Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

Announcing OverCat

We have added a new source to every member’s Add Books page: OverCat, LibraryThing’s new index of 32 million library records, assembled from libraries around the world, and the first step in a major upgrade of LibraryThing’s cataloging functions.

Sources. OverCat was assembled from over 700 sources. The core consists of full datasets from the Library of Congress, Washington State, Boston College, Oregon State, and Talis Base (a collection of UK libraries).* To this we’ve added records from the hundreds of thousands of books members have searched for and added from the 690 libraries LibraryThing connects to.

The end result is arguably the second-largest searchable database of library records in existence, after OCLC.**

How to use it. To use OverCat, go to your Add books page. OverCat has been added to everyone’s source list. (It can be removed but not yet reordered.)

High-quality results. To make it easier to find the edition you need, OverCat combines results into edition-level clusters, so you get one result per edition (rather than pages and pages of the same edition of the same book from different libraries).  By default, it will give you what it guesses the best available record is for that edition, but you can select from any one of the alternate records if you want to.

OverCat isn’t everything. The Library of Congress data dump is not current–although it’s been supplemented with user searches. Our relevancy ranking isn’t as good as Amazon’s. (We could use your feedback to make it better.) But most users will find it a useful source, and many will find it the best one.

The Big Issue. OverCat is available to LibraryThing members in the course of normal site activity—cataloging small collections of books.*** It will not be available for external access, including by libraries. It is not a back door to OCLC data.

This will come as a disappointment to many, including us. We have long argued for library-data openness and against OCLC’s bid to privatize and monopolize library data. But we also made it clear to the libraries we search that their data will not be made available outside of the context of personal cataloging without their permission. This will not change, now or in the future.

We would love to open OverCat up, to make it OpenLibrary as we originally hoped it would be it, or like Amazon Web Services, but with free, high quality data. We believe data openness is critical to the survival of libraries in our increasingly free and open world. But we depend upon open search portals, and will never open up a library’s data against its wishes. Some of these libraries may want to open up their data, but some clearly do not, and almost everyone is afraid of OCLC and its new data policy.*** Either way, we will abide by libraries’ wishes.

For the 690 libraries we search little has changed. We will still send member searches to your systems, but fewer—reducing your load—and the requests may not come at the time of searching. As before, found records will be stored on LibraryThing systems, but can now be used by more than one user and will appear in OverCat searches. Bulk or non-personal access will not be possible.

Thanks. OverCat has been a long-term project of Casey Durfee. The Board for Extreme Thing Advances helped us nail down bugs and decide on the name.

The future. LibraryThing’s greatest strength is its cataloging, but we don’t want to rest on that. There are a lot of improvements we can do now that we have a flexible, scaleable structure and repository for our data. OverCat is the first step here.

Come talk about your suggestions, and OverCat generally, on Talk here.

*Some OpenLibrary data was omitted for being mostly duplicative or of insufficient quality.

**For background on the OCLC issue, see here. We will also honor requests to remove libraries’ data from OverCat, excepting those libraries (like the LC), whose records are public by both law and public dumps.

There are larger collections. Harvard, for example, is said to have contributed 81 million records to OCLC, but most can’t have been book records, as the volume-count of Harvard is less than that of the Library of Congress, which we include.

We could make part of the data free, and part closed. But since the free data comes from OpenLibrary it would be duplicative of their efforts. We may explore this avenue in the future, as our primary complaint against OpenLibrary is the lack of exportable library-data formats.

***Exports of your library are included, obviously, but no larger dumps. “Personal” includes some small institutions, like church libraries, clubs and so forth.

Labels: cataloging, new features

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

June Early Reviewers–free books!

The June 2010 batch of Early Reviewer books is up! We’ve got 62 books this month, and a grand total of 1350 copies to give out.

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

Then request away! The list of available books is here:

Some highlights: The new Mary Roach, Packing for Mars. Ridley Pearson’s In Harm’s Way. Tom Standage’s new An Edible History of Humanity. And we’re especially excited by Clay Shirky’s new book, Cognitive Surplus!

The deadline to request a copy is Friday, June 25th at 6PM EST.

Eligiblity: Publishers do things country-by-country. This month we have publishers who can send books to the many different countries. 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!

Henry Holt and Company Bond Street Books Canongate Books
Tundra Books The Permanent Press Doubleday Books
W.W. Norton Ballantine Books Small Beer Press
Zest Books Speir Publishing Bloomsbury
Bell Bridge Books Eerdmans Books for Young Readers Dutton
Hesperus Press Chalice Press DAW Books
Putnam Books Beacon Press Santa Fe Writer’s Project
St. Martin’s Griffin Orca Book Publishers Doubleday Canada
House of Anansi Press PublicAffairs Menasha Ridge Press
Clerisy Press The Penguin Press William Morrow
The History Press

Labels: early reviewers

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

Swaptree integration

We’ve added integration with a thirteenth swap site, By available titles Swaptree is now one of the larger swap sites we integrate with—and the last large one I’m aware of!

Swaptree differs from some of the other sites in that you don’t accumulate points and trade them in. Instead, Swaptree helps you make item-for-item trades with other users. The site also lists DVDs, CDs and video games, and you can make cross-media trades (eg., a video game for a book).

I’m don’t know how it figures out what you get for everything, but it’s a nifty idea, and seems sensible in light of my blog post on top wanted and unwanted items at swap sites. When I entered the top-wanted The Omnivore’s Dilemma, it offered me choice of nearly 100,000 books—some quite attractive to me—along with some appealing DVDs and games. At the other end, it offered me nothing at all for the least-wanted Da Vinci Code. That certainly seems like a potential answer to one problem with swap sites.

You can specify which swap sites are calculated into on Edit profile > Sites/apps.

It might be interesting if, in the future, LibraryThing integrated more deeply, so that, when you went to a book on LibraryThing, it told you if you could get it based on your Swaptree “have” list.

Come talk about this.

Labels: new features, swap, swap site

Friday, May 28th, 2010

May-ish State of the Thing

We’re just started sending out the May/June State of the Thing, LibraryThing’s monthly newsletter of features, author interviews and other drolleries.

Check your inbox or read it online.

This month’s edition includes four author interviews, with:

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

Monday, May 24th, 2010

LibraryThing Facebook integration, phase 1

LibraryThing/Facebook integration

We’ve just introduced “phase one” of LibraryThing-Facebook integration. It’s been a ridiculously long time coming, but it’s here. The framework for the project is built and one feature has been implemented—review posting.

Posting Reviews. Phase one is posting reviews. Whenever you write or edit a review you can elect to post the review to Facebook, where it appears as on the right. It also links back to the review page on LibraryThing.

On your Edit profile: Sites/apps page you will find a handy checkbox to make the “Share to Facebook” default to “on” (unless you’ve already published the review, in which case you must explicitly make it republish it).

Sharing via Facebook adds the LibraryThing Books app., which is a Facebook app. for LibraryThing. Right now it does nothing except post your reviews as requested.

So, what else should it do? (Everything, okay, but what is most important?) Come talk about it here.

Credits. The programming this time around was done by Mike (LTMike). Members of the Board for Extreme Thing Advances provided valuable help.

Labels: facebook, new features

Monday, May 17th, 2010

Welcome Octavia!

Welcome to Octavia, the newest LibraryThing baby!  Congratulations to Sonya and her husband Jason on the birth of their daughter last night at a healthy 8 pounds and 20.5 inches long.  All three are happy and well.

Not to be outdone by Mike and Lulu last month, Sonya live-blogged during labor. (Having had a baby myself once upon a time, I just have to say WOW/WHAT?! in amazement that she had the mental wherewithal to blog).

Post your congrats on this Talk thread.

Want more cuteness? See all the LibraryThing baby announcements here (and we’ve still got one more baby coming soon)!

UPDATE (7/30/10): The original post was lost and we were unable to save the original comments. Our apologies, but please feel free to post new comments.

Labels: LibraryThing babies

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

May batch of Early Reviewers books is available

The May 2010 batch of Early Reviewer books is up! We’ve got 70 books this month, and a grand total of 1234 copies to give out. (I swear, I didn’t make that number up.)

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:

The deadline to request a copy is Friday, May 28th at 6PM EST.

Eligiblity: Publishers do things country-by-country. This month we have publishers who can send books to the many different countries. 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!

Henry Holt and Company Grand Central Publishing Canongate Books
Tundra Books Putnam Books Orbit Books
New American Library St. Martin’s Press Riverhead Books
Rovira i Virgili University Press Penguin St. Martin’s Minotaur
Ballantine Books Bantam Dell The Permanent Press
University of Iowa Press Gefen Publishing House St. Martin’s Griffin
Jove Books Picador Tor Books
Faber and Faber Other Press Doubleday Books
Demos Medical Publishing Unbridled Books IDW Publishing
Hesperus Press Gibbs Smith Publisher Shambhala
Harper Menasha Ridge Press Clerisy Press
Orca Book Publishers

Labels: early reviewers

Friday, April 30th, 2010

April/May Early Reviewer Bonus Batch!

Surprise! We just sent out the April Early Reviewers winners. But we have the opportunity to give out a few more books quickly. So here it is: A tiny bonus batch, closing on Tuesday.

  • The deadline to request a copy is Tuesday, May 4th at 6PM EST.
  • Canadians: Both books are available to you, and one is for you alone!

The War Memoir of (HRH) Wallis, Dutchess of Windsor by Kate Auspitz

“Was it the greatest love story of the twentieth century or a bloodless coup?

She was the first person to be named Woman of the Year by Time magazine. Yet Wallis Simpson is one of the most reviled women in history. The social climbing divorcée was portrayed as a snob and a voluptuary who came close to destroying the British monarchy. But could she have been the pawn of Allied statesmen determined to remove a Nazi sympathizer from power?”

The book comes to us from Viking Canada.

Gnoll Credo by J. Stanton

From a world in which Avatar is Fight Club instead of Disney’s Pocahontas, James Tiptree, Jr. wrote The Dice Man, and magic doesn’t work any better than it does here…
…we bring you The Gnoll Credo. Sell that ‘enchanted’ sword and come join the hyena-people. Don’t wear your good clothes.

The book comes to us from 100 Watt Press, and also appeared in our March batch, when it was requested 820 times.

How to participate. 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:

Eligiblity: Publishers do things country-by-country. This month we have publishers who can send books to the US and Canada.

Labels: early reviewers

Monday, April 19th, 2010

April’s State of the Thing

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

This month’s State of the Thing introduces some of the new LibraryThing babies, gives book recommendations from Robyn Okrant and David Lipsky (featuring all the David Foster Wallace you could want), and beings an exclusive author interview with Anne Lamott:

Anne Lamott’s Imperfect Birds is the third in a series about the characters Elizabeth and Rosie (and now-husband James). In Imperfect Birds, the first-person narrative shifts between mother and teen daughter. Elizabeth is simultaneously dealing with her own demons of depression and alcoholism while dealing with her child’s growing freedom. Rosie pushes boundaries to the breaking point, with serious drug use and lying forcing Elizabeth to view the unpleasant realities of her daughter’s actions and her own desire for polite fiction over impolite truth. Anne’s previous books also include the non-fiction Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year and Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith.

Next month, I’ll be interviewing Yann Martel, author of Life of Pi, about his new book Beatrice and Virgil. I’ll also be interviewing David Baldacci, who’s new novel, Deliver Us from Evil, will be out April 20th.

Have a question for Martel or Baldacci? Post them in the Author Interviews—you ask the questions group.

(Photo is of me reading in a cherry tree, taken by me.)

Labels: state of the thing

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Hello, Lulu!

Many congrats go to LibraryThing developer Mike and his wife Rebecca, on the birth of their daughter, the already impressive Lulu!

Mike liveblogged the event, so you can check out even more cute photos.

If you’d like to send happy thoughts, well wishes or scones, there’s a thread here.

Lulu is the third LibraryThing baby born in the past month (Max and William joined the LibraryThing team at the end of March), and we still have two to go (myself, and Chris Catalfo) before July.

If you’d like to see all of the LibraryThing newborns, check out the rest of the LibraryThingBaby birth announcements.

Labels: LibraryThing babies