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, new features, 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:

William Morrow

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, member giveaways

Monday, January 7th, 2008

Scaling is fun!

Ah, scaling! The problem you want to have. Well, we’ve got it all right.*

You’ll see some scaling-related changes, such as a new author-combination “wait” page (with an animated whale to keep you company**), and the removal of the Group Zeitgesit page. Searching your catalog is again very speedy, but at the expense of some of the bells and whistles (eg., negative searches). We know it needs work.

Thanks for hanging in there. We’re heads-down on the changes we need to make, and have a hardware order in the pipeline.

*The red line is the bandwidth we pay for. Yipes!
**

Labels: killer whales, scaling

Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

Happy 1815! Thomas Jefferson is done.

An unusual member has finished adding his 4,889 books to LibraryThing—our third president, Thomas Jefferson!

Jefferson, 264, was assisted by sixteen LibraryThing members, led by jbd1. Together, they cataloged 4,889 books (6,487 volumes), added 187 of his reviews (a treat), and tagged them 4,889 times, according to Jefferson’s own innovative/weird classification system.

It was hard work, but it only took them four months. They worked from scholarly reconstructions of Jefferson’s 1815 books, tracking down records in 34 libraries around the world. As is well known, Jefferson sold his books to the Library of Congress, replacing the one the British destroyed during the War of 1812. This 1815 library is Jefferson’s best-documented library. (Of course, Jefferson spent the rest of his life building up another personal collection.)

Why do it? What’s the point? After all, scans of the scholarly catalog were already available from the LC. But browsing his library is a breeze now—it’s a LibraryThing library just like another.

From Jefferson’s profile you can take advantage of all the special features, like spying on his author cloud, tag cloud, author gallery and stats page. (Everyone knows he was a Francophile, but it’s neat to see he had 45% as many French as English books.)

What’s your Jefferson number? You can also find out how many books you share, either on his profile or a new section on your stats page. Right now the top shared-user is ellenandjim, with 69 works and 79 books. Your number is going to go up, however, as the combination work continues.

About the effort. The effort to catalog Jefferson’s books was coordinated through the group I See Dead People[‘s Books]. Here’s the post announcing the completion.

It was exacting work. I stalled after few dozen books. Thanks are therefore due to the sixteen members who contributed, and particularly to the two biggest contributors, jbd1 and jjlong. I met jbd1—Jeremy Dibbell—at the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair. He is just weeks short of an MLS from Simmons College, and has just taken a full-time job at the Massachusetts Historical Society. About jjlong, Jeremy doesn’t know anything more than his first name, Joel, and his state, Tennessee. [UPDATE: Jeremy has put up his own blog post.]

Work has already begun on other dead worthies, with William Faulkner and Tupac Shakur the farthest along. I’m guessing that when Jefferson’s opponent John Adams is entered, they’re show up as each other’s top sharers!

Why Jefferson is Web 2.0 hip. As Tim O’Reilly recently put it*, LibraryThing (and Geni.com) presents different sorts of “social graph” (social network). On LibraryThing it’s not just “friends”—a powerful but rather simple way of seeing the world—but a different set of connections: how you relate to others through taste and interest. We’re aiming for something more than “who are your bookish friends?” or “what are your friends reading?” but “what is the world of books, and how do you fit in?”**

A paradoxical result of this—one that the “Web 2.0″-types mostly don’t understand—is that not all uses of our “social network” are social. I watch a number of users I have never spoken to; their taste in books is interesting enough. The tags and recommendations I watch work the same way. They’re socially created, but they’re not always about social interaction.

In MySpace and the lot, dead people are boring. Recently-deceased people get tributes on their comment page; MyDeathSpace has even built up a ghoulish, ad-driven business*** off teen suicides and car wrecks. But that’s about it. Historical dead people are jokes and get deleted.

On LibraryThing there are no such limitations. Books are a sort of mental world, and shared books a shared mental space. Dead or alive, it’s interesting to know that Jefferson and I share the world of Longus’ Daphnis and Chloe and de las Casas’ Destruction of the Indies (he read both in Italian!). It’s also interesting too to see that Jefferson, a Deist, had more books on Christian theology than all but a few libraries in LibraryThing, 25 books of Ecclesiastical history and 19 of Ecclesiastical law!

And Jefferson is just the start. Every library, bibliography and list, every publisher, author, bookseller and reader adds meaning to the whole, and there is no end to how the data can be turned. What books had both Jefferson and King George read? How many of my books were in the libraries of Photius or at Monte Cassino. What living author has my taste in novels? What NYT reviewer hates the same books I do? What bookstore sells the books I like? What town buys the most vampire smut? Calculating book-to-book affinities, which founding father is most likely to have enjoyed Chicken Soup for the Cat-Lover’s Soul? (It’s Burr, definitely.)


* Near the end. Geni.com is a Web 2.0 genealogy site, where the dead people are the metadata!
**I like the word bibliosphere, with its implicit comparison to the blogosphere. As stuffed-shirts like Michael Gorman fail to recognize, books have always been subjective, imperfect and in conversation with other books.
***A page of suicides is currently giving me a Viagra ad. They also make money from tshirts. Blech.

Labels: jefferson, social networking, special libraries

Monday, December 17th, 2007

¿Qué hay en tu estantería? (Spanish books)

Cataloging your Spanish-language books just got a lot easier. We already have user-translated Spanish language site, www.LibraryThing.es, our fourth-most popular site. But we didn’t have good Spanish sources.

So today I’ve added 20 Spanish sources, including a bookstore and nineteen libraries.

The bookstore, deastore.com, is an excellent source for recent books, popular paperbacks and cover images, mostly from Spain. Deastore is critical insofar as Amazon, our most-used source, has no Spanish or Latin American site, and few Spanish books. The libraries provide depth, including older books and–although all but one are from Spain itself–books from elsewhere in the Spanish-speaking world.

You can add sources to your options here. Here’s the complete list:

  • deastore.com
  • Biblioteca Central de La Rioja
  • Biblioteca de Castilla y Leon
  • Biblioteca Foral de Bizkaia
  • Biblioteca Pública de Avila
  • Biblioteca Pública de Burgos
  • Biblioteca Pública de Palencia
  • Biblioteca Pública de Salamanca
  • Biblioteca Pública de Segovia
  • Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes
  • Congreso de los Diputados
  • Universidad Autónoma de Madrid
  • Universidad Carlos III de Madrid
  • Universidad Complutense de Madrid
  • Universidad de Alcalá de Henares
  • Universidad de Alicante
  • Universidad de Burgos
  • Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED)
  • Universidad Politécnica de Madrid
  • Universidad Pública de Navarra

Did you make it this far? The first 25 people to write to tim@librarything.com from a Spanish-language email address (.es, .mx, .ar, etc) will get a free membership. (If you don’t have one, write to us in Spanish.) And for the next few days, if you run a Spanish-language blog, we’ll send you five memberships—to blog or just to give to friends.

Labels: libraries, new libraries, spanish, spanish books

Sunday, December 16th, 2007

Fifteen new languages

The non-English LibraryThings are flourishing. Every day we move closer to the dream of a truly international community of book lovers—contributing to the community even when we don’t speak the same language.* Good sources have been critical. We’re going release a flurry of Spanish ones on Monday, and hundreds more in many languages are forthcoming soon. Equally important has been all the effort members have put into the translations. Participation has been really astounding—202 members have made at least 20 edits each. A few languages have been shouldered by a single member—moriarty with Albanian or avitkauskas with Lithuanian—but most have been a group endeavor.

At least a dozen languages are ready for general use. It’s time to introduce some more!

By and large, the languages above correspond to languages we hope to support with one or more sources. In some cases, as Armenian, we haven’t found a source yet, but we’re hopeful. In some cases, as with Korean, we haven’t yet figured out how to make our source work, but we haven’t exhausted our options. As always, we need help finding open Z39.50 connections.

PS: Don’t forget Basque. It’s still almost untranslated. We’ll be releasing a largely Basque-language library on Monday too.

*Notably, LibraryThing’s work system means that when it comes to a book that crosses boundaries, everyone counts. That is, if Albanian readers of Heinlein also enjoy Alfred Bester, that will count when it comes time to generate recommendations. Speaking of which, we have a site-wide re-think of recommendations going on. So, expect bumps.

Labels: languages, new feature, new features, new langauges

Friday, December 14th, 2007

LibraryThing t-shirts

We’ve had t-shirts available on our CafePress store for a while now, but we decided it was time to do it ourselves. Our stock came in this morning, in several huge boxes on my snowy doorstep, and we’ll be sending out the first shirts this afternoon (some people had pre-ordered).

We’ve got them in black and cardinal (a dark red-ish color), in unisex sizes S-XL.

You can order t-shirts here, they cost $20 each (plus S&H).

Lindsey and I immediately picked one each and ran them through the wash so we could report on shrinkage—for what it’s worth, I’d say they shrink a little bit (they’re “preshrunk cotton”, but still), and that the medium is probably a little smaller then a typical men’s medium.

Shipping for Christmas. If you want a shirt by December 24th, then you need to order it shipped priority mail by Wednesday the 19th at 3pm EST. It’s probably too late for international shipping to make it in time (but hey, what says “Happy New Year” more than a t-shirt?)

LibraryThing memberships also make great gifts (or what about a CueCat stocking stuffer?).

Give a lifetime membership ($25)
Give an annual membership ($10)

That’s it. Back to picking books for my SantaThing-ee…

Labels: gifts, tshirts