Archive for September, 2006

Friday, September 29th, 2006

Six Million Books / Meet Lindsay Lohan in DC?

Six million books. If we weren’t flat-out coding, I’d tell you who put in the six-millionth book and give them a free membership like before. Or maybe a pound of marzipan from Germany.

Going to the National Book Fair tomorrow in Washington, DC? A bunch of Thingamabrarians have organized a meet-up at the Natural History Museum at 2pm. Sounds like great fun. Check out the planning/discussion on Talk.

Abby, Chris and I are sorry we can’t be there. Speaking of meet-ups, is anyone going to be at the Frankfurt Book Fair next week? Abby and I are also in Boston presenting at an academic conference on Tuesday; see Thingology.

In MSM news, we were in OK magazine on the same page as Lindsay Lohan*, the Wall Street Journal mentioned us in an article on “lists”** and the Channel 5 News in Boston—Chet and Nat!—did a story on LibraryThing.

*Our Lohan number is now zero. Our Erdos number remains very high. But what of Kevin Bacon? (Should be low. Bacon was in a Muppets movie, and Lohan did a lot of Disney.)
**It was a good but not spotlighted mention. Alas, we didn’t get the top box spotlight. Also, I was the source for three of the sites they spotlighted—TrixieTracker, RecipeThing and Squirl. Envious? Me?

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Thursday, September 28th, 2006

Import via paste

I’ve added a third way to import data into LibraryThing: a simple paste box. This makes it a lot easier to import from “protected” pages–pages LibraryThing would need your password to “see.” (These include purchases, library checkout summaries and so forth). Just get the “source” for the page (a menu option on all browsers) and cut and paste it into the import page.

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Friday, September 22nd, 2006

Banned bookpile contest

Today marks the beginning of Banned Books Week, and with it, LibraryThing’s latest bookpile contest. Here’s a selection of books from my library that have been banned/censored/challenged at one time or another – let’s see what you all have.

Banned Books Week, according to the American Library Association, has been observed since 1982, and “reminds Americans not to take this precious democratic freedom for granted.” Check out their website for more details. Wikipedia also maintains a list of banned books, and Google even has a page up.

Banned Books Week runs from today (September 23rd) through next Saturday, September 30th, and so does our bookpile contest. So, the rules are the same as usual:

1. Take a photo of your bookpile
2. Upload it to Flickr, tag it with “LTBannedContest”
3. Email me ( Include the URL to the photo(s) on Flickr, and your user name on LT.
4. Do it all by September 30th. We’ll announce the winner on the blog the following day.

One winner gets a free year’s membership to LibraryThing.*

*No hats this time, but here’s proof of the first official LibraryThing Pirate Hat before it was sent all the way to Topper in Nashville.

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Tuesday, September 19th, 2006

Arrr… the pirate bookpile winner

Aye, ’tis late in the day here, so aye, me hope e’eryone has been talkin’ like a pirate today. Aye. (Look, a pirate-speak translator! If only I had seen this earlier today…)

Ahoy, now, the contest winner be announced. Only se’en people entard, but they war steller representati’es. (Me parrot concurs).

So we thank all of you – the pile held together by a bottle of rum, Donogh, (bookpile); the extensive photoshoot on the beach (one of my personal favorites) by Opinicus, (bookpiles); a pirate clock? who has a pirate clock? Argyriou, (bookpile); classic sea travel by brandonw, (bookpile); FTPLYA, (bookpiles) – the end result of looting a ship?; and of course, the clean nautical pile by debra_hamel, (bookpile).

It was indeed a close contest, but we’ve (ok, me, but with input from Tim) decided that the winner is… (drum roll…)

Topper, with an excellent mix of pirate books and pirate background (plus, the Sea Dogs is Portland Maine’s baseball team). So, congrats to Topper, who gets a year’s membership. (And a newspaper pirate hat, if he lives close enough to me – do you?)

Thank you everyone who entered, and be watching for the announcement our next bookpile contest, which will be sooner than you might expect (hint: start gathering your banned books).

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Tuesday, September 19th, 2006

Arrr! Bookins joins the crew


Swap site Bookins has joined our piratical crew—swap sites listing their inventories on LibraryThing, and enabling users to move books back and forth with ease. (See original post.)

Although I am not releasing inventory numbers—I don’t think the sites would want me announcing them—Bookins’ stock and wishlist is a major addition. It’s getting easier and easier to swap your books with LibraryThing and its swap partners. And it’s great to see websites confident enough in their services that they’re willing to be listed alongside their competitors. (Besides LibraryThing users are such book-freaks, they’ll probably end up with accounts on all of them.)

Bookins bills itself as “easy, automated and fair.” Its unique features include an algorithm for assigning points to books, so a new hardcover of Freakonomics is worth more than an old paperback Tom Clancy novel, and a $3.99 flat shipping rate, with package tracking right on the site. Again, it’s nice to see that the dozen or so swap sites aren’t just copying each other, but trying out different ideas.

Although fourth to get their data up for LibraryThing’s use, the founder, Mitchell Silverman, expressed interest very early. The little matter of getting married and going on honeymoon got in the way.

So, congratulations to him, and to LibraryThing/Bookins users!

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Saturday, September 16th, 2006

How libraries are using LibraryThing

I mentioned last week that Karen Burns had made a LibraryThing account for the Shenandoa Public Library, so they could use the blog widget to display new books on their website.

Since then, Karen has set up a bunch of other libraries in her area with LT accounts and widgets for their websites, including: The Atlantic Public Library, The Gibson Memorial Library/Creston Public Library, Southwestern Community College LRC, Anita Public Library, and SWILSA’s own site.

Today, Karen posted a podcast about how she’s been using LibraryThing widgets on library webpages.

Another librarian doing some similar cool stuff with LT is John Klima, who created a LibraryThing account which he uses to recommend books on the teen page of his library’s website (the header of his widget reads “Recommended Books from the YA Librarian”).

In short, we love it. Using the LT widgets like this is clever. It’s eye-catching (who doesn’t like a book cover?) and current (if you choose 5 most recent books added to your LT catalog, for example, it will automatically update on your widget when you add a new book to LT) – all in all, a good way for libraries to show off their new books.

What else? Do you know of any other libraries using LT? I’d love to hear about it.

We think LibraryThing can do even more for libraries. Tim’s been begging libraries to let show you LT data (tags, rating, covers, reviews, etc.) in an OPAC. (WITHOUT fooling around with the OPAC, and without any “technical” help at all. It would all be a short-term “enhanced” mirror on LibraryThing’s servers.) He’s looking in particular to play around with Innovative Interfaces Millennium OPACs, so shoot him an email if you want to join in the fun.

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Monday, September 11th, 2006

Ahoy! Pile the books, matey

Ok, this one’s on short notice, but International Talk Like A Pirate Day always seems to sneak up on you, doesn’t it? So, our newest bookpile contest is, of course, pirate themed.

Pile your books as a pirate would? Pile only pirate books? Books every pirate should read? Books that should walk the plank? That’s all for you to figure out. The possibilites are endless. I just wasted a considerable amount of time digging through the books tagged “pirates” – you can too!

The rules are:
1. Take a photo of your bookpile
2. Upload it to Flickr, tag it with “LTPirateContest”
3. Email me ( Include the URL to the photo(s) on Flickr, and your user name on LT.
4. Do it all by September 18th. We’ll announce the winner on the blog on the day of the festive occasion, September 19th.

One winner gets a free year’s membership to LibraryThing. And a newspaper folded pirate’s hat.*

*Prize hat only offered to winners located within a 5 minute walk of downtown Boston.** All others must fold their own hat. Newspaper not provided.
**Walking time and distance to be judged by Abby. No logic will be used.

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Sunday, September 10th, 2006

Swap info in your library

Following the recent integration between LibraryThing and swap sites, I’ve added an optional “swap” column to your library. It shows the combined available/wanted numbers for the three swap sites that share their information with LibraryThing.

By default, the column is hidden. The checkbox to turn it on is also available from the “edit” control in your catalog, and on all swap pages.

Or just go ahead and click here to turn it on.

Improvements: In the future it might make sense to allow you to show totals from only the sites you belong to. And we plan to integrate swapping deeply into the upcoming “collection” feature, so you can see what you’re swapped, what’s on it’s way, etc.

PS: Clicking on the swap column toggles it between sorting by top available and top wanted.

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Saturday, September 9th, 2006

Arrr! Another swap site


SwapSimple joins BookMooch and WhatsOnMyBookshelf as preferred swapping sites. The totals—available and wanted—now include all three, to give you more information and choice.

SwapSimple is a general swap site, with books just a part. Their pitch is as a “secure trading” site. As their president, Elliot Hirsch, expressed it to me:

“[W]e designed our trading platform with security as the highest priority—so that our community members would safely and reliably be able to trade everything from paperbacks to $200 textbooks.”

They also tout “integrated shipping, which enables the RECEIVER of a package to pay for shipping, not the sender.” LibraryThing doesn’t favor sites, except for openness and reciprocality, but it’s good to see that the swap sites aren’t all clones—there are some innovative ideas out there.

Arrr! Be open or walk the plank!

SwapSimple’s entry brings collaborating, open sites to three. Three more have expressed interest—including a site I had never known about—and one has commited to it. (The developer is on his honeymoon. Yeah, some excuse!) LibraryThing’s goal is to force openness and give users a wide selection of swap choices. We think it’s working! Those that refuse to allow links will be increasingly alone.

To be fair, I should mention a little about BookMooch and WhatsOnMyBookshelf. Although they went live when the feature went live—and that post was picked up all over the place—I never described the sites specifically:

BookMooch is the newest entry to the fray, and has been garnering a lot of recent attention and traffic. It was started by John Buckman, who also runs the MP3 label Magnatune. Although, again, I’m not going to play favorites with sites, John and I share a lot in terms of development philosophically and I admire his engagement with users. He can be thanked for fine-tuning my original swap-site integration proposal to make it much more useful for everyone involved.

WhatsOnMyBookShelf is the creation of Daniel Ostermayer. WOMB was the first swap site to link to LibraryThing, and has been quick to implement integration. Even cooler, LibraryThing’s use of swap-site wish lists prompted them to create a wish list feature of their own. See? Openness sparks innovation! Lastly, WOMB is the only swap site that goes beyond Amazon; you can search the Library of Congress instead!

Feature update. We’re not pushing swap totals to the catalog pages yet, because I want to make it optional and haven’t designed where you’d choose. Maybe there should be a “show swap data in catalog” checkbox on the swap pages.

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Saturday, September 9th, 2006

Faster work pages

Thanks to Chris, LibraryThing is slowly identifying and overcoming its database problems. A recent change gave us greater stability and reduced “skews” between servers–a source of much hair-pulling.

Although faster overall, some pages got dramatically slower, including the “works” pages. Commonly held works, like the Da Vinci Code, could take 15 or even 30 seconds to load. I solved that problem so that even the “worse” pages now load in 2-4 seconds, given a fast connection.

I imagine some of you just stopped clicking on works pages. It’s safe now!

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