Friday, December 14th, 2007

Hungary! Hungary!

LibraryThing is now open for Hungarian cataloging!

We’ve added two sources—the Hungarian National Library (Országos Széchényi Könyvtár) and the Hungarian National Shared Catalogue (Magyar Országos Közös Katalógus), a 17-library consortium which, if I understand correctly, includes the national library as well.*

We are looking forward to welcoming more Hungarians to LibraryThing. Our Hungarian-language site, hu.LibraryThing.com is at an advanced stage of translation. But we need your help. As we release each language, we realize how critical it is to build momentum. We’ve had success in Holland and Denmark because there were already active Dutch and Danish communities on LibraryThing, and because I knew a good many bloggers in both countries. So far, our Hungarian community has been small (114 members at last count) and I don’t know a single Hungarian blogger! So, if you want this to succeed, spread the word. Blog about it! Tell friends! Stand on a street corner!

Oh, and since you read down this far, how about a free account? The first 20 members who write to me from a .hu address** will get a free premium account. Just send me your member name to tim@librarything.com. If you run a blog in Hungarian, I’ll send you five more to give away to visitors.

*I’d love some clarification on this. We don’t have a bookstore yet—the way we’ve added Bol-Bruna for Dutch, and deastore.com for Italy. We’d love to add one. Update: Apparnetly, The National Library goes on siesta between 23:00-3:00 CET (GMT +1).
**If you’re a native Hungarian speaker in Romania or elsewhere, write me and we’ll work it out.

The flag image above is by Flickr user antenae, and is licensed under the Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Her profile lists here as “24, female, Budapest, Hungary.” Does she want a free membership?

Labels: hungarian, hungary, libraries, magyar, new libraries

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

SantaThing about to close!

UPDATE: SantaThing is closed, and the Santa-ees have been picked. Check the SantaThing page to see who you’ve got, and start picking out books!

You have until noon, Eastern Standard Time (17:00 GMT) to sign up for SantaThing, Secret Santa for LibraryThing members. If you want to be part of it, sign up now! (If you want to know more about it, see the previous blog post.)

As of now there are 235 Santas. That’s a lot of participation!

Once we’ve closed it down, we’re going to throw everyone in a hat and pick the Santa-ees (Santa recipients?). We’re going to need to take some time to make sure all the entrants qualify—some non-US/UK/Canada people will have to be tossed—and have given us an address. We hope to turn it around quickly.

Once we’ve picked people, we’ll post comments on member’s profiles. Users who have comment-emailing on will get it by email too, but we can’t guarantee it doesn’t end up in your spam box.

You will have until 10pm Friday (Dec. 14) night to select the book or books. We’ll process things in the order they come in, as fast as Abby and I can handle it.

Labels: santathing

Wednesday, December 12th, 2007

12 fonti italiane! (12 Italian sources!)

I have been cataloging my Italian books manually for months, but for the joy of all Italian readers, this is finally over! We’ve just added 12 new Italian sources!

It’s really no fun at all to enter book data field by field for hundreds of books, so I am sure all Italian Thingamabrarians will love the new sources! I’m personally really looking forward to cataloging books by scanning the ISBNs with my lovely CueCat!

Anyway, this is a good news for all users: among the 12 new sources there’s the Vatican Library, which owns books in a number of languages, and the European University Institute Library in Florence, with a lot of books on social sciences and European studies in English.

Now, I know this is an English speaking blog, but I’m sure (well, I hope!) Tim and Abby wouldn’t mind some Italian … so, if you wanna read further and you’re not Italian, well, Babelfish is just one click away!

Da quando poco più di un anno fa LibraryThing è stato tradotto in italiano (e in più di 20 altre lingue) dagli utenti di LibraryThing (la pagina traduzioni è qui, se vuoi dare il tuo contributo!), il numero di utenti italiani è cresciuto insieme alle lamentele per la mancanza di una fonte di catalogazione ;-)

Biblioteche e non solo. Finalmente siamo in grado di aggiungere non una, ma ben 12 nuove fonti di catalogazione! Oltre a 11 biblioteche* abbiamo aggiunto anche una libreria online di Roma, DEAstore, perfetta per libri di recente pubblicazione. Non offre gli stessi dati delle biblioteche, ma ha delle copertine fantastiche!

Gruppi.
LibraryThing in inglese (e in alcune altre lingue) ha centinaia di gruppi di discussione molto attivi. I gruppi italiani non sono molto vivaci**, ma forse con qualche utente un più, possiamo rianimarli. Già, ma dove li troviamo altri utenti italiani? Ecco un piccolo incentivo!

Invita i tuoi amici e ricevi un account gratuito per te e per un tuo amico! Dal proprio profilo è possibile invitare i propri amici su LibraryThing. Non perdere tempo, regaliamo un account annuale per te e per un amico ai primi 15 che invitano un amico che cataloga almeno 15 libri!***
Non sei riuscito a convincere nessuno?! Prova a mostrare la visita guidata a LibraryThing.

Ma da quando Tim ha imparato l’italiano?! Beh, Tim non ha imparato l’italiano ;-) Da alcuni mesi LibraryThing ha un italiano nel suo team. Domande, dubbi, bugs? Scrivetemi! Nel frattempo, buona catalogazione a tutti!


* A parte il catalogo delle biblioteche Liguri, le altre nuove fonti sono biblioteche universitarie o di centri di ricerca. Se qualcuno conosce biblioteche italiane che supportano il formato Z39.50, possiamo cercare di aggiungerle. Scrivetemi!
** Adesso che abbiamo delle fonti di catalogazione, di cosa parleremo nei gruppi?!
*** Mandate il nome del vostro account e dell’account del vostro amico a giovannilibrarything.com

Photo credit: “Italian flag flying on top of Monte Sighignola photo by Flikr user ovuigner, used under a CC-Attribution license.

Labels: italy, new feature, new libraries

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

Holiday book pile contest

It’s been a while, but I hereby bring back the book pile contest. I want holiday bookpiles! Make of it what you will—they can be holiday themed (the picture to the right is the winner of last year’s Christmas book pile contest, by thelee — I’d love New Year’s piles, or Solstice, Kwanza, Hanukkah), books you received, books you’re giving, SantaThing books*—use your imagination!

The nitty gritty:

  • Post your photos to Flickr and tag them “LTholiday” (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:

  • Monday, January 7th at noon, EST.

Grand prize winner will receive a LibraryThing t-shirt. Two runners-up will each get a yearly gift membership (to keep or give away).

Find inspiration in our archive of past book pile contests.

*Still a few days to sign up for SantaThing!

Labels: book pile, contest

Monday, December 10th, 2007

SantaThing: Secret Santas for LibraryThing!

UPDATE: We just (9pm) hit 100 Secret Santas, and a lot of interesting comments on them. Some users are confused about the money. The situation is this. When you sign up, you pay $25. When you get someone you pick out up to $20 worth of books, and tell us what they are—by ISBN presumably. We buy the gifts and pay the shipping. I suspect we’ll make or lose about $1 per Santa. This is hardly about the money.

It had to happen and here it is: SantaThing!

SantaThing is Secret Santa for LibraryThing members.

The idea is simple. Pay $25. You play Santa to a random LibraryThing member, and find them up $20 worth of books, based on their library or a short description. Someone else does the same to you. LibraryThing orders the books and pays the shipping, so no addresses are exchanged and no members are stalked!

Now, this isn’t just for you. You can also go in for someone you know—a relative or a friend. Describe their library a bit and someone will find them the perfect present. And you can become a Santa as many times as you like. So, for example, I entered myself and my wife. Heck, I might outsource all my Christmas buying to the LibraryThing community! :)

Lastly, even if you don’t want to be a Santa, you can help by suggesting books for others.

Crucial dates. This is going to end very soon.

  • Thursday, 12 Noon Eastern. Santa-signup ends. Secret Santas are picked.
  • Friday, 10pm Eastern. Submit gifts to LibraryThing. LibraryThing buys everything. According to Amazon, if it’s ordered before Tuesday it will make it by December 24.

Back story. I wanted to do this last year, but couldn’t get it out in time. This year I aimed low. You’ll notice it’s very basic. (You can make suggestions, but you can’t delete past suggestions, use touchstones, etc.) But, what the heck? It’s going to be gone in a week—it’s good enough!

Addendum: I haven’t even blogged it yet, and one user has already signed up. The “tastes” section was filled out as follows:

“Please refrain from choosing anything involving wizards, elves, dragons, swords, etc… or anything Oprah demands be read.”

Labels: new feature, santathing, secret santa

Friday, December 7th, 2007

The Somnambulist!

A few days ago, I announced our December batch of Early Reviewer books. One of the books, The Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes, immediately shot to the most requested spot. An hour in 200 people wanted a copy. As of right now, 1081 people have requested it—making it by far our most requested Early Reviewer book ever.* Unfortunately, we had only 20 copies to give.

So, I emailed the publisher, William Morrow, and asked if they’d be willing to part with more copies. They readily agreed, and tripled the quantity of books from 20 available copies to 60. So, forty more people will get to read and review The Somnambulist early. Thanks William Morrow!

This batch is shaping up to be popular across the board. I can’t stop refreshing the list of Early Reviewer books, it’s addictive to see them go.**

On a semi-related note, we also have some cross over between Early Reviewers and our LibraryThing Author program. This month, Spellbinder Press is offering up The Sex Club by L. J. Sellers, one of our LibraryThing Authors! (L.J.’s LibraryThing profile). So after you request her book, go browse through the author’s library… We’ve had several other authors join (or while) their books were up on Early Reviewers. Check out:

*The number kept rising as I was drafting this, and understandably so. It looks fantastic, I plan on reading it myself when it comes out… As one member put it in Talk, “I suspect that’s because it’s the first thing to show up that has a decidedly fantastical bent to it. The sci-fi fans and fantasy fans groups on LT are two of the largest.”
**[Tim’s note: If I were eligible, I’d go for The Boat and the Sea of Galilee, about the discovery, excavation and preservation of a first-century boat, something I know a little about from briefly working at the Institute for Nautical Archaeology in Bodrum, Turkey. Unfortunately, I’m not eligible. We need to start getting our own copies, though. Some day we’ll want to take a picture of all the books Early Reviewers has released, and we won’t be able.]

Labels: early reviewers, William Morrow

Thursday, December 6th, 2007

LibraryThing in Hebrew, with Hebrew cataloging

We just brought live a Hebrew-language translation of LibraryThing, il.LibraryThing.com.

We’ve also added our first largely Hebrew-language source, the
Israel Union List, which includes the national library, all universities and many other public and private libraries. Unlike some of our sources, IUL records have the Hebrew or Arabic* scripts, not transliterations.

To our knowledge, this is the first time Hebrew-language book cataloging has been possible online. Certainly none of our 40+ competitors have Hebrew language sources—or generally any sources other than Amazon, but I digress. Of course, this is a small “market” (about 15 million speakers). But like some other communities we’ve gone after—Danish, Dutch, Swedish, Welsh—it’s a bookish one, and often multilingual to boot.

I’m particularly chuffed at how rapidly members’ have jumped in to translate the site. In less than day we’ve gone from completely untransalted (yellow text) to significantly so. Here are screen shots at 4pm yesterday and 11am today.

Lots of work remains, translating all LibraryThing’s “corners” and hammering out agreement on the terms—like “tag”—that trip every translation up. So far, much of the credit goes to one user, mirmir, behind whose cat are books in a number of languages. We hope LibraryThing can help her catalog her Hebrew—and Yiddish—books.

Work also remains on our side. Although the overall structure reverses well—to deal with Hebrew’s right-left directionality—some elements do not. Not all of this is easy for us to guess at, so we need your help on Talk. Check out the announcement and ongoing discussion in the בעברית LT in Hebrew group.

It’s also going to take some time to iron out all the cataloging issues. We’re confident that basic cataloging works, but we’ll need to be told about searching withing your catalog. As far as our “global level”—the level of works and combined authors—it’s going to take some time for us to knock the Latin-script bias out of our system. We are, however, strongly committed to doing that. After Hebrew, we plan to release Farsi, Arabic, Urdu, Hindi, Japanese, Chinese and Korean. We’ve got to get this stuff right!


*For now, the IUL is our best Arabic language source. We have three others waiting in the wings—the American University of Cairo, Mubarak Public Library in Cairo and the library of the United Arab Emirates University. Unfortunately, we’re having search problems with all of them. We’re solving non-Latin search problems one by one, but, worse, these libraries appear to have relatively few records in Arabic script, rather than transliteration.

If you’re in the library world and interested in cataloging Arabic-language books we’d love your help finding libraries we can use. Unfortunately, we can’t use the web catalogs most libraries provide, but only libraries with a Z39.50 connection.

Labels: hebrew language, israel union list, israeli libraries, yiddish language

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007

December Early Reviewer Books

This month’s batch of Early Reviewer books is up! Once again, publishers give us advance copies of books, and we give them to you to read and review. Free!

First, sign up to be an Early Reviewer, if you haven’t already (and make sure to include you full name and mailing address).

Then go ahead and request the books you’d like to read and review! Check out the Frequently Asked Questions for more help.

The list of available books is here: http://www.librarything.com/er/list

The deadline to request copies of these books is Saturday, December 15th at noon, EST.

This month we have 24 books (455 copies in total) from the following publishers:

Eligibility: Most of the books are available to residents of the US and Canada. Books from Gefen are available only to residents of Israel and the continental United States. Every book has a flag (or two) beneath the “Request it!” box—check the flag to see whether you’re eligible to get that book.

LibraryThing in Hebrew Because we now have an Israeli publisher in the mix, we figured it was time to introduce LibraryThing in Hebrew. So http://il.LibraryThing.com is now officially live and ready for translation. More details in this talk post.

And now, for your viewing pleasure, a mash of this month’s LTER covers.

Labels: early reviewers, LTER

Tuesday, December 4th, 2007

Better at what we do best

We’ve introduced a series of improvements to LibraryThing’s core strength—high-quality book cataloging.

Detail pages and edit pages. We’re replaced the previous detail and edit pages with more attractive and functional ones. That’s an edit page over on the right. For a detail page, check out my copy of my the obscure-but-wonderful*, Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army.

Employing a simple tabbed interface, the new detail pages cover both the “work” level and the individual book level. The latter has been sorely lacking.

Multiple authors, roles. When it comes to cataloging our weakest point was always our handling of “secondary” authors—illustrators, translators, editors and the like. Doing them better has been one of the most insistent requests.

We’ve got a real system now. Books added today come with secondary authors and author roles built in. We’ve set down a small number of preset “roles,” such as Editor, Translator, Photographer and so forth—based on Amazon’s preset roles—but all roles are editable. In time, these roles will be spread throughout the system, so that the author page for someone like Steven King will include not only his own works, but collections he appears in. Translators in particular will finally get their due.

For now, enhanced author and role information is available only for newly-added books. As the system is firmed-up we will begin allowing members to “upgrade” existing records, with multiple authors as well as other cataloging enhancements.

New fields. So far, we’re releasing only two new fields. The first is for the number of copies, in case, like I, you have 500 copies of your wife’s novel, resisting relocation in the foyer. The second is the much-anticipated “private comments” field. Go ahead, pour your hearts out. The field is only viewable when you are signed in.

We’re starting with two, but we have many more waiting in the wings, including fields for edition, publisher, place of publication, binding, physical size and weight, list price—even OCLC number and ISSN. Casey and I spent a lot of time figuring out what more we can squeeze from library data, and from Amazon too. (Did you know, for example, that all library data records declare whether or not they are a Festschrift, but there is no standard way of indicating a CD?)

New Libraries. We’ve been unveiling libraries slowly. By New Years, however, we will have almost 700 libraries. Including among these will be many outside of English-speaking countries, and including books in non-Latin scripts, such as Arabic, Korean and Armenian. Library systems are notoriously twitchy with non-Latin data, and between LT employees we cover nothing beyond Greek. If you’re interested in helping us test these systems, we’d love to hear it.

New Languages. LibraryThing is already available in more than a dozen languages. We’re about to release sixteen more. They are:

Afrikaans, Arabic, Armenian, Chinese (simplified), Chinese (traditional), Farsi, Hebrew, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Macedonian, Polish, Russian, Serbian, Tagalog, Urdu

Some of our existing translations have done well—German, Dutch, Welsh—while others—Basque, Latvian—have languished. I think I see now that the key ingredient is a small cadre of zealots willing to do enough initial work that subsequent, interested but less-daring helpers can carry thing the rest of the way. If you’re interested in helping out on one of these languages, let us know. We’ll give you a special key in.

MARCThing. Underneath many of our improvements is an exciting new package we’re calling MARCThing. Developed by our own Casey Durfee, MARCThing is a complete, self-contained and largely idiot-proof way to access and parse library data. We’re going to making it available for non-commercial use and extension. We expect lots of interesting things to come of it.

I’ve asked Casey to write up a post on MARCThing over on the Thingology blog. It’ll be there in a sec. Check it out.

Talk about it. Yesterday was Götterdämmerung for everything new. So much changed so completely that a lot ended up broken. For that we apologize. Chris and I are very grateful for the flood of bug reports, suggestions, criticisms and encouragement. That thread is threatening to hit 200 posts, so I’m starting a new thread for lingering issues (there are a few) and other topics related to this blog post. Of course, you can also comment on this post. Blog posts are a lousy place for bugs, but they’re a great place for more detailed questions, disagreements and so forth.

Future steps. In the next week we’ll be unveiling the other new fields, and building a “data-enhancement” option for older records. After that, the path is clear for collections. (But don’t shoot me if I slip a Secret-Santa feature in this week.)

Final thoughts. We’ve undertaken to improve this aspect of the site despite some contrary advice—that most people don’t care about getting the data right, and that we need to focus on the purely social parts of the site. After all, we’re already the best at this side, so why spend time and money to get better?

Although, with cataloging improved, we intend to turn our attention to better UI—such as collections—and to improved social features, we feel that LibraryThing isn’t MySpace—that content and conversation are inextricably linked. As Tim O’Reilly recently put it in an interview, LibraryThing is one of a number of sites that provide different, interesting takes on the “social graph.” You don’t get to interesting relationships around books without making the book-side as powerful and flexible as can be.


*And, on LibraryThing, insanely over-promoted!

Labels: cataloging, new feature, new libraries, privacy

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

Norway, Sweden and New Zealand!

We’ve gone and released eleven Norwegian, Swedish and New Zealand libraries.

Norway gets its first libraries, six in number, as does New Zealand, five. Sweden now has five, up from three. Of course, Norway and Sweden have their own, translated LibraryThings, no.LibraryThing.com and se.LibraryThing.com.

The libraries include The Royal Library of Sweden (LIBRIS), the Oslo Public Library (Deichmanske Bibliotek), the University of Auckland and the National Library of New Zealand. The new batch comes on top of twenty-five Danish and twenty-eight new Australian libraries, raising the new total to 132. Momentum is building. We’ll release Finland next week, but just wait until we release new libraries from the USA, Canada and the Spanish-speaking world!

Getting people outside the US to join LibraryThing is all about making it easy for them to enter their books; this should make it a lot easier for Norwegians, Swedes and Kiwis to join the fun.

New features, Monday. We had planned to release some major improvments to book editing and cataloging quality today but at 5:30am last night Chris and I called it a night, frustrated with some Internet Explorer bugs. (Chris is still asleep. I got up at 9. Which one of us has a child, I wonder?) The screen-capture was taken at 3:30 from our video chat. Don’t you wish you worked for LibraryThing?

Anyway, I don’t like to release really major features late in the week. And we can improve things. So we’re going to pile on some more goodness and release everything Sunday night/Monday morning.

Downtime. We’re going to go down for much of Saturday morning, changing the database in important ways.

Labels: new libraries, new zealand, norway, sweden