Archive for October, 2006

Monday, October 30th, 2006

French, Dutch, Italian and Spanish domains

Announcing,, and LibraryThing users translated those some time ago—except for Italian, which is lagging at just under 70% translated—but they were getting by on subdomains. fr, nl, it and es now join as full-fledged domains.

We’re not sure if the domains will help LibraryThing. We hope, at the very least, it will show we’re committed to internationalization. Other languages, like Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Greek, Portugues (Br. and Pt.) and Welsh, are getting by on subdomains.

The Spanish (es) site was probably a mistake. Spanish-named dot-coms are more common, with es reserved for sites in or about Spain. But we’ll see how it shapes up.

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Friday, October 27th, 2006

CueCats back in stock

After running out on the fourth day, we once again have CueCat barcode scanners in stock and going cheap—$15 US first class, $20 internationally.

Abby arranged for the next shipment to go to her in Boston. She’s been lying in wait for the UPS guy for two days now, and I’ve been thinking about all the custom forms I won’t have to fill out. So imagine my surprise to find this ungainly foundling on my front porch.

The faster I get rid of them the sooner Abby gets the next case. How about I top the envelopes off with candy corn?

If you’re interested in some of the intellectual issues going on with LibraryThing, check out the Thingology blog, with links to the audio of a talk I gave at Tufts for NEASIS&T on LibraryThing, followed by a panel discussion with Abby too. It was fun to do—I was conversational to a fault, but at least I avoided the deadly Powerpoint. This was the first time I got deep into the value of tags, spending about half my time on it. It’s been noted—quite justly—that focusing on fiction is a bit unfair. And I might have spent more time on when tags fall down. I won’t admit to “slagging” on LCSH, although I did focus on where it fails, and I enjoy getting a laugh now. I’m due for a couple more talks in the next few months, but I don’t think I’ll be able treat the issues in the depth they deserve.

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Thursday, October 26th, 2006

Welsh site 79% done!

LibraryThing in Welsh is 79% done, largely but not entirely owing to Dogfael. Outstanding! Check it out at If the domain ever gets approved, we’ll try to get www.librarything.cym.

Now, what can we do to make it better for Welsh speakers? Any libraries to add? Most libraries don’t have open Z39.50 connections, but I can run down a list if people give me one.

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Wednesday, October 25th, 2006

GBV, a Major German consortium added

A helpful Thingamabrarian*, pointed me to connection details for the Gemeinsamer Bibliotheksverbund (GBV), the “Common Library Network of the German States,” a massive consortium of libraries all over Germany.** I’ve added it, and it seems to work well. (I also fixed some Polish and Bulgarian character-set issues, for it and other libraries.)

According to the German Wikipedia entry, washed through Google Translate

“The [GBV] is also over 50 million title data records the largest data base for listing in Germany.”

I am hoping you will agree this wonderful news is for Germany users in LibraryThing!

*Whom, if she wants her LT name mentioned, should let me know.
**The states are: Bremen, Hamburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Niedersachsen, Sachsen-Anhalt, Schleswig-Holstein, Thüringen and–not, I think, a state–the Foundation of Prussian Cultural Heritage.

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Monday, October 23rd, 2006

LibraryThing does CueCats! (we’re even selling them)

LibraryThing makes entering your books easy, but it still takes time. A barcode scanner can be a big help. So, we’ve bought one hundred CueCat scanners (Wikipedia | more photos), and are offering them for fifteen bucks, including shipping anywhere in the United States. That’s about as good as they get on eBay. And your purchase helps the site.

So, go ahead and buy a CueCat.

Other details:

  1. We’re selling “unmodified” USB CueCats. Unmodified CueCats produce somewhat scrambled data, but we’ve put the translation right into LibraryThing’s system. This turns .C3nZC3nZC3n2D3D3DNr7DxnY.CNf7.CNbWDhfWCNvWCNnZChzZC3nZC3nZC3j0 into 7231631002. See links on Wikipedia for directions on “declawing” your CueCat for use elsewhere.
  2. LibraryThing now reads Borders product codes (eg., the code above), converting them to ISBNs (see announcement).
  3. Barcode scanning has been made easier. We’ve added a “Skip confirmation” checkbox, that allows you to scan a shelf of books without touching your mouse or keyboard. (Having done it both ways, I can tell you that CueCat works a lot better than webcam scanning.)
  4. I’ve made a CueCat help and support group.

Note: Yes, technically they’re supposed to be called “:CueCats.” I find the colon an offense against the English Language, and the company that made them went out of business, so I’m gonna leave it off.

Note: Prices and shipping rates are subject to change.

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Sunday, October 22nd, 2006

LibraryThing does Borders product codes

Short version: I’ve added an option to parse “BINCs,” the product code Borders (and Waldenbooks?) paste over the ISBN on the back cover.

If you use a barcode scanner to enter your books into LibraryThing, or even if you don’t, you periodically run into a Borders barcode, pasted over the book’s original ISBN barcode. It can be extremely aggravating.

LibraryThing now has an option to read these stickers. You can either scan them with a barcode reader or type the printed BINC, shown here:

To do this, either (1) turn on this option in Add books:

Or (2) put “binc” into the search box, in front of the number (eg., “binc 5106509”). Note that if you check the checkbox, you can ONLY enter BINCs. Everything else will fail.

For LibraryThing to parse BINCs, it needs to run a quick search on Borders’ website, and fetch the ISBN. Technically this is “screen scraping,” which some webmasters will try to block. Since users of this feature are by definition Borders customers, I’m doubt they’ll raise any objections. I’m writing them this morning to tell them about it. To sweeten it, I’ve added Borders to the list of merchants and libraries on work pages. Their website can’t hold a candle to Amazon on ecommerce features—and, indeed, they use Amazon as their main online presence—but it has a nifty function to check whether your local Borders has it in stock, and reserve it if they do.

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Sunday, October 22nd, 2006

CueCats in the Wild

Inquisitive CueCat trips our remote camera

CueCat at rest

CueCat toys with its prey

CueCats preparing to migrate

CueCats blocked and drooled on

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Friday, October 20th, 2006

Arrr… SwapThing

LibraryThing welcomes its sixth swap site, As with the others, SwapThing has agreed to share holding data with LibraryThing. See it in action here

SwapThing describes itself as follows:

“SwapThing enables the trade and barter of any combination of items and services between consumers and small businesses, using cash to offset unequal exchanges. SwapThing offers free registration and listing, with transaction fees of $1.00 for each exchange of goods, no matter how many items are in the swap, and of $10.00 for the exchange of services. Unlike competitors, SwapThing is barter-based as opposed auction-based, allowing completely private, one-on-one negotiations. The SwapThing search engine matches items offered to items wanted, a unique system of direct exchange between users, and a rating system to build trustworthiness.”

Just so there’s no doubt, “LibraryThing is not affiliated with SwapThing in any way, just great minds thinking alike. LibraryThing and SwapThing are trademarks of, LCC and SwapThing, Inc. respectively.”

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Wednesday, October 18th, 2006

Three changes: Search talk, show covers, more space

Chris and I have added a feature to search Talk. It works as you would expect. The basic search does all topics in all groups, but you can choose only your groups, your starred topics, etc.

This will probably occasion additional requests—boolean operators, stemming, etc. That’s great, but we wanted to get something out there now. The lack of search didn’t matter so much in the first week or so, but Talk is getting to be quite a rich, complex area!

Chris rigged it up so that you can now adjust the number of covers shown in “Cover view” independent of how many you show in list mode. We have bigger plans for “Cover view,” but this was an easy change to make.

Some text boxes–the ones on the “edit” page, but I’m open to others–now sport “more space” links. Click them and the text box gets bigger. It’s ideal for those long review-types. You know who you are…

Issue update: Is anyone having problems loading the page? Someone with MSIE 7 said the program choked, apparently on Scriptaculous, a much-used JS library that I’ve employed here.

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Tuesday, October 17th, 2006

Arr… Lendmonkey


LibraryThing has joined forces with a fifth swap site, the simple, playful and Lendmonkey. Lendmonkey trades movies, games, books and music—all for free. It has some nice features, like SMS notification of new trades.* Also check out profiles on eHub and Lifehacker.

Since announcing the program in September, LibraryThing has enlisted five book and all-media swap sites (the others are Bookins, Swapsimple, BookMooch, Whatsonmybookshelf). I expect to add two more in the next week. That will make a majority of sites and—I think—well more than a majority of books available for swapping online.

*I should ask them about that. SMS would be a nice addition to LibraryThing.

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Monday, October 16th, 2006

Six degrees of vampire smut

I’ve got some “big” news on hold, so I’ll throw out a game.

I keep planning to blog “Three degrees of Jane Austen,” on how almost LibraryThing shares a book with someone who shares a book with someone who owns something by Jane Austen. People share books much more than they share friends. So while it’s comforting that everyone in the world is six degrees away by acquaintance, they’re much closer by the shared mental universe of the book.

Today’s game is to try to get from one tag page to another, using the “related tags” box, using as few hops as possible.

Challenge number 1: Vampire smut to Spanish Civil War in 10 steps. I’ll bet someone can do a lot better.

vampire smut > mystery > historical > history > sociology > economics > capitalism > radicalism > anarchism > Spanish Civil War

Challenge number 2: Tarzan to Iceland
Challenge number 3: Mesoamerica to zombies

I made a group for LibraryThing challenges, with a post for this. Post your solutions on the blog or over there.

Note: You cannot use fiction, nonfiction, read, unread, paperback, hardback, arc, signed, favorite, loved, wishlist or their variants. RULES UPDATE: You can’t add tags, obviously!

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Friday, October 13th, 2006

What language/site do you want?

Did I mention that LibraryThing is now available in a host of languages? Did I mention that users did it all, and that I love you people to pieces and owe everyone a beer? Okay, I’ve mentioned this.

I’m starting to work the language-sites into the functionality. For starters, past users can decide to change their primary language from your profile (choose “edit profile”). This isn’t actually the site you use–you can use whatever site you want, obviously. Rather, you’re setting the language you usually use for reviews, tags, etc. I’m going to guess right now that you guys–a polyglot set–will want to list all the languages you can read. I’ll provide that next. But can we live with one primary language for reveiws and tags and such? If not, the primary language will determine your default language, and I’ll let you change it review-by-review. It you plan to switch languages in the middle of a review, you win, dammit.

What you say will be used so German users can opt to see just German reviews, French users French reviews, etc. Of course, you will ALWAYS be able to see the others too.

From now on, if you signed into a particular language site, your primary language was set to that by default. Germans are in the lead, incidentally. I suppose that was because I introduced the feature at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Which reminds me, I never blogged about that. I’ll probably say more, but in brief I was dog-sick, with a voice like Joe Cocker, and the panel was in German, which I don’t understand. It went something like this: “Blah blah blah web 2.0. Blah blah blah MySpace. Blah blah blah blah LibraryThing. Ho ho ho. Aber, what does the Growling Phlegm-Monster have to say?”

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Thursday, October 12th, 2006

Orhan Pamuk wins the Nobel

You’ve probably already seen it, but Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk, author of My Name is Red and Snow, has won the Nobel Prize for Liturerature (official announcement). As something of a Turkophile*—albeit one who’s stuck half-way through Red—that’s great news.

I think this means three things:

  • The much-shortlisted Yaşar Kemal will die without a Nobel. He’s 83 and they’re not going to give it to two Turks in a short span of years.
  • Pamuk is now effectively immune from prosecution for “insulting Turkishness.” Much the same happened to Mahfouz, from being accused of apostasy for Children of Gebelawi and banned in much of the Arab world for supporting peace with Isreal, to being something of a national treasure, put to rest with a state funeral.
  • needs to pick up! At least nine languages are usable and even Welsh is 40% translated, but Turkish is languishing in the single-digits. Why not celebrate Pamuk’s Nobel by entering all your Turkish books and doing a little translating of the site? LibraryThing even has a Turkish library on tap!

*Lived in Bodrum and Alanya for about a year total. Speak bad kitchen-Turkish. Note, a serious Hellenophile as well. Just take a look at my books! I HATE that I have to say this, but, from experience, I do.

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Tuesday, October 10th, 2006

Sixty libraries (15 added)

I’ve added 15 libraries:

US: Amherst/Hampshire/Mt. Holyoke/Smith, Bryn Mawr/Haverford/Swarthmore, Cornell University, Minerva (MAINE), UNC, Chapel Hill, University of Michigan, University of Notre Dame, University of Pennsylvania and—last but not least—the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, in case your books run to the ichthyological.
UK: University of Hull, University of Reading
Ireland: University College Cork
The Netherlands: Technische Universiteit Delft
Estonia: ELNET
Latvia: Library Information Network Consortium of Latvia

The news here is the return of a Dutch library (the University of Leuven died recently), and the first Estonian and Latvian libraries. Alas, no Lithuanian ones, although I’m guessing they have some Lithuanian holdings as well.

UPDATE: It just struck me that a lot of the “libraries” LibraryThing searches are actually consortia. Maybe we should start saying “Searches 500 libraries around the world.” Kinda bogus, but “60 libraries” underplayings things a lot. Hmmm…

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Tuesday, October 10th, 2006

YouTube and LibraryThing: Doing the math

If YouTube is worth $1.65 billion, and has 34 million visitors per month, is LibraryThing, with 1.29 million visitors per month, worth $62 million?

No. Anyway, how a “visitor” got to be worth $50 is beyond me. I’m a big YouTube visitor, and all I’ve done is suck down free bandwidth watching funtwo play the Pachelbel Canon and that George Washington rap, not to mention watching John Stewart clips that are probably not authorized and therefore part of YouTube’s enormous legal downside.

See the Message from Chad and Steve. I can’t decide how I feel about that message—amused or icky.

UPDATE: The only video tagged “LibraryThing” on YouTube is Richard Wallis of Talis demonstrating the LibraryThingThing. Pretty nice explanation, actually.

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Monday, October 9th, 2006


I’m under the impression that the Danish sprøde, crispy, also means cool, or maybe cute. I know this–if I know this–from the song Super-sprøde, which (my beloved) Boston band Freezepop wrote for their Danish fans.* It is therefore my only word of Danish.

So, let me use this word to praise Ottox, who almost single-handedly translated LibraryThing into Danish, tranlating over 1,000 words, phrases and paragraphs, making him also the top translator overall. Thank you Ottox; you’re super-sprøde. I, and all future Danish LibraryThingers, thank you. You’re crispy as they come.

In other news, I’m back from the Frankfurt Book Fair, and working on the site again. I added host of languages—Bulgarian, Basque! (complete list)—and will be fleshing out some of the translation and “internationalization” features and, together with Abby, getting the word out to all the non-English language bloggers who’ve covered LibraryThing in the past.** With luck, LibraryThing can be as big a success in other languages as it’s been in English, and the “collective intelligence” of Bretons and Frisians will end up making the site better for Beantowners and Fogtowners as well.

UPDATE: I should similarly congratulate bookerij, who, while not SINGLEHANDEDLY translating Dutch, has done the lion’s share, as well as that of some other languages. Indeed, this morning, I awoke to discover Bookerij had 1081 edits, to Ottox’s 1080. That CAN’T be a coincidence!

UPDATE 2: The co-director of their recent video Parlez-vous Freezepop is a long-time, loyal LibraryThinger. Wow! Small world.

*Not a great song. I recommend “Duct Tape My Heart,” “Bike Thief,” “Science Genius Girl.” They combine an extremely cold form–not one I otherwise listen to–with warm, humane lyrics. Abby does not, I think, agree.
**Yes, author improvements are next.

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Thursday, October 5th, 2006

LibraryThing in your language

Update 1: is launched. No more subdomains for the Germans!

Update 2: Abby added Czech, Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian, Finnish. Except for Czech–where we now tie into the Czech national library–the others lack their own library. Of course, major academic collections and the Library of Congress have considerable holdings in these languages.

Less than a week ago, I let a new feature sneak in. Members were invited to help translate LibraryThing into half-a-dozen languages (German, French, Dutch, Norwegian, Welsh, Catalan and Turkish)*. URLs for each of the language-sites were posted. Untranslated parts appeared in light yellow, with a link on each page to a simple translation form.

The whole thing has taken off beyond our wildest dreams. LibraryThing has a LOT of text. Even so, German reached 75% in a single day. To our surprise, even big paragraph-sized hunks went quickly. It probably didn’t hurt that we posted “top translator” statistics for each language; Thingamabrarians unite altruism and competitiveness to an astouding degree. It proves what I’ve come to believe. “Social software” is 50% social, and you people are simply amazing.

Since then we’ve been making more pages translateable**. There’s been a lot of vigorous discussion on the general translation group, and on each language’s group. We introduced some new languages–Spanish, Italian, Portuguese (Brazilian now, Portuguese soon), Swedish, Danish, Irish). When I get back from tonight–I’m at the Frankfurt Book Fair–I’ll bring a dozen or so more live (Czech, Latvian, Lithuanian, etc.).

Go ahead and see the current list, with percentages.

Translating is the first step in a more comprehensive “internationaliation” of the site. We’ve also made progress on this, including fixing many (but not all) character set problems for newly-retrieved books, and adding new libraries, including a number in Germany itself. Note that previously-entered books still mostly use HTML entities for character, not UTF8. This will be changed soon.

It’s been remarkable seeing it develop. Cheers to all who’ve been helping out!

That’s all I can write now. My German hotel is rooking me something terrible on the internet service, and I need to get down to the Fair. I’ll update this message later, with more details.

*The list was deliberately mixed. Welsh in particular was a nod to LibraryThing’s unexpectedly strong Welsh continent—including three Welsh blog profiles. I feel that small, threatened languages like Welsh can get a lot out of LibraryThing, insofar as social networking helps unite scattered speakers, and
**Including the list of 500 MARC-specification languages. The system considers all “snippets” equally important, so that hit the percentages hard.

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Monday, October 2nd, 2006

Banned bookpile winner

We didn’t want to knock our post about Squirl off the top, but we’ve got a lot to blog about. I’m a day late in announcing the winner of the banned bookpile contest, so without further ado…

The winner (who gets a year’s membership to LT) is ellen.w . Congrats!

As always, the entries were fabulous, and represented a lot of time, effort, and creativity. There were some great others, I really liked the ones organized around themes – children’s books, books banned for because of the occult and/or sex, books worth owning twice – and of course, the one with Nancy Pearl flying to the rescue!

Labels: book pile

Monday, October 2nd, 2006

A plug for Squirl

Portland, Maine is small and not very tech-focused. There are few web companies, but no “Web 2.0” ones I was aware of of. So it came as something of a surprise to discover a VERY Web 2.0 company that even does cataloging, just like LibraryThing. What are the odds? helps you keep track of your “collections.” Got a trove of female action figures, PEZ dispensers, panda bear stamps, 45s, Star Wars-enalia, hobo nickels**, ticket stubs, or dead bugs? Put them up on Squirl and show the world. There’s even some social networking built in, and the developers are adding features daily. Now, if you want, you can put your books on Squirl. But this isn’t its strongest suit, and it’s certainly not the focus.

Last week co-founder John McGrath and I met for coffee and hit it off. He’s one talented guy. I really hope Squirl takes off. Alternately, I hope it tanks, he loses his job and he comes to work for LibraryThing. The two ideas are bickering on my shoulders. Anyway, John and I agreed to meet regularly and talk about and critique each others’ sites. I’m expecting a lot of good to come from that.

So, check it out and let us know what you think of it. I admire its aesthetic. LibraryThing could learn from, even if I wouldn’t want to go all-the-way Basecamp like they have. And we should add the ability to take pictures of your books separate from the cover shot. Book collectors would like that, I think.***

Squirl has been added to the “also on” list in your profile, if you want to link accounts, and John has gone ahead and enabled a similar feature over there. Maybe in the future we’re have enough overlap that we can say “People who collect Perrier bottles enjoy reading Proust.” Well, they do.

*It’s even built in Rails!
**Issued during Hobo Joe Junk Pan’s tenure as Secretary of the Treasury. (I don’t get this!)
***Actually, Squirl only allows one picture per item now. I’m betting they allow more soon. It was the main complaint in an otherwise very positive review. That guy also reviews LibraryThing (but did he see all the fields?). Anyway, doing “collectible” books better is a priority for us, and one that our partner,, can help us with a lot.

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Sunday, October 1st, 2006

One toe in translation

We’re not “announcing” internationalization yet, but you can hear about and start playing with the translation feature here.

Here are some URLs—THEY WILL CHANGE! (German) (French) (Dutch) (Catalan) (Norwegian) (Turkish) (Welsh)

This is obviously not the final list. At this point we’re testing it out, not officially rolling out langauges. For one thing, we have some functionality issues to work out.

PS: As expected, Welsh is actually going somewhere!

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