Archive for September, 2009

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

Flash-mob cataloging party in Canton, OH

The Canton Museum of Art in Ohio (, CantonArt on LT) is having a flash-mob catalog party. More about flash-mob cataloging.

Saturday October 3, 2009, 10:30am – 2:30pm and Sunday October 4, 2009, 1:30pm – 4:30pm

Canton Museum of Art
1001 Market Ave.
Canton, OH 44702

Space is somewhat limited, so please RSVP: Troy at talpeterAT

Troy says: We will have tasty food and beverages. Participants should help us be “green” and bring your own mug (with your name and phone number on it). We will have valuable door-prizes throughout the day! Bring your Laptop, NetBook, iPhone/iPod Touch to help catalog, or just show up and help move things along.

The talk post.

Labels: flash mob, flash-mob cataloging

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

Geeks vs. Nerds: Hard data

LibraryThing’s systems administrator, John Dalton, came up with this—using LibraryThing’s tagmash feature to demonstrate the difference between geeks and nerds:

See also:

Labels: geeks, humor, nerds, tagmash

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

September State of the Thing

I just sent out September’s State of the Thing, our monthly newsletter. Sign up to get it, or you can read a copy online.

This month’s State of the Thing features 3 exclusive author interviews:

Audrey Niffenegger, author of the best-selling The Time Traveler’s Wife, who has a new book coming out next week—Her Fearful Symmetry.

Christopher McDougall, author of Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen, which has been on The New York Times best sellers list for 13 weeks now.

Dan Chaon, author of Await Your Reply which was called “ambitious, gripping and unrelentingly bleak” in The New York Times.

The interview with Audrey Niffenegger has a few questions that LibraryThing members came up with, in the Author interviews—you ask the questions group. We’re trying that again for next month, when I’m interviewing Allison Hoover Barlett, author The Man Who Loved Books Too Much and Hope Edelman, author of The Possibility of Everything (both were Early Reviewer books, so you might have read an advance copy recently). Have a question for Bartlett or Edelman? Post it here for Allison Hoover Bartlett and here for Hope Edelman.

Labels: author interview, state of the thing

Friday, September 18th, 2009

Arr! How LibraryThing went pirate

Talk Like A Pirate Day is over for us now. You can visit the translation at

Chris and I decided to take pirate photos for our author pages. He’s pretty convincing, apart from the inflatable parrot.*

At 5 pm on Friday we jumped the gun on International Talk Like a Pirate Day, sending the whole site into Pirate-talk. (We’ll turn back off tomorrow evening, but click “Turn OFF pirate-speak” to turn it off sooner.)

“LibraryThing in Pirate” was a secret project of the Arr, me hearties! group. Members came up with all the translations. Some of my favorites are the little ones, like “enlarge” translated as “use yer spyglass”, the month January being translated as “January (me britches be cold)” and “Terms of Use” changed to “Rules o’ engagement.” Some like “Finger to the Wind” (for Zeitgeist) take some thought, but it would take a genius to discern that “Wi’ naw halp fram ‘ny matey”—is that Glaswegian?—means “Automatic.”

Arr, me hearties! was composed of volunteers from the Beta Group who spent the last week going string by string through LibraryThing’s interface, using the same code we use for our non-English sites. We ended up translating some 2,400 bits and pieces, about 44.2% of the site, making it only the 19th most-translated language, just above Albanian. (That sheds some light on how much effort has gone into the near-complete Portuguese, Dutch, French, Catalan and other translations!)

Top translators included readafew, rastaphrog, lorax, Carnophile, sqdancer, <a href=””>conceptDawg and me.

For posterity’s sake, I took some screenshots:

*All LibraryThing employees were originally going to take photos of ourselves eating cake, in honor of LibraryThing’s fourth anniversary. (We’re in eight different cities, so we can’t just all eat cake together.) Anyway, Sonya had to miss the meeting where we cancelled this plan, and we forgot to tell her, so she dutifully sent her cake photo. Well, I hope she enjoyed the cake!

Labels: arr, chris, members, Sonya, talk like a pirate day

Friday, September 18th, 2009

LibraryThing, IndieBound and love

As Tim blogged last night, we needed some help from members to link LibraryThing data on bookstores to IndieBound data. We connected 1,200 automatically, but that left 1,362 that had to be done manually—checking exact names, addresses, sometimes even creating a new “venue” on LibraryThing Local.

Tim posted the plea for help at about 5:30 pm last night. By 11 am this morning, it was entirely done. That’s right, in less than eighteen hours—most of which were in the middle of the night, in the US at least—LibraryThing members completed the task. That’s incredible. Insane. Fantastic.

As Tim tweeted, “IndieBound/LT demonstrates what I believe: Independent bookstores can win online if they engage the community. Love is powerful.” His sentiments were retweeted all over, and the IndieBound folks agreed. (See IndieBoundPaige, mattsupko, SarahABA on Twitter)

LibraryThing members are indeed an incredible community, and love indeed is powerful.* We’re going to add a new helper badge to recognize these folks. Thank you, thank you.

*Anyone who hasn’t seen Clay Shirky’s “The Internet Runs on Love” talk, should (blogged

Labels: bookstore integration, indiebound, love

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

Connect IndieBound to LibraryThing

Summary: We need your help connecting LibraryThing to IndieBound. Like peanut butter and chocolate, we taste great together. Help us out.

Why IndieBound? To make the new “Get it Now,” and the “Local” section, LibraryThing needs to update and improve our local data. We want to give members as many options as possible about where to get the book. And we’ve always supported independent bookstores.

We turned to IndieBound (formerly BookSense), the large and influential organization of independent bookstores in the US and Canada. After explaining ourselves, they gave us a feed of their store data—thank you IndieBound! But we need to connect their data to our data, the venues in LibraryThing Local. Store names and addresses are seldom exactly the same.

We were able to connect 1,200 automatically, but another 1,300 bookstores need connecting. In some cases, a new LibraryThing venue has to be created.

How can you help? We need your help. We’re programmers and librarians, and we don’t have the manpower to tackle a job like this. And, frankly, we think others can do it better than us.

We’ve made a “Help Put IndieBound on LibraryThing” page. It shows all the IndieBound data on the left, and LibraryThing data on the right. A simple interface helps you match up the data, and connect it. You can also improve the data—adding pictures, phone numbers and etc. Everything you do will raise the profile of independent booksellers on LibraryThing. Needless to say, IndieBound is getting a feed back. What LibraryThing knows can, we think, help them too.

Here’s a New Features’ talk thread to ask questions, ask for help and etc.

Labels: booksense, bookstore integration, indiebound

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

The Amazon policy change, and how we’re responding.

“Amazon Cardboard Boxes” by Flickr member Akira Ohgaki (Attribution 2.0 Generic)

Summary: Amazon is requiring us remove links to other booksellers on work pages. We’re creating a new “Get it Now” page, with links to other booksellers, especially local bookstores and libraries, and a host of new features. Talk about it here.

The challenge. We’re days away from releasing a series of changes to our book pages, both forced and intentional. Amazon is requiring all websites, as a condition of getting any data from them, to have the primary page link to Amazon alone. Links to other booksellers are prohibited. Secondary pages—pages you go to from the primary page—can have non-Amazon links.

Everyone at LibraryThing disagrees with this decision. LibraryThing is not a social cataloging and social networking site for Amazon customers but for book lovers. Most of us are Amazon customers on Tuesday, and buy from a local bookstore or get from a library on Wednesday and Thursday! We recognize Amazon’s value, but we certainly value options.

Importanly, the decision is probably not even good for Amazon. Together with a new request-monitoring system, banning iPhone applications that use Amazon data, and much of their work on the Kindle, Amazon is retreating from its historic commitment to simplicity, flexibility and openness. They won through openness. Their data is all over the web, and with it millions of links to Amazon. They won’t benefit from a retreat here.

But agree or not, we have to follow their terms. We thought long and hard about giving up Amazon data entirely, converting to library data only, in concert with a commercial provider, like Bowker or Ingram, and with help from publishers and members. Unlike our competitors, who are exclusively based on Amazon and who don’t “catalog” so much as keep track of which Amazon items you have, that option is available to us. But we’d lose a lot, particularly book covers. Ultimately, we’ve decided the disadvantages outweigh the benefits.

The Response. Most of all, we think we’ve found a way to give Amazon what they require, and continue to provide members with options: We’re going cut back our primary-page links to Amazon alone, and give people the best, most diverse secondary pages we can make. We are allowed to link to other booksellers, like IndieBound and Barnes and Noble on secondary pages, and we’re going to do it far better than we ever have. We’re going to take something away, but also make something better—something that goes way past what we did before, in features and in diversity of options.

The upcoming “Get it Now” page will go far beyond our current “Buy, borrow, swap” links, with a live new and used price-comparison engine, as well as sections for ebooks, audiobooks and swap sites. The page will be edition-aware, and draw on feeds or live data (so the links work). Many members have wanted live pricing data for the books they already own and these features can be used for that purpose too. We’ll also be doing some stuff with libraries nobody else has, or can, do.

Key to the upcoming Get it Now page is a “Local” module, drawing on LibraryThing Local, showing all the libraries and bookstores near you. Where possible, this list will incorporate holdings data and links to buy—the sort of information you never get from a Google search on a book. If not, we’ll give you their telephone numbers and show you where they are on a map. We’ll make the page customizable, and let members add sources to it.

We think the new page will make a lot of members happy. For one thing, LibraryThing has never been about buying books, so having all these links on a separate page won’t be a great loss. And if the new format doesn’t make members happy, we’ll listen, and together we can plan to take LibraryThing on a truly independent course.

Post your comment here, or come talk about this on Site Talk.

Labels: amazon, apis, google, open data

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

Tagmash, redux: Tim’s favorite feature

Tagmash. I’ve redone, improved and expanded my favorite feature, tagmashing.

Introduced back in 2007, tagmashes, allow you to investigate what books satisfy two or more tags. It’s a great way to find books of a clear type, but for which no single tag really works.

For example, no one has yet used the tag “vegetarian Indian cooking” and there’s no Library of Congress Subject Heading for it either. But combine three tags, like vegetarian, India and cooking into the tagmash vegetarian, India, cooking and you get over 50 good matches.

Simple two-tag combination can work wonders:

Some of my favorites are off-beat: all those books about knitting for your dog and—shiver—knitting with dog hair can be found at knitting, pets. erotic, zombies is 80% Laurell K. Hamilton. And who can say no to humor, pirates? (Did you know that this Saturday is Talk like a Pirate Day? You will.)

On the serious end, fairly complex topics also work:

You can also use – (minus) or — (double minus) to mean “demote” or “remove” a tag. For example:

An important feature of tagmash is that it’s not just a “search.” Once created, tagmash pages stay there, and it enters the “swirl of relatedness.” Somtimes a tag page will suggest the perfect tagmash. Other times, a tagmash will suggest an unconsidered subject.

New Feature: Tagmash overlap. I’ve added a new feature that, I think, brings tagmash to a new level—the tagmash overlap.

It works something like tag mirrors. Instead of showing you how you tag things, it shows how others tag your stuff. Except instead of showing you Individual tags, it finds tagmashes.

The results is, I think, a good list of topics you’re interested in—topics more complex than a single tag can express. In my case, it surfaces topics like Macedonia, history, Greek, divination, Ottoman Empire, travel and erotic, poetry (!). Abby is apparently interested in adventure, surreal, English, death, love and—what a winner—evil, love.

You can find the feature from your profile statistics page. If you’re signed in, this link will take you to yours.

What do you think? Comment here or come over to the New Features Talk thread.

Labels: classification, tag mirror, tagging, tagmash

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

September Early Reviewer books

The September 2009 batch of Early Reviewer books is up! We’ve got 59 books this month, and a grand total of 1310 copies to give out.

First, make sure to sign up for Early Reviewers. If you’ve already signed up, please check your mailing address and make sure it’s correct.

Then request away! The list of available books is here:

The deadline to request a copy is Friday, September 25th at 6PM EST.

Eligiblity: Publishers do things country-by-country. This month we have publishers who can send books to the US, Canada, the UK, Israel, Australia, France, Germany, Denmark, European Union, Hong Kong, Iceland, India, Ireland, Isle of Man, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. Make sure to check the flags by each book to see if it can be sent to your country.

Thanks to all the publishers participating this month!

Bloomberg Press Weiser Books The Permanent Press
Bell Bridge Books Tilbury House Kensington Publishing
Dafina Citadel Press Bloomsbury
B&H Publishing Group New York Review Books St. Martin’s Minotaur
Faith Words Hachette Book Group St. Martin’s Griffin
Orca Book Publishers Random House BelleBooks
Picador Gefen Publishing House Bleak House Books
HighBridge University of Wisconsin Press Barbour Books
Osprey Publishing Beach Books Doubleday Books
Kiwi Publishing Henry Holt and Company How To Books
HarperCollins Brandeis University Press University Press of New England
Bascom Hill Books

Labels: early reviewers, LTER

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

Chapters/Indigo adds LibraryThing tags to store kiosks

Update: INDEX // mb just took another look at the Indigo Kisoks, concluding “The addition of the Library Thing tags make a heap of difference.”

Chapters/Indigo, the largest Canadian bookseller, just rolled out thousands of brand new in-store kiosks. (See the mostly positive review at Index//mb). Among other things the new search is enhanced by LibraryThing tags. The tags aren’t shown on the page, but they’re helping drive better search results.

For example, a search for “medieval murder mystery” turns up appropriate books, starting with the Ellis PetersBrother Cadfael books.

We wish we could link to the system, but kiosks are in-store only. So, if you’re in Canada, check it out. (And try big ones like “chick lit” or “steampunk” for us, will you?)

Other users of LibraryThing tags include Random House (example), AquaBrowser and the more than 150 public and academic libraries using LibraryThing for Libraries, from Seattle to Utrecht.

Labels: booksellers, chapters, chapters/indigo, indigo, tags

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

Luke’s bookbuying spree

Hiring good employees is tough. So we try to sweeten the pot a bit. Last fall we offered $1,000 worth of books to anyone who could find us a good employee. Luke, genius that he is, “found” himself.

Voila Luke, holding his gift cards to Porter Square Books in Cambridge, MA. Ironically, by the time we got to cashing in his prize, Luke had moved on (a new company and a new state! Now he’s conveniently located near to the fantastic Porter Square Books and, of course, me.)

The bookstore wasn’t quite sure how to handle our request for a $1,000 gift card. Apparently they’d never done that before, and the system couldn’t handle it. So Luke wound up with five $200 gift cards. All the better for sharing.

Labels: employees, luke

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

Flash-mob Cataloging Party: UIllinois prof’s folktale collection

Once upon a time, this hearty group of library students from the University of Illinois (my alma mater) came together to finish up flash-mob cataloging the folktales collection of storytelling professor Dan Keding. They had started in the spring by cataloging 600 books, which was less than half the collection.

The final count was 1,413 books, which you can see in Dan’s LibraryThing catalog here. Dan is also a LibraryThing author, with several folktale books of his own.

In addition to cataloging the collection, the mobbers added Mylar covers to the dust jackets. The books in the collection are available to students taking the storytelling course. See more photos of the flash mob here.

While getting my library science degree I took this class, and used books like these for finding stories to perform, as well as information about the history of various stories and storytelling. I’m happy students will have an even larger collection – as it turns out, finding stories you want to tell isn’t as easy as you’d think.

Dan’s guitar case now boasts a LibraryThing sticker. LibraryThing now boasts a new member with a large folktale collection. Students can now see the collection online. We all lived happily ever after.

Labels: flash mob, flash-mob cataloging, folktales, Illinois, storytelling