Archive for January, 2010

Monday, January 25th, 2010

January State of the Thing

Ring-a-ding-ding. I’ve just sent out the first State of the Thing (our monthly newsletter) of 2010. Sign up to get it, or you can read a copy online.

This month’s State of the Thing features our iPhone app, site improvements and as always, free books.

We also have two exclusive author interviews:

Colum McCann won the 2009 National Book Award in fiction for Let the Great World Spin. The plot of the book follows a handful of characters who are witness to the 1974 tight-rope walk across the Twin Towers of New York, but this book is more than the sum of its plots. McCann lives in New York, with his family. His previous work includes Dancer and Zoli.

Joshua Ferris’ new, just-released novel is The Unnamed. Like a wind-up toy, the main character’s unknown medical condition will suddenly whisk him from wherever he is on a forced walk that ends only from exhaustion, miles from home. His family adjusts, as well as a family can, to an unexplainable disease. Joshua’s previous novel, Then We Came to the End, was a 2007 National Book Award finalist. At the moment, Ferris is writing an essay on the work of the Norwegian painter Lars Elling, and according to Ferris “contemplating about six ways to kill myself on account of it. I want to do both the painter & his work justice but fear I simply lack the lexicon.”

Next month, we’ll be interviewing Elizabeth Kostova and Holly Black. Have a question for them? Post it here and we might use it in the upcoming interview.

Labels: state of the thing

Monday, January 25th, 2010

24-hour Readathon wrap-up

We may not have a logo yet, but the first LibraryThing Readathon was a success. A lot of the fun is reading the thread on Book Talk where participants described their hour of reading. It was interesting to find out where other people chose to read for their designated hour, and absolutely wonderful to hear about the books everyone’s reading right now. You can read the whole thread here, which includes touchstones to the books read. Participants could also tag the book(s) they read. People also started including an excerpt from what they had read, which added a sense of nowness.

It was really fun helping in the creation of a new kind of event, which felt very community-oriented yet very easy to participate in. I myself woke up, grabbed my book, and started reading in bed. Sure, there wasn’t any brie provided (unlike the Boston meetup), but it also didn’t require getting out of bed.

We called it a beta test, because we weren’t sure what would need changing during the event, or for future events. We’ll talk about what to change, so know we’re planning on another event sometime in the spring. If you’d like to join in the organizing conversation, jump in.

Labels: event, LibraryThing event, ltreadathonbeta, readathon, reading

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

LibraryThing 24-hour Readathon (beta)

Inspired by LibraryThingers participating in Do Nothing But Read Day, member squeakychu suggested we have our own event which doesn’t limit a day’s activity to just reading. (It was discovered that it’s really hard to do nothing but read, when the doorbell rings, or pets/children need tending.)

Thus was born the LibraryThing 24-hour Readathon*. The idea is to have LibraryThing members from across the world reading continuously for 24 hours. Each member is committing to reading for one hour, at a designated time. We’ve built in a redundancy system, in case someone is trapped in their car in a snowstorm … without a book. Some people will start on the hour, others on the half hour.

Date: Saturday, January 23rd
Time: You choose

If you’re interested, sign up here. You can read the development and ongoing rules of the Readathon on the Site Talk thread. You can direct any questions to that Talk thread as well. Once you’ve read for your hour, come describe it on the Book Talk thread.

This is an event for any LibraryThing member (and anyone you want to convince to read along with you), and the only requirement is that for the hour you sign up for, you read something (or listen to an audiobook).

This is the first of what we’re hoping to be many readathons. Future events may include reading a specific genre, reading for different increments of time (15 minutes, out loud?) or reading for longer amounts of time than 24 hours (how long can LibraryThing members keep reading? Years?)

*Beta. We’re using this first event as a kind of trial to figure it out.

Labels: readathon

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Boston brie party

Last Saturday, we threw a party in Boston. Since the American Library Association midwinter meeting was already drawing many librarians and publishers to the city, we jumped on the chance to bring together bookish sorts for an evening of talking books, eating cheese and tipping a pint.

If I had to guess, I’d say there were around 75 people over the 2.5 hours we were holding court at the Green Dragon.

The LibraryThing for Libraries crew announced two new features at the conference, so the booth was busy. Abby’s recap is forthcoming on Thingology.

See all the pictures of the party and the LTFL booth here.

Labels: 1

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Apple highlights Local Books

Apple’s iTunes store has LibraryThing’s Local Books app. (see blog post, direct link) given us a rare honor—a spot among their featured apps.(1)

The exposure has shot us up in the books category, such that we are now—unbelievably—running third in the free section.(2) No matter how long it lasts—and we have no idea of that—it’s great news. The more people grab it, the more become invested in its success. We’re already seeing a pick up in entries to LibraryThing Local. And it puts pressure on us to improve Local and the app too.

Most of all, we hope the success of Local Books can inspire physical bookstores and libraries to embrace the digital world more fully—to put their basic information, events and holdings data out there for us and others to use. Their customers and patrons are eager for it. Only by embracing what the digital world can do for the physical can they compete against the continual advance of ecommerce and ebooks.

So, thanks to Apple for highlighting us, to Chris and John for making the app.(3), and thanks to all the members who entered the data to make it possible.

1. To see it, go to iTunes and click “App Store.” We’re in the third row of apps., next to “Puppy Park” and “Roadside America.” We only appear if the screen is wide enough to hold six icons. We go away if you’re only showing five or fewer apps.
2. The only downside has been that wider exposure has put the app in the hands of people who were, I think, expecting something different. Our ratings have shot down. Fortunately, they’re very much on par with other top apps. It seems iTunes reviewers are a finicky bunch!
3. They will be getting every dime the free app makes us!

PS: If you have an Android phone, check out our Layar app.

Labels: iphone, itunes, local book search, local books

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

LibraryThing party in Boston

If you’ll be in Boston this Saturday, January 16th , come to our LibraryThing Meetup!

We’re taking advantage of the American Library Assocation conference in Boston to pull together all our favorite bibliophiles, eat food, drink drinks, and talk about the state of books, the future of the book, and what you just finished reading.
We’re having it at The Green Dragon Tavern—a nice fit, as “The Green Dragon” is one of the most active groups on LibraryThing.
In true LibraryThing tradition we’ll be providing ALL THE BAKED BRIE YOU CAN HANDLE, along with other light fare, perhaps including some that don’t revolve around cheese. Since we’re not doing ConferenceThing,* we’ve got some money to burn, and can offer a snack-y dinner instead. You buy the beer.
Date: January 16th, 2010
Time: 5:30-8:00 pm
Location: The Green Dragon (see Local event) – 11 Marshall St Boston, MA 02108
Updates: Follow @conferencething or @librarythingtim on Twitter

Directly after our event there’s a tweetup for ALA conference-goers at the same location. We like to keep our 2.0 events convenient!

*Our original plan was to have ConferenceThing, a mini-conference giving librarians and bibliophiles a chance to talk about books in all their forms, and the book world. That didn’t work out, as we couldn’t find speakers and in a choice between hearing Tim speak in front of a projector and watching Tim and Abby shovel brie…

Thanks to merelymel for the photo.

Labels: ALA, conference, Conferencething, event, LibraryThing event, Midwinter

Monday, January 11th, 2010

Local books, virality and Twitter

Virality is an awesome thing. LibraryThing grew virally, and we’re seeing the same patterns with our new Local Books iPhone application (blog post, iTunes), released last Wednesday.

Some highlights:

Most noticeable, though, has been the shift away from blogs, which were once the main way people found out about LibraryThing and its new features, toward Twitter and other services (see Twitter’s list of tweets with my original URL). I think that, for smaller topics like this, Twitter has simply taken over.

Maybe I’ll change my mind if someone at the New York Times notices the New Yorker or L.A. Times pieces, and decides to write their own!

Labels: local books

Monday, January 11th, 2010

Colored check marks

I’ve change the green check marks to a palette of four colors, so you can distinguish at a glance books in your library, wish list, read-but-unowned list and other collections.

The check marks pop up on recommendations and statistics pages. So far, members have been particularly happy to see them on your Series Statistics page, which lists all the series in your library, and which books in the series you have in the various collections.

As should become immediately obvious, colors can’t do justice to all the complexity of collections. Not every collection gets a color, and we aren’t mixing up paint buckets when a book belongs to two collections. We may revisit this, allowing members to set colors for their collections, but it will depend on other priorities, and we’ll never be able to squeeze all the information in collections into colors alone. For what they are, however, we hope they’re useful.

See more information and discussion.

Labels: collections, new features

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Local Books iPhone application!

» Take me right to iTunes

Short version. We’ve just released our first foray into iPhone development, a free application called “Local Books.”

Local Books resembles popular dining apps like LocalEats or UrbanSpoon—but for book lovers. It shows you local bookstores, libraries and bookish events wherever you are or plan to be.

I’ve been using beta versions on my trips for months already; it’s the ideal travel companion. Even if you know your area well, you’re almost certain to find new places. We hope it will be a shot in the arm for physical bookstores and libraries—a new way to see how much bookishness there is around you.

At present Local Books does not show inventory from local bookstores and libraries. But, well, isn’t that a good idea?

Check it out on iTunes.

Features. Features include:

  • Search for venues (bookstores and libraries) as well as events near your current location using the iPhone’s built-in location features.
  • Search for venues and events at any location or by name.
  • Venues can be sorted by distance, name, or type.
  • Venues are color coded, following the maps on LibraryThing Local (colors correspond to the colors used on maps in LibraryThing Local).
  • Each venue has a detail page with a map. Tap it to jump to the iPhone Maps application.
  • Venues often sport a description, clickable website and phone number links, events, and a photo.
  • You can favorite locations and events, and there’s a “Favorites” list where you can find them.(1)

Powered by LibraryThing Local. Local Books is powered by LibraryThing Local, the LibraryThing member-created database of 51,000 bookstores and libraries around the world. Events too are drawn from LibraryThing Local. Notably, since last night we’ve had a four-fold increase in events, as we started pulling in events from Barnes and Noble, Borders, Waterstones and Indigo/Chapters, as well as IndieBound.

Why We Did It. Creating Local Books wasn’t free. We hired an outside house to help us. (Well, semi-outside; half of ConceptHouse is our in-house programmer Chris/ConceptDawg.) There’s no “monetization” at all.

We did it because, despite the dozens of dining, clubbing and other location applications, nobody had done a good book one before. True, IndieBound recently came out with an elegant iPhone app.(2) But indies are not the only bookstores. And libraries, which far exceed bookstores and are almost everywhere, are absolutely critical. We’ve always thought of the book world in the largest possible terms, and we wanted an iPhone application that did that too.

Most of all, Local Books is our contribution to keeping the book world interesting. Amazon and other online retailers are great. LibraryThing is great too. But book lovers can’t be happy in a world with fewer and fewer physical bookstores, and a rising threat to libraries. The more we know about this physical book world, the better we can foster it, and the better we can use websites like LibraryThing and Amazon to improve our world, not replace it.

How You Can Help. Even with 51,000 venues, not every bookstore and library is in LibraryThing. If you know of one that’s not in there, go ahead and add it. If you represent the bookstore or library in question, you can “claim” your venue page, and start using LibraryThing to connect to your customers or patrons.

Even if they’re all there, most are still missing something—a photograph, a phone number, a good description, a Twitter handle. Events—especially indie bookstores and libraries—are a particular need.

It’s a virtuous cycle. The better we can make the data, the more people will find the application useful, and the more people who will make it better

Oh, and vote up the application, will ya? 🙂


1. The favorites feature in the app is not tied to your favorites list on We didn’t want to require sign-in and so forth.
2. The IndieBound application does allow you to search for books, but only off their online catalog. There’s no tie-in to local holdings. Even if it had that, most Indie bookstores do not upload their inventory to IndieBound, and, again, neither bookstores or independent bookstores should be the only option for book lovers.

Special thanks to the “Board for Extreme Thing Advances,” our beta group, who put the application through it’s paces before release. We couldn’t have done it without you.

Labels: iphone, librarything local, local book search, local books

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

January Early Reviewer books up!

The January 2010 batch of Early Reviewer books is up! We’ve got 57 books this month, and a grand total of 1,438 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.

A note: included in this batch are a couple of sex books, so I want to remind everyone that if you request it, and you win it, then you’re expected to put it in your catalog and review it. If you find the book title or content embarrassing, please don’t request it.

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

The deadline to request a copy is Friday, January 29th at 6PM EST.

Eligiblity: Publishers do things country-by-country. This month we have publishers who can send books to too many countries to list. 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!

Penguin The Permanent Press Faber and Faber
Bell Bridge Books B&H Publishing Group Doubleday Books
Delacorte Press Hachette Book Group Putnam Books
Tundra Books Spiegel & Grau Random House
W.W. Norton Candlewick Doubleday Canada
Orbit Books Hunter House Sovereign
UnT2 Canongate Books Avalon Press
Henry Holt and Company Gauthier Publications Eirini Press
Berkley Sensation Signet Avon Books
St. Martin’s Griffin Picador Center Street
Grand Central Publishing ArbeitenZeit Media Harper
DargonFish Comics Hungry Goat Press

Labels: early reviewers

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Four times as many event listings

Overnight I added 3,364 bookish events to LibraryThing Local.

That more-than quadruples the number of events in LibraryThing Local!

The new events were from Barnes and Noble, Borders, Waterstones UK and Indigo/Chapters stores. Together with IndieBound—already in the system—this covers the largest English-language bookstore chains that also have event listings.

We are, of course, looking for new event sources. Publishers are probably our next stop. But members have been the largest single source of events, and will always be critical, especially for libraries and independent bookstores that don’t use IndieBound event listings.

It should also be said that none of this would be possible if members hadn’t helped us to add LibraryThing venues for all the stores in question, and hook their numbers up to ours. This was critical for our innovative Local Book Search, and we plan to do even more with these linkages in the future.

To add a new event go to LibraryThing Local, or just start here.

PS: This isn’t a coincidence. We’re going to be releasing something related—and big—tomorrow! 🙂

Labels: events, librarything local, local book search, members

Monday, January 4th, 2010

The Great Group Revamp

I’ve revamped groups in ways small and large.

The result! The revamp is working. Since the change, daily group-joining rates have almost doubled for both old and new members. Nice.

New Groups page. There’s a new group tab (see here). The page is:

Group tags. Until now, there was no good way to find particular sorts of groups. Rather than designing some static and ultimately limited system of categories, we’ve asked members to tag groups. Of course, members went crazy at it. You can see the tags:

Local Groups. Groups can now have locations, and the group home and your groups page now show local groups. As members have pointed out, “local” is a relative term, but the results will improve as local groups are identified and added. (Go here to add a place to an existing group.)

At present, the largest groups are the Australians, Germans and Bostonians.

“Welcome to LibraryThing!” By popular request/agitation added a Welcome to LibraryThing! group, for introductions, questions and other conversation. As the description states:

“LibraryThing is a rich site, with a number of different communities and projects going on. It can also be a complex site—powerful but sometimes daunting to newcomers. This group is a friendly place for new members, and the experienced members who can help them make the most of it. Most questions and introductions are answered within minutes.

Members, new and old, are invited to check it out.

Dormant groups. The system now tracks groups for activity. If twelve months pass without a message—excepting private groups—the group becomes “dormant.” As befits a more than four year-old site, some 3,000 LibraryThing groups are currently dormant!

Groups “wake up” when a new message is posted to them. In many cases, however, it’s better to start a vibrant new group than revive a dormant one.

Other changes.

  • Better searching. Group searching is much improved, with activity graphics by every group, weighting by activity, tags figured in, dormant groups excluded by default and a better algorithm generally.
  • Better navigation. All group pages are now connected, with a common navigation.
  • Smaller pages. Pages are smaller and therefore faster. Caching is improved, so the results are both fast and updated frequently.

Talk about it These changes have been trickling out for more than a week, and conversation has been extensive—and very helpful. The more important topics are:

1. As explained elsewhere, tags are sized more according to the aggregate activity of the groups than the number of times they are tagged. This differs from how work tags work, but favors the goal of helping people find things.

Labels: group tags, groups, tagging