Tuesday, August 7th, 2007

Will the Dutch-ness ever stop?

We just inked a deal with AquaBrowser, an Amsterdam-based library catalog company. See the Thingology Post.

Labels: 1

Tuesday, August 7th, 2007

Rijksmuseum Research Library

After yesterday’s announcement of four major Dutch-language sources, we got an email from someone at the Rijksmuseum Research Library, inviting us to add them too. We were happy to.

As anyone who’s been to the Netherlands knows, the Rijksmuseum (site, Wikipedia) is Amsterdam’s phenomenal art museum. The Research Library (site, Wikipedia) is apparently the largest art historical museum library in the Netherlands, housing some 140,000 monographs as well as serials and auction catalogs. It’s also first art-history library in LibraryThing, and should be useful for bibliophiles with art interests.

Labels: dutch books, libraries

Monday, August 6th, 2007

Hallo! (Getting serious about Dutch books)




I’ve added four book sources for Dutch readers: the Dutch Royal Library (KB), the Royal Library of Belgium (KBR) and booksellers Bol.com and Bruna.nl. With luck, they’ll be a few more soon.*

This should be big boost for our Dutch site, LibraryThing.nl. Until now, there was only one Dutch-language source, TU Delft**. Between the four new sources LibraryThing now embraces virtually all in-print Dutch books, 70,000 cover images and millions of older books.

I hope this will make LibraryThing a much more attrative place for Dutch readers to catalog their books and do the other things LibraryThing is about.

Adding Dutch books required extensive work. Giovanni, LibraryThing’s newest (fractional) employee, helped us track down Bol and Bruna data, our first non-Amazon retailer. On my side it involved dealing with five new formats. Fortunately, much of the work will contribute to adding other sources.

There were some wrinkles:

  • Bol and Bruna are a single search on combined data. Neither feed was intended for personal cataloging, and I found holes in both sets that the other could improve. Even so, the data is thin by LibraryThing standards, lacking publication years and other important fields.*** The covers are great.
  • The Bol/Bruna mash-up was an innovation. LibraryThing trusts that both retailers want to let their customers catalog the books they bought at their stores. But if either tells us to stop, we’ll politely give up our affiliate accounts and withdraw their data. In appreciation for their service to Dutch-language readers, we have put Bol/Bruna links on all LibraryThing.nl work pages, not considering which contributed the data.
  • KB was a tough addition, requiring us to parse two new formats, SRU and Dublin Core. Unfortunately, I have yet to figure out how to execute an ISBN search. The KB data is high quality, but slow to retrieve.
  • KBR required the least attractive sort of data parsing, so-called “screen scraping.” Only titles can be searched, and the result list is very basic. But, when a book is selected, the data is good, and retrieval is fast.

We have also been reaching out to other prominent Dutch-language book sites looking to forge relationships and pick up or link to interesting content. Your suggestions would be most welcome.

Lastly, as those who follow it know, LibraryThing.nl has seen some controversy. A lot of excellent work has gone into the translation, which is farther along than any other. But there have also been uncollegial disagreements. In response I have urged members to respect the collective nature of the endeavor and instituted a Three-Times Rule, similar to Wikipedia’s Three Revert Rule. Except in very special circumstances, members may not translate a given phrase the same way more than three times.

Thanks to all. Comments, questions and criticisms wanted—as always.


*We are waiting for approval to add Proxis.be and implementation and/or approval from a number of other libraries in the Netherlands and Belgium.
**For much of LibraryThing’s existence we were also tying into the Catholic University of Leuven, but their Z39.50 server eventually went black.
***We had hoped to further supplement them with KR or KBR data, but we lack a working ISBN search for both.

Labels: 1

Sunday, August 5th, 2007

Welcome Giovanni!

Everyone say hello to LibraryThing’s newest employee, Giovanni Soltoggio—LibraryThing member Gio. Giovanni will be helping us expand outside the United States, tracking down data sources, talking about LibraryThing to Europeans, making important deals over small cups of coffee and so forth.

Giovanni hails from the Italian Alps—a valley called Valtellina—and now lives in Dusseldorf. He reads Italian, German and English. He speaks some Czech. His favorite authors are Haruki Murakami, Niccolò Ammaniti and Lorenzo Licalzi. He is sharp as a tack, but much nicer.

Strictly speaking, Giovanni is only 20% ours. Four days out of five he’s the European Managing Director for BookFinder.com and its European sites JustBooks.co.uk, JustBooks.fr and JustBooks.de (for which he writes the blog). He helped BookFinder make the jump to Europe. We’re very grateful to Bookfinder’s Charlie and Anirvan for letting him moonlight a little.

In a few hours I’m going to blog one of Giovanni’s first projects, finding us a decent store of Dutch bibliographic data and covers. He is working on an Italian one right now. We expect big things from him.

If you want to wish him well, or know of good stores in other languages, he’d love to hear from you.* Drop a message on his profile, or email him at giovannilibrarything.com.


*Finding good data is strangely hard. There are some commercial providers although they largely overlap with what Amazon provides for free. Smaller languages are hard. A few weeks ago we had an Armenian-reader up for a week of Facebook work. I spent much of the last day with him, trying to get hold of a source—any source—of Armenian book data. We would have been happy to link to one bookseller on every page. From a search engine perspective alone, our links are gold to small sites. No luck, alas.

Labels: 1

Friday, August 3rd, 2007

Amazon Vine and Early Reviewers

Amazon has just announced Amazon Vine. Basically, it’s our LibraryThing Early Reviewers idea—a way to get publishers’ pre-release books to interested and vocal reviewers. As they put it:

“Vine helps our vendors generate awareness for new and pre-release products by connecting them with the voice of the Amazon community: our reviewers. Vine members, called Voices, may request free copies of items enrolled in the program and have the ability to share their opinions before these products become generally available.”

Apparently Amazon had experimented with sending-out ARCs before. But we suspect they were not unaware of LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer program, which made Publishers Weekly, Pub Lunch and top publishing blogs. It makes a lot of sense for them to be doing.

So far the program is email invite only. They’re apparently basing invitations on being among their top reviewers. By contrast, Early Reviewers program is based around similar libraries, although we favor “vocal” members too. Ultimately, we think LibraryThing is in a better position to give books to the best readers, but there’s no denying Amazon’s scale and, if they put their mind to it, they’ve done remarkable things with recommendations algorithms before.

Lastly, Amazon is to be congratulated for stating unequivocally that will not be editing negative reviews:

“As with all Amazon reviews, we want your honest opinion of the product. Amazon will not edit or modify any reviews beyond small tweaks to fit within existing guidelines…”

This is in line with how Amazon has always worked. As James Marcus writes in Amazonia, their decision to show bad reviews was a gutsy decision at the time—a reminder of the “bad old days” of marketing! I hope they follow this up with what we promise: that negative reviews will not impact whether you continue to get Amazon Vine books.

Labels: amazon, ARCs, AREs, early reviewers

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

Harry Potter book piles

Just a reminder, you’ve still got a few hours to post your photos for the Harry Potter book pile contest

The submissions so far (plus some more listed in the comments of this blog post).

Labels: book pile, contest, harry potter

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

LibraryThing pizza bash Saturday in Cambridge

So, it looks like Saturday is going to involve lightning, so the barbeque has morphed into a pizza party.

But we’re not getting just ordinary pizza! We’ll be ordering from Emma’s Pizza in Cambridge, MA, which is some seriously gourmet stuff (menu).* And we’ll have plenty of chips and hummus too.**

Everyone is invited. Bring a friend. If you can RSVP, great. If not, that’s fine. We’re probably going to need to order the pizza beforehand. We’re going to double the RSVP list. If you like, you can bring something .

When: Saturday, July 28th, 4pm to whenever.

Where: 15 Gurney Street, Cambridge MA (Google map). It’s about 15 minutes walking from the Square. You can also take the 72 (Huron) bus, and ask for the Fayerweather stop.

Parking: The City of Cambridge has declared Saturday LibraryThing day***. You can park anywhere on Gurney Street and between Gurney and Huron on Fayerweather.

Can’t wait to see everyone!


*When Emma’s was at the foot of Gurney Street, when I was young, it was decidedly less upscale. There were no tables—just a counter nobody used—and the ambiance was comprised of Emma berating her meek husband Greg in angry, staccato Armenian all day long. When the current owners bought it they moved it to Kendall Square, avoided marital conflict, added tables and the goat cheese, sun dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts today’s Cambridge requires. Somehow they managed to preserve what was good about it. It’s an amazing pizza.
**Alas, Tim’s trademark sigara börek will not fit with the rest of the meal.
***Untrue.

Labels: 1

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

ReadItSwapIt becomes 10th swap site

A tenth book-swapping site has chosen to integrate with LibraryThing, ReadItSwapIt.

ReadItSwapIt is a UK site, and boasts some 125,000 titles available right now. Here’s the page on LibraryThing showing copies of a book on ReadItSwapIt. They’ve got a bang-up buzz page. It’s a credit-free system. This is a bold move, but not unattractive. As they explain it:

“Swapping on ReadItSwapIt is like swapping with friends. If you like each other’s books, you swap. If you don’t, either of you can reject the swap.

Many swap sites operate a credit system. That means, instead of swapping books, these sites allow you to swap credits. Any time anyone wants a book of yours, they give you a credit and you post the book out to them. You can then use this credit later to get a book sent to you by someone else.

This sounds great on the surface. But in practice, the problem with this system is that whenever anyone requests any of the books you have registered, you have to post out that book immediately. It doesn’t matter how inconvenient it might be for you to get to the post office that week. And what if you go on holiday? You have to let the site know. You have no control over the amount of swaps you make. You could end up acquiring loads of credits but not be able to find any books you like on the site. So you’re left with a load of worthless credits, no books and a big postage bill.”

That rings true to my experience. I posted a book to a swap site, and then dithered when I got the email. My wife decided she wanted to read it too. I ended up buying the book on Amazon and having it expressed to the swap person, just to save face. People like me need a more forgiving system.

I’m also impressed by their commitment to accessibility It’s way more than LibraryThing does.

Labels: swap

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

Harry Potter and the Period of Quiet

The LibraryThing groups feature turns one tomorrow, followed shortly by Talk. I thought it would be fun to share the news-messages statistics for the Harry Potter Group, Hogwarts Express.

Check out the little boom for the movie (released July 11) and the crazy boom-bust-boom around when the book itself was released. For 24 hours, LibraryThing Harry Potter fans were reading, dammit.

I can report from experience that the rest of the world is still reading it. I went down to New York on business yesterday (and got caught in LaGuardia overnight, but that’s another story). The plane was like Harry Potter study hall.

REMINDER: We’re giving away prizes to 50 Harry Potter reviewers.

Labels: groups, harry potter, statistics

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

Tagmash!

Tagmash: alcohol, history gets over the fact that almost nobody tags things history of alcohol

Short version: I’ve just gone live with a new feature called “tagmash,” pages for the intersections of tags. This is a fairly obvious thing to do, but it isn’t trivial in context. In getting past words or short phrases, tagmash closes some of the gap between tagging and professional subject classifications.

For example, there is no good tag for “France during WWII.” Most people just don’t tag that verbosely. Tagmash allows for a page combining the two: France, wwii. If you want to skip the novels, you can do france, wwii, -fiction. The results are remarkably good.

Tagmash pages are created when a user asks for the combination, but unlike a “search” they persist, and show up elsewhere. For example, the tagmash for France, Germany shows France, wwii as a partial overlap, alongside others. Related tagmashes now also show up on select tag and library subject pages, as a third system for browsing the limitless world of books.

Booooring? Go ahead and play a bit:

That’s the short version. But stop here and you’ll never know what Zombie Listmania is!

(full post over at Thingology, “Tagmash: Book tagging grows up”)

Labels: new feature, tagging, tagmash