Monday, April 28th, 2008

Covers: Better, Bigger, Blanks, Defaults and Statistics

Casual visitors are often surprised to learn that LibraryThing members have contributed more than 800,000 covers, for use when Amazon doesn’t have the right cover. It’s time to make the most of this strength!

I’ve added a five new features related to how LibraryThing handles covers. I hope you like the changes!

  1. Choose member-created “blank” covers for every book.
  2. Choose your default cover.
  3. Better cover “guessing”
  4. Cover Statistics and links to different cover types.
  5. Member-contributed covers now available in all sizes.
  6. Member-contributed covers now available in maximum quality.

Choose member-created “blank” covers for every book. Way back in November, I asked for members to send in images of blank covers–real, doctored and built from scratch–for books that have no other cover (see post and follow-up). More than a dozen members sent covers, often very many and beautiful. These covers are now available from the “change cover” page of every book. They vary from ordinary to fanciful, general or tailored to look like a specific publisher’s books. They’re a blast. Go crazy.

It’s hard to understate the care that some members lavish on projects like this, exercising their creative side and helping other members out. Check out the image credits, available under the display and when you roll over the images.

Choose your default cover. The same member-covers are also available as default covers, the cover you get when you have no other cover. You can change your default cover from every book’s change-cover page, as well as from your Cover Statistics.

Better cover “guessing”. This feature caused some members consternation when it was released provisionally a few days ago. Suddenly members got a whole bunch of new covers, some of which they didn’t want, with no way to opt out. I’ve added powerful opt-out options, so it’s time to reintroduce the feature.

The feature takes advantage of LibraryThing’s 800,000 member-uplaoded covers. If you have books from more than a few years ago, like I do, a lot of your books don’t have Amazon covers. Before now, you could choose these covers manually, replacing our “blank” cover with your own or someone else’s uploaded cover.

Now were taking that data—the covers people choose for a given ISBN—to “guess” at the covers for coverless books. In general, members choose the right cover for their edition, especially when LibraryThing can look at many members’ decisions. In the case of my books, LibraryThing found 69 covers. Only one is dead-wrong, with two others being subtle variants of the cover I have. Of course, you can easily switch to a different cover, a blank cover or no cover.

Cover Statistics and links to different cover types. I’ve added a page for Cover Statistics. It shows where all you covers come from, with a link to all the books in that category. It’s a great way to go through your blanks or confirm LibraryThing’s new “best guess” covers.

The Cover Statistics page also has a link to change your default cover. (In case you’re wondering, I’m working on a all-encompassing “preferences” page. One thing at a time.)

Member-contributed covers now available in all sizes. Until now, LibraryThing only displayed two sizes for member-contributed covers–tiny and medium. For the last eight months we’ve been saving large versions, but we didn’t use them. Storing all the sizes or making them on the fly scared us.

A new server and some technical changes have given us the opportunity to show covers at whateve size they’re needed. The result is a much more attractive and even Cover View, which scales from teeny to upsettingly large (see image).

Member-contributed covers now available in maximum quality. As said, we were not previously taking advantage of original images, but only two presized versions. Although early-on we didn’t store them—server space was just too dear—we have been storing original versions for about eight months. This amounts to some 300,000 out of 800,000 covers. (Of course, not all “originals” are actually large; some are thumbnails.)

The result is that some member-contributed covers can now be sized to elephantine dimensions within your catalog, and look great on work pages, which use medium-large images. Unfortunately, some covers look a bit “pixelated” at these large sizes. The examples below illustrate both effects:

A final word. I want to thank members who pushed me on this feature. Although the general change has been planned for some time, it received impetus from a “bug fix” that introduced many best-guess covers. Without an easy way to “opt-out” of guesses—without choosing another cover—a few members went bananas.

The were right to do so! It created a weird situation, one I realized the more when I spent an hour “gardening” my covers. Once again, it was a pleasure to work through the issue with members. I’ve very pleased with the feedback, and as I rolled out some of these features over the weekend.

Maybe some day I’ll write a book about working with and for you guys. But you’re doing the cover.

Labels: book covers, new feature, new features


  1. Susie Watson says:

    Hi, I have just started adding all my books and have noticed that when I choose the version I have with the correct cover, a default plain cover goes on instead of the one I picked. What am I doing wrong, please?

    • Lace-Structures says:

      Yep, the same thing is happening to me. I tried going back to the search results page and doing a drag-drop of the correct cover to my desktop and then doing a ‘member cover’ insertion. Unfortunately, it comes out quite pixillated, and I end up resorting to taking a new photo instead. If I had known, I wouldn’t have wasted the time with drag n drop.

      • Loranne says:

        Sorry for the trouble! Would you mind emailing me ( with your LT username and an example of one of the books you’ve added with this issue so I can take a look?

        It’s also worth noting that drag-and-drop-ing a cover image to your desktop isn’t likely to get you a high quality copy of the image—this might be why it’s coming out pixellated. You can always copy the URL of the image from any website, by right-clicking on the image and selecting “Copy image URL,” then pasting that URL into the “grab one from the web” option on covers.

        You might also want to check your settings, as detailed here.

    • Loranne says:

      Sorry to hear you’re having trouble with covers, Susie. Would you mind emailing me ( with your LT username (and example of one of the books that’s exhibiting this issue) so I can take a look?

      You might want to check your settings, as detailed here.

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