The Road” in Detroit and Philadelphia

The folks who are bringing Cormac McCarthy’s The Road to the big screen are inviting LibraryThing members to attend free advance screenings of the new movie.

You can start speculating on the adaptation now, in the Made Into a Movie and Book vs Movie groups. This was one of those books I bought so I could loan out. I can’t wait to find out what the attendees think.

There are two screenings, with limited seating. Tickets will be given out to the first-emailed, first-served.

Philadelphia (downtown)
Sunday, November 15th at 7:30 pm

Detroit area (Novi, MI)
Thursday, November 19th at 7 pm

If you live in either area, and are interested in attending, email Holly Cara Price (hcp@ddanielspr.net). It’s first-come, first serve, so email her ASAP if you’d like to go. Holly will email you instructions on tickets and the theater location.

For the rest of us, the movie will be released November 25th: http://theroad-movie.com/

Here’s the movie synopsis:
From Cormac McCarthy, author of NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, comes the highly anticipated big screen adaptation of the beloved, best-selling and Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, THE ROAD. Academy Award-nominee Viggo Mortensen leads a distinguished cast featuring Academy Award-winner Charlize Theron, Academy Award-winner Robert Duvall, Michael Kenneth Williams, Molly Parker, Guy Pearce and young newcomer Kodi Smit-McPhee in this epic post-apocalyptic tale of the survival of a father (Mortensen) and his young son (Smit-McPhee) as they journey across a barren American landscape that has been destroyed by a mysterious cataclysm. THE ROAD boldly imagines a future in which men are pushed to the worst and the best that they are capable of – a future in which a father and his son are sustained by love and an unshakable morality even in the face of total devastation.

Directed by John Hillcoat

Update 11/13/09:

Today in the Wall Street Journal is an incredible, lengthy interview that Cormac McCarthy. The writer spent a record 7 hours with McCarthy talking about the film, the book, and life in general.

Labels: advance screening, Detroit, Michigan, movie event, movies, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

Friday, November 6th, 2009

November Early Reviewer books

The November 2009 batch of Early Reviewer books is up! We’ve got 102 books this month, and a grand total of 3571 copies to give out.

First, make sure to sign up for Early Reviewers. If you’ve already signed up, please check your mailing address and make sure it’s correct.

Then request away! The list of available books is here:
http://www.librarything.com/er/list

The deadline to request a copy is Saturday, November 28th at 6PM EST.

Eligiblity: Publishers do things country-by-country. This month we have publishers who can send books to many many countries—too many to list here! 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!

Kensington Publishing Dafina Citadel Press
Bell Bridge Books The Permanent Press Open Letter
Penguin Red Hen Press Bloomsbury
W.W. Norton Bantam Ballantine Books
International Publishers Marketing Human Kinetics St. Martin’s Paperbacks
St. Martin’s Griffin Weiser Books Conari Press
Tor Books Universalis Publishing Doubleday Books
O’Reilly South Dakota State Historical Society Press HarperCollins
Bascom Hill Books Rovira i Virgili University Press Bethany House
Small Beer Press Little, Brown and Company Grand Central Publishing
St. Martin’s Press Orca Book Publishers Picador
Pocket Books Avon Books Harper Paperbacks
Viking Books Putnam Books Random House
Henry Holt and Company Faber and Faber

Labels: early reviewers, LTER, member giveaways

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

The Concord Free Press, Gregory Maguire, and “generosity-based publishing”

The Concord Free Press is a revolutionary new publisher, doing some fantastic things. They publish books and give them away. For free. All they ask is that the reader then makes a voluntary donation to a local charity or person in need. And then pass the book along to someone else (this is definitely the hard part), and ask that they too read, donate, and pass. I think it’s fantastic. They just hit their one-year anniversary, released their third book, and have recorded more than $90,000 in donations so far (you can see a record of donations on their site).


Their third book, The Next Queen of Heaven by Gregory Maguire just came out last week, and the Concord Free Press (founded by novelist Stona Fitch) gave us 14 copies to circulate among LibraryThing members. The book is great—a departure from Maguire’s typical writing (which I also love).

Book description from the Concord Free Press website:

Set in the grotty upstate town of Thebes, The Next Queen of Heaven is a Christmas tale gone horribly wrong. Clocked by a Catholic statuette, Mrs. Leontina Scales starts speaking in tongues. Tabitha Scales and her brothers scheme to save their mother or surrender her to Jesus—whatever comes first. Meanwhile, choir director Jeremy Carr, caught between lust and ambition, fumbles his way toward Y2K.

Only a modern master like Gregory Maguire can spin a tale this frantic, funny, and farcical. Novelist Ann Patchett calls it “an out-of-control carnival ride—terrifying, thrilling, a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.” And we agree.

I’m putting the copies in Member Giveaways, and we’ll send them to anyone, anywhere around the world. Request a copy now, if you’re interested! And remember, when you’re done reading, you donate, and then pass the book along. We’re hoping we can keep the books circulating among LibraryThing members—since the Concord Free Press only prints a limited run (2,500 copies), many people won’t otherwise get a chance to read it.

As it says on the back of the book:

“This novel is free. By taking a copy, you agree to give away money to a local charity, someone who needs it, or a stranger on the street. Where the money goes and how much you give—that’s your call. When you’re done, pass this novel on to someone else (for free, of course), so they can give. It adds up.”

So if you win a copy, please remember to read, donate, and then pass it along (maybe even put it back on Member Giveaways, so another LibraryThing member can have a chance to read it).

Labels: concord free press, gregory maguire, member giveaways

Monday, October 26th, 2009

October State of the Thing

I just sent out October’s State of the Thing, our monthly newsletter. Sign up to get it, or you can read a copy online.

This month’s State of the Thing features 2 exclusive author interviews:

Allison Hoover Bartlett, is the author of The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession. Bartlett digs into the true-crime story of John Gilkey, the obsessed rare book thief and Ken Sanders, the self-appointed “bibliodick” driven to catch him.

Hope Edelman‘s newest book is The Possibility of Everything, a memoir about a week in 2000 when she traveled to Belize with her husband and three-year-old daughter to visit a shaman.

Both Hope and Allison are also participating in chats with LibraryThing members right now—stop by and ask them questions here.

Next month, one of the interviewees we have lined up is Gregory Maguire. Got a question for him? Post it here and we might use it in the upcoming interview.

Labels: author chat, author interview, state of the thing

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

October Early Reviewer Books

The October 2009 batch of Early Reviewer books is up! We’ve got 55 books this month, and a grand total of 1590 copies to give out.

First, make sure to sign up for Early Reviewers. If you’ve already signed up, please check your mailing address and make sure it’s correct.

Then request away! The list of available books is here:
http://www.librarything.com/er/list

The deadline to request a copy is Friday, October 23rd at 6PM EST.

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, Germany, Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. Make sure to check the flags by each book to see if it can be sent to your country.

Catalan books. A special treat this month–we have a Catalan publisher (Rovira i Virgili University Press) participating, who is offering a few books in Catalan! There are only 5 copies available for each of the books from Rovira i Virgili University Press, since they’re testing the waters to see what kind of audience there will be for Catalan books.

And of course, thanks to all the publishers participating this month!

Kensington Publishing Dafina Citadel Press
B&H Publishing Group Bleak House Books South Dakota State Historical Society Press
Delacorte Press New York Review Books New American Library
Little, Brown and Company Barbour Books Rovira i Virgili University Press
Self-Counsel Press 5 Spot The Permanent Press
Hunter House Harper Paperbacks Avon Books
Random House Springer Faber and Faber
Picador Open Letter York House Press
Bloomsbury Orca Book Publishers Timber Press
Bethany House Bell Bridge Books Doubleday Books
HarperCollins

Labels: early reviewers, LTER, member giveaways

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

Flash-mob cataloging party in Canton, OH

The Canton Museum of Art in Ohio (CantonArt.org, CantonArt on LT) is having a flash-mob catalog party. More about flash-mob cataloging.

Details:
Saturday October 3, 2009, 10:30am – 2:30pm and Sunday October 4, 2009, 1:30pm – 4:30pm

Canton Museum of Art
1001 Market Ave.
Canton, OH 44702

Space is somewhat limited, so please RSVP: Troy at talpeterAT SIGNkent.edu

Troy says: We will have tasty food and beverages. Participants should help us be “green” and bring your own mug (with your name and phone number on it). We will have valuable door-prizes throughout the day! Bring your Laptop, NetBook, iPhone/iPod Touch to help catalog, or just show up and help move things along.

The talk post.

Labels: flash mob, flash-mob cataloging