Sunday, September 3rd, 2006

Arrr… Swap books!

The story behind this here.

(Stop blabbing and show me the feature!)

We’ve done something piratical, and we’re giving you the loot.

As you may know, there are sites out there that let users swap books. In fact, there are more than a dozen of them. LibraryThing members are using most of them.

We don’t want to swap books on LibraryThing, but we thought it would be a great idea if LibraryThing integrated with a swap site, letting you know when books were available or wanted, and letting you move books back and forth.

Unfortunately, most swap sites want to be the ONLY one. They want LibraryThing to favor them, in exchange for this or that incentive, and leave their competitors marooned on a desert island.

We think LibraryThing members deserve more respect than that. After weeks of repetitious conversations, we were sick of the regular navy—it was time to turn pirate!

So, we just did it, without asking permission, without deals—and without revenue sharing. We’ve set up the infrastructure to work with all sites and send them all details (I’ve put them up on the Thingology blog.) If swap sites tell us what they have available, and make the links work, they get to join our crew.

Although all swap sites get to participate, we’re putting them in two categories. Sites that let give as well as get—integrating with LibraryThing as we integrate with them—get top billing, with a logo and everything. The others get 9 point text. We hope they’ll be more generous once we start promoting their rivals, and when users who use them as well as LibraryThing demand the same flexibility other swap sites provide.

So far, four sites have said they’ll join our pirate vessel, and two have done the necessary work: BookMooch and WhatsOnMyBookshelf. (Update: In the comments, Read It Swap It says it’s on their list too.) Welcome to these great sites. We applaud your sense of openness and eagerness to serve your customers!

To the rest we’ve sent a cannonball across your bow. Prepare to be
boarded–by your customers.

What’s live now: Book pages show how many books are available and wanted (available/wanted) on participating swap sites.

Click on that and you’ll come to the swap page, showing what’s available site by site. Here’s the page for A Wrinkle in Time (9 available, 1 wanted), Giver (8/4), Hannibal (29/0) or Freakonomics (1/49).**

In the future, we hope to add:

  • True synching. We’ll publish a simple spec, and ask swap sites to help us make it a reality.
  • Wish list integration. We’re going to have wish lists within ten days (dammit!)
  • Summary pages. See at a glance what books on your wish list are available at swap sites, and what books in your library are wanted by others
  • Catalog integration. Whether we put it on the catalog by default depends on how many users end up using the swap services.

*The story: The cognoscenti will recognize Nancy Pearl‘s Book Lust. Book Lust and the other books come with the Librarian Action Figure, of which Ms. Pearl was the model. The same company produces a Blackbeard action figure. So, I did an action-figure mash-up. (It’s unclear what business expense category action figures fall under—office supplies?) Actually, this is the second Nancy Pearl figure I’ve bought. I lost the first figure, but I still have the stack of books. They’re different books than the new ones. I have no idea why, except the first stack seemed to trivialize reading somewhat—Bulgarian Flax was one of the books.
**Lopsided numbers are common. Books seem to be either wanted (Freakonomics) or unwanted (Hannibal). Some swap sites have experimented with basing point values around Amazon prices (which would encourage people to put some real high-value books on, but is otherwise not useful). Others have gone with allowing users to set point values. This seems like it would work, but at the expense of a certain amount of bother. It might also possible to have the system adjust values automatically, either moving them until the market clears (every day Hannibal goes down) or basing them on historical ratio data. Again, people might end up feeling cheated. “What do you mean The Great Gatsby is worth 1/10 point and Madonna’s Sex is worth 1,000? That’s not FAIR!”

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One Comments:

  1. Mika says:

    I saw this on Twitter yesterday?…Is it true? Finally!
    "@paperbackswap Submitted our book data feed to & So that we may become a source for swapping books. -Ask them to add us!"

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