Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

Import upgrade

Mike—welcome Mike!*—has completed a major upgrade to the import system. The improvements are:

  • Better user interface.
  • Import now reads files from LibraryThing competitors, so you can move to us or synch your accounts.
  • Depending on the site, we pick up tags, reviews, ratings and comments. If you already have the books in your library, you avoiding adding the books again, but synch your user data.
  • The sites include Anobii, Shelfari and Goodreads. If you use someone else—there are more than 35 of them!—let us know. If the offer export—not all sites do—we can work it out.
  • If your file is formatted properly—formatted like the LibraryThing export or any of our competitors’—we now import non-ISBN books.

Import is still based on the idea that—when possible—LibraryThing re-fetches the bibliographic data. This adds another step, an “import queue.” But it also allows members to import full records, which no other site exports, and to get high-quality library data, if they want it.

Tell us what you think on Talk. It’s probably going to take a while to spell out what it does and doesn’t do and to update the old Adding and Importing FAQs.


*Mike (member: notmydadslibrary) is a new intern up here in Portland. This was a doozy of a first project!

Labels: import, new feature, new features

Monday, May 19th, 2008

Member book recommendations

I’ve just added a small new feature, Member recommendations. You can check it out under “Recommendations” here or here.*

Basically, you can now add your own recommendations to LibraryThing’s six (!) algorithmic recommendations. If you want, you can also leave a short explanation of your choice.

I’m throwing this one out pretty raw.** It’s available from the primary page of a work, and from its recommendation page, and on a single Member Recommendations page.

To be done:

  • A way to see all the recommendations you’ve given
  • A way to see all the recommendations others have applied to your books
  • Recommendation flagging
  • Up/down voting on recommendations?

Come talk about the feature and where it could go on Talk here.


*I hope to link to some better examples soon, one members start adding them. I find fiction recommendations very hard, so most of my recommendations so far have been off ancient history, which makes the feature seem much less interesting than it is!
**I’ve had this on ice for a while, while dealing with tags and scaling issues. I don’t think I’m going to be making major changes until Chris comes back from paternity leave later this week or next.

Labels: new feature, new features, recommendations

Sunday, May 18th, 2008

LibraryThing at the Philadelphia Book Festival

This weekend I represented LibraryThing at the Philadelphia Book Festival*. We had a booth, where I got to geek out about books and LibraryThing with readers, authors, and various styles of bibliophile.

I also gave a talk on the fine, fine merits of LibraryThing.

I met some awesome LibraryThing members, and a number of people who I think will be joining our ranks.

I’m glad to have gone to such a book-lovin’ event, in a really cool city.

*Abby was originally supposed to go, but I went in her stead.

Labels: event, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Philadelphia Book Festival, Sonya

Friday, May 16th, 2008

Two More Legacies Finished

The ever-growing pantheon of Legacy Libraries now includes two new members.

LTers Larxol and moibibliomaniac have cataloged the library of Samuel Johnson from the 1784 sale catalogue of his books (which, while neither complete nor accurate, is the best list available of the good Doctor’s library in his later years). Not surprisingly, Johnson shares many of his 748 books with Thomas Jefferson and John Adams (168 and 63 books respectively). The overlaps are endlessly fascinating, I think.

My own latest and long-running project has been the library of the Mather Family. This collection was accumulated by (and then dispersed among) members of several Mather generations, from patriarch Richard down through several of his great-grandsons. So far as I’ve been able to tell, this is the first time this collection has been put together in one place (a 1910 bibliography included a fair portion of the books, but not all of them; I’ve tracked down all the ones I can find, but I’m sure there are more out there squirreled away in other libraries, so I’ll be on the lookout for additions. I’ve written a (probably much too) lengthy introduction to collection on the Mather Family profile page, and if you’re so inclined have posted a few more of my own musings on this library here.

As always, anyone is welcome to participate in the Legacy projects (or start your own!). Stop by anytime.

Labels: legacies

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

Top ten suggestions


Member lilypadma suggested we hire more people. But finding new good people is hard, so we opted for cloning.**

Just over a week ago* we asked members to come up with their recommendations on “Ten Ways to Make LibraryThing Better.” We promised to pick twenty-five winners, including ten winning answers and fifteen random picks.

Members heard the call, writing 259 answers for a total of 45,000 words–slightly longer than Henry James’s Turn of the Screw. Last week Sonya, Abby, Casey and I got together to work on LibraryThing for Libraries. We took a break on Wednesday to (drink and) read through the answers. We couldn’t pick just ten winners, so I’ve expanded it to 17–32 winners total. We could have easily done 50 more.

The Prizes. Winners get to chose between (1) A CueCat barcode scanner; (2) A LibraryThing t-shirt; (3) First dibs on a LibraryThing Early Reviewers book.

Winners should let Abby (abby@librarything.com) know what you want. If you want the Early Reviewer book, you’re also going to need to change your Early Reviewers picks to select just one book. We’re going to give you an “ER mojo” of a million, so whatever you pick, you’ll get.

The Winners. Random Winners: rfb, maryanntherese, jocainster, Imprinted, circeus, jabogaer, rastaphrog, claudiuo, jjmcgaffey, arnzen, trojanpotato, surly, phoenixfire, sigridsmith

sophies_choice (7): “Let us mark which books are our favourite.” I’m divided whether to make this work like author and venue favorites, or to make it a “collection.”

PhoenixTerran (31): “Update debris and author pages immediately after combining/separating has occurred” A big leap is going to happen here very soon, with the introduction of a more stable “editions” layer. I’m actually doing edition-level calculations in the background today, with an eye to inaugurating the system on a limited basis tonight.

Philtill (160): We all loved Philtill’s ten suggestions, which amount to “Make LibraryThing more like Tickle.” There are dangers to personality tests and statistical correlatons, of course. But we love to play with data, and “tell me about myself” is one of the main reasons people use LibraryThing anyway. So, expect us to take these ideas seriously.

jocainster (28): “Add a link to the book’s main page in the ‘Recently Added’ section.” Abby had to be restrained after reading this one.

parelle (44): Parelle wrote two related suggestions–LT bookmarks and a parnership with Moo Cards. dreamlikecheese focused in on sending cards to libraries and bookshops. This is one area we’re definitely going to look into.

sabreuse (152). “I was at a conference last week where I picked up several new books, but didn’t have internet access all day. And I realized that I want to be able to add books by SMS, the same way I can send photos directly to flickr or add events to my google calendar by text message, both of which I do all the time. I’d love to be able to add new ISBNs to my library while I’m out shopping, or traveling, or tied up away from a computer.”

nperrin (17): “Some ingenious way to link books to books about them. If I’m looking at a novel, I want to know how to find the best criticism of that novel or author.”

usquam (109): “Work with publishers to get better integration of their catalogues into LibraryThing. They should have covers, contents, editions, etc – as per the new ‘series’ area, it would be interesting to see what we have from a particular publisher, and then have them show other editions or titles we might like or are missing.”

susiebright (155): “I loved Secret Santa; it was the hightlight of my Xmas gift giving because it was so entirely unexpected. I think you should offer a ‘Birthday Surprise’ gift program of the same kind. You pick a ‘birthday kid’s name’ out of the hat, and send them a book based on what you glean from their library!'” We’re thinking that BirthdayThing could be hard to arrange, but doing a mid-year (June 25?) Secret Santa sounds fun. This time, members are doing the ordering!

yhoitink (9): “Add the European Library as a source.” Casey is squarely behind this one.

amysisson (87): “a virtual ‘badge’ or ‘ribbon’ (like LT author) for on the profile pages of people who’ve contributed over a certain level(s) of info, such as CK or combining” I’d love to do something like this. I’m attracted to the Barnstar model.

papyri (95): “Provenance, ex-libris (previous owner(s)) info listing (can be done like multiple authors). Possibly including dates and locations. Privacy option for this would be nice.” Sophies_Choice also suggested this be integrated with LT Local. Good stuff.

ssd7 (111) “Cross Source Searching. So, I would like to get my data from the LoC. But I would also like to just punch in an ISBN. These two desires are not always compatible since searching on ISBN’s often yields nothing from the LoC. When a search returns no results why not use the LT database or Amazon to find the title and then research for the user? Or at the very least let me set up a ‘priority’ listing of the sources so that if LoC yields nothing, it will automagically search Amazon.” ssd7 (111) also suggested “Open source the code.” This continues to interest us. No promises.

hegelian (16): “OpenID might be a smarter way to login for some people.”

_Zoe_ (24): “The ability to reset the unread marker at the message you’ve actually read up to.”

zcannon (25): “A widget that works on WordPress.”

TerrierGirl (34): “Could each book’s original copyright year be added to the my library, add to library screens? This would help interested potential readers place each book in time. Also, it would tell a reader when a particular book fell within that writer’s career.” I’ve wanted to do this for some time.

Notes on Method. We decided to leave off a small number of common topics, including collections, author disambiguation, HelpThing, tagging of groups, web links on book pages, more than seven columns, and a Facebook application. They are very much on our radar already. Seeing them over and over again had its effect, you can be sure.

We also left off suggestions for features completed since we asked the question, like better tags, and to avoid new features in favor of bug-fixing. It’s a delicate thing, and not one we’ve always gotten right, I’ll admit. I’ve been on a bug-fixing and performance kick recently.


*That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it!
**The person you don’t know is Mike, a local Portland programmer working with us part-time for a few months. Note, I was supposed to be also sitting in the chair—reading Everything is Miscellaneous—but there was a tragic head/butt airspace issue.

Labels: employees, features, fun

Saturday, May 10th, 2008

Newest member!

Welcome to Katherine Evelyn Holland, born May 7 (6 pounds 11 ounces, 18.5 inches*), to LibraryThing developer Chris (ConceptDawg) and his wife Ashley. Mother and daughter are doing great. Chris has a “permanent smile” on.

More photos on Flickr

*That’s 3033 grams, 46.9 centimeters. Who says we don’t do metric?

Labels: adorable, chris, LibraryThing babies

Friday, May 9th, 2008

BookSense Events!

We just added over six-hundred and fifty events to LibraryThing Local, LibraryThing’s portal for local bookstores, libraries and events.

The events come direct from our friends at BookSense, the nationwide organization of over 1,200 independent bookstores. They made their complete events calendar available to us, and we were only to happy to add all the events we didn’t already know about.

BookSense is the best; if you have a favorite local bookstore, chances are they’re a BookSense store.* BookSense also gets the best authors. Upcoming events include David Sedaris at Vroman’s in Pasadena and Salman Rushdie at Vroman’s and at Caucer’s in Santa Barbara. Of course, as happens with distributed data collection, not every BookSense store has their events in the feed. And some events had already been added by members. Be the total gain is some 660 upcoming events—a big leap. We’ll be updating from th BookSense feed periodically from now on, which should take some of the data-entry load off of dedicated LibraryThing members.

So, thanks to the people at BookSense for working with us on this, and happy event-attending to the rest of us.

PS: There’s a short article about this in the ABA’s Bookselling this Week by David Grogan.


*My favorites—Books, Etc., Longfellow Books and the Harvard Coop—are all BookSense stores. My wife spent much of her 20s working at another, Bookline Booksmith, together with her best friend, who went on to work at Booksense. So, I’ve wanted LibraryThing to do something BookSense since we started.

Labels: authors, booksense, librarything local, new feature, new features

Monday, May 5th, 2008

May Early Reviewer books

May’s batch of Early Reviewer books is up! We’ve got 51 books this month, and a grand total 1,115 copies to give out.

Some of the big highlights include the new Neal Stephenson (Anathem) and The Given Day by Dennis Lehane! Or would you rather read The Inverted World by Christopher Priest? The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen? Is historical fiction more your thing? Try Hallam’s War by Elisabeth Payne Rosen”. In the mood for some Norman Mailer? Request a copy of Miami and the Siege of Chicago. On the nonfiction side, how about a little bit of everything, with The Best Creative Nonfiction, Vol. 2

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 Monday, May 19th at 6pm EDT.

Eligiblity:
Publishers do things country-by-country. This month we have publishers who can send books to the US, Canada, the UK, and for the first time, Australia! We only have one Australian publisher (I’m sure those 15 books will be coveted), but we’re working on getting more for the future.

Thanks to all the publishers, new and old!

Algonquin Books Andrews McMeel Publishing Bantam
Berkley Canongate Books Clerisy Press
Cypress House Delacorte Press Faber and Faber
Farrar Straus Giroux Fremantle Press Harper
Hatherleigh Press Hyperion LJW Publishing
Loving Healing Press Menasha Ridge Press Mirrorstone
Modern History Press North Atlantic Books NYRB Classics
Other Press Picador St. Martin’s Griffin
Trumpeter Unbridled Books W.W. Norton
William Morrow Wizards of the Coast Zoland Books

Labels: early reviewers, LTER

Sunday, May 4th, 2008

Top bar better, cuter

I made some changes to the look and functionality of the “top bar” in Your Library. They include new “pads,” new icons, yellow and baby-blue colors and new tag functionality. Non-English users will also notice the labels can nw be translated–no more untranslateable “text as image.”

List:

Covers:

Tags:

The tag bar includes a new new features. “Down” and “Across” control whether the tags are sorted “down” (like an index) or “across” (like some other things). You can also control the size of the text and the space between tags, and the number of columns to show.

Come talk about the change and suggest more on Talk.

Labels: new feature, new features, tags

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

LibraryThing Love and the Unread Books Meme

Part I
A long-time LibraryThing member, davidabrams, just wrote a love story of sorts about LibraryThing on The Readerville Journal.

He writes,

Not a day goes by when I don’t log on and gaze with pride, love and reverence at my online catalog of books. …In short, it is the answer to the prayer I wasn’t even aware I was praying. If LibraryThing is cocaine, then I am a crack whore.

How can you argue with that?

The Readerville Forum have been having some problems lately (see the discussion on LibraryThing here), and we wish them good luck!

Part II
We’ve been meaning to blog this for a while, so here it is! This meme has been going around for a while now: Top 106 unread books on LibraryThing. People are going through the top 106 books tagged “unread” on LT, and then marking which ones they’ve read, which they read for school, which they started but didn’t finish, which are on their to read list, which they loathed, which they read more than once…

Personally, I think the fact that most of the top ones are big fat heavy tomes might have something to do with it!

Labels: meme, readerville