Archive for September, 2011

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Announcing the November ReadaThing

Mark your calendars! The good folks from the ReadaThing group have announced that they’ll be hosting a 100-hour ReadaThing in early November, and all are welcome! (You don’t have to read for the full 100 hours, of course: the goal is to have a few people from around the world reading at any given time during the ReadaThing).

The official start time will be at Noon on Friday, November 4th in New Zealand. This will be at 23:00 on Thursday GMT and 8 p.m. Thursday, November 3rd, in the Eastern US/Canada time zone. It will last for 100 hours & end at 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday in New Zealand, 4:00 a.m. Tuesday in Paris, 10:00 p.m. Monday in New York, and 5:00 p.m. Monday in Honolulu!! (the DST time change in the US/Canada is accounted for).

For more information, see the announcement thread; to sign up, head right to the ReadaThing wiki. As we get closer to the date, consider posting your reading selection in the “What will you be reading?” thread, and during the ReadaThing you can use the “Log Book” thread to document your ReadaThing experience. Might be fun to create a gallery of “reading spot” photos, or something, too!

For more on ReadaThings, and to participate in planning future events, join the ReadaThing group.

Labels: readathon

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

September Author Interviews

This month’s State of the Thing, LibraryThing’s monthly newsletter of features, author interviews and various forms of bookish delight, should have made its way to your inbox by now. You can also read it online.

Our author interviews this month:

I talked to acclaimed historical fiction author Sharon Kay Penman about her latest novel, Lionheart, a rich tale of Richard I and the Third Crusade. Find how about her research process, favorite historical sources, and how she feels about George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series.

Asked which of the characters from Lionheart she’d most like to spend a day with, Sharon replied “I’d like to hang around with Richard’s nephew, Henri of Champagne. I’d also like to spend a few hours with Richard’s sister, Joanna, and his queen, Berengaria, and if there was still time to spare, I’d be happy to visit with Saladin’s brother, al-Malik al-Adil, whom I found even more interesting than his more famous sibling. Oh, and Richard, of course, provided that he was in camp at the time and not out fighting Saracens; I’d want to see if my fictional Richard and the real Richard were compatible.”

Read the full interview with Sharon Kay Penman.

I also chatted with Charles Frazier, whose third novel, Nightwoods is out next week from Random House (and is already garnering favorable reviews on LT, including one from me; I had a difficult time putting it down).

I asked Charles “Are there any lines or scenes in the book of which you are especially fond?,” and very much liked his response. He wrote “I kind of like the way the first three sentences set up the main characters and suggest something about the tone and style of the book: ‘Luce’s new stranger children were small and beautiful and violent. She learned early that it wasn’t smart to leave them unattended in the yard with the chickens. Later she’d find feathers, a scaled yellow foot with its toes clinched.'”

Read the full interview with Charles Frazier.

And we have a fun third interview for September: Lisa Carey talked to author/illustrator Chris Van Dusen about his work and his latest work King Hugo’s Huge Ego. Lisa introduced the interview this way: “Chris is one of our favorite local children’s authors. Liam, our five year old, loved The Circus Ship so much that he memorized it and set it to a song, then sang the whole thing for Chris at the Maine Festival of the Book. After the event, Liam told me he wanted to be just like Chris Van Dusen when he grew up. I said that sounded like a great idea. Living on the coast of Maine, drawing every day, writing books, sounds like paradise. I hope he lets us live with him!”

Read Lisa’s full interview with Chris Van Dusen.

Catch up on previous State of the Thing newsletters.

If you don’t get State of the Thing, you can add it in your email preferences. You also have to have an email address listed.

Labels: author interview, authors, state of the thing

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

If you like this author, how about?

Short version. A few weeks ago, we introduced an “author read-alikes” feature, in four different flavors, with an invitation to help us pick the best one. We got our answer, and have gone with the winner. But the voting worked so well, we’ve decided to integrate it into the new author recommendations. The recommendations—now called “If you like this author..”—all include a ratings option. Rate a recommendation high and it will rise. Rate it low and it will sink. This is fortunate, as our author recommendations—we admit—need work. They’re nowhere near as good as our work-to-work recommendations.

With luck, your input will help us improve them!

More details. The vote between flavors turned out very well for us. Option 2 was a new and extremely slow algorithm. We thought it would be the best, and it polled a respectable 3.43 stars. It certainly outpolled version 3 and 4, at 2.95 and 2.94 stars respectively. But it did slightly worse than option 1, which polled 3.52. Best of all, option 1 was a much easier, faster algorithm. This was unexpected, but welcome. Option one is so fast we’ve been able to apply recommendations to virtually all major authors in a single night—option 2 would have taken weeks or months!

3.52 stars still isn’t that great. But the success of the vote suggested we might do better if we subjected the recommendations themselves to a vote. So we’ve done that. Basically, anything above 3 stars will conspire to move the recommendation up. Anything below three will move it down. The higher or lower the stars, the greater the movement. The effect will differ between authors and recommendation, as all recommendations have a (hidden) score, not just a ranking.

Some examples: Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Umberto Eco, Doris Kearns Goodwin, J. K. Rowling, Malcolm Gladwell.

Come talk about it here.

Labels: recommendations

Monday, September 19th, 2011

Welcome Mike Topper!

Welcome Mike Topper (LT member miketopper), our new developer! He’ll be working on projects both for and for LibraryThing for Libraries.

Mike was born and raised in a small city right outside Detroit, Michigan. After graduating from the University of Michigan with degrees in Computer Science and Mathematics, he went on to work for various startup companies in Ann Arbor, New York City and Buenos Aires, Argentina. Mike and his wife moved back from Argentina last year and are now restoring a 200-year-old farmhouse in rural Maine. (Mike will be able to come down to LibraryThing’s offices in Portland whenever we want to work together, but he’ll mostly be working from home.)

Mike enjoys hiking in the White Mountains, knitting things for friends and family, reading a lot of epic fantasy books, buying fancy scotch, rooting for the Detroit Tigers and working on his falling-down farmhouse. He has dreams of one day owning a herd of dairy goats.

His favorite authors include Arthur Conan Doyle, George R.R. Martin, Michael Sipser and Kurt Vonnegut. You can follow him on Twitter at @miketopper, and as GeekPride on Ravelry.

Labels: employees

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

LibraryThing Meetup at National Book Festival

This year’s National Book Festival (coming up on September 24-25 on the National Mall) is shaping up to be a pretty fantastic event: for the first time the festival will extend over two days, and the list of authors is very impressive indeed.

LibraryThing members are planning to meet up at various points during the festival, both to attend author events and just to meet, eat, chat, &c. Come discuss in the planning thread or visit the meetup wiki to see what’s going on.

We’ll post pictures and more from the meetups after the Festival. Have fun!

Labels: meet up, National Book Festival, NBF

Friday, September 9th, 2011

Legacy Libraries updates: Arendt, Greene, Twain, Wilde

Some recent Library Library highlights:

Hannah Arendt: LTers pranogajec, rsterling, and mambo_taxi have completed the addition of political theorist Hannah Arendt’s 3,500+ books, which are currently in the collections of Bard College.

Graham Greene: Our flash-mob to finish up author Graham Greene’s catalog went very well, and Greene’s 2,500 titles now at Boston College have been completely entered. Thanks to the following LTers for their assistance: g062r (who began the project and added the first several hundred titles), plus ReneeGKC, jjmcgaffey, cinaedus, timspalding, jbd1, cartogis, melmmo, JustJoey4, DuneSherban, mandymarie20, Kaczencja, SassyLassy, flissp, rdurie, melmore, jcbrunner, anglemark, ansate, Wabbit98, UtopianPessimist, urland, arrwa, cpirmann, jburlinson, DanaW.

Mark Twain: Now underway as an effort of the Mark Twain Papers & Project, headed up by LTer skgoetz, Mark Twain’s Legacy Library catalog. Watch for new titles!

Oscar Wilde: Another Legacy Library now underway: the books entered so far are based on Thomas Wright’s book Oscar’s Books, with many more to come from other sources. LTer JDEllevsen began this catalog and will be augmenting it with additional data over time.

On the Libraries of Early America front, I recently finished up the library of Richard Henry Lee. He’s the 20th Signer of the Declaration of Independence with a completed LT library (see the full list here). And I’m currently going through a large database of 17th and 18th-century probate inventories from York County, Virginia to add information about libraries there. More data about early libraries continues to arrive every day!

Many thanks as always to all those helping out with the Legacy Libraries. For more info or to find out how you can help, see the homepage.

Labels: flash-mob cataloging, legacies, legacy libraries

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

A Member Giveaways success story

Last week I was delighted to receive the following email from LT Author Douglas E. Richards (member DouglasE.Richards):

“Since its launch 6 weeks ago, my new thriller WIRED has become the #1 bestselling technothriller on Amazon (including both physical books and eBooks), and the #1 book in high-tech sci-fi — and as high as 131 among all items in the Kindle store (including books, newspapers, magazines, and games). I believe that much of the credit goes to LibraryThing and its fantastic giveaway program. WIRED was part of one pre-publication and one post-publication LT giveaway, and I’m convinced that it was the giveaway winners who ignited the word-of-mouth fuse that still seems to be going strong.

I can’t thank you enough for giving authors like me a place to go to find avid readers willing to take a chance on an unknown novel, and willing to spread the word once they find something they like. I really appreciate it.”

Check it out: here’s Amazon’s Best Sellers in Science Fiction list, and there’s WIRED, right there at the top (as of 1 p.m. EDT, still ahead of George R.R. Martin’s A Dance with Dragons). This afternoon it’s listed as #79 in the Kindle Store among paid ebooks.

WIRED has already garnered 27 reviews on LibraryThing, and has an average rating of 4.5 stars.

Find out more about Member Giveaways.

Labels: member giveaways

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

Recommendations for groups and authors! (but help needed)

I’ve added two new types of “recommendations”—”characteristic works” for member groups and “read-alikes” for author pages. We need your help improving the latter.

Groups recommendations. The group recommendations are on the new and developing “Group Zeitgeist” pages. Each group Zeitgeist includes two lists:

  • Most-held works. Shows the top books held by group members, with no weighting or adjustment–that is, Harry Potter often wins.
  • Characteristic works. Shows the top books, weighted the way recommendations are weighted–that is, it shows works held by group-members in unusual amounts.

“Characteristic works” works quite well. Librarians who LibraryThing lists Taylor’s Introduction to Cataloging and Classification, Library: An Unquiet History and even AACR2. Christianity‘s list starts with Lewis’ Mere Christianity, Cthulhu Mythos with The Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia, Medieval Europe with The Civilization of the Middle Ages, etc.

Author read-alikes. The new “author read-alike” uses much the same algorithm, but the results are not always as good. For example, C. S. Lewis recommends George MacDonald, G. K. Chesterton and Madeleine L’Engle–good–but also Laura Ingalls Wilder–read by some of the same people who read Narnia, but not otherwise similar.

To help us improve the algorithm, we’re showing four different versions of the algorithm, and asking members to rate them with stars. Knowing both what authors fail and which version of the algorithm is better will help us develop a better algorithm. Keep in mind that we make recommendations to be interesting and entertaining, so a certain amount of weirdness is acceptable if it also produces something inspired.

So far, only about 2,200 authors have been calculated. You can see a list of the authors here, with your authors shown in bold.

Labels: authors, recommendations

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

September Early Reviewers batch is up!

The September 2011 batch of Early Reviewer books is up! We’ve got 121 books this month, and a grand total of 3,089 copies to give out. It’s our largest ER batch so far!

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 Monday, September 26th at 6 p.m. EDT.

Eligiblity: Publishers do things country-by-country. This month we have publishers who can send books to the US, Canada, the UK, Israel, and a whole bunch more. 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!

Picador L&L Dreamspell Gefen Publishing House
Bloomsbury Henry Holt and Company Double Day Religion
WaterBrook Press Harper Paperbacks Mulholland Books
Quirk Books William Morrow Ballantine Books
Ashland Creek Press Wakestone Press Lazie Horse Publishing
February Partners New Society Publishers St. Martin’s Minotaur
St. Martin’s Press Zed Books Signet
Nolo Crown Publishing Tundra Books
Human Kinetics Tor Books Small Beer Press
Exterminating Angel Press HighBridge Gunga Peas Books, LLC
JournalStone Delacorte Press St. Martin’s Griffin
Sovereign The Writer’s Coffee Shop Camel Press
Marina Publishing Group Iron Diesel Press Random House
SpaceStation Colt Open Books BookViewCafe
Prufrock Press Pomegranate PomegranateKids
McFarland Penguin Young Readers Group Bellevue Literary Press
Orca Book Publishers Clerisy Press Bethany House
Taylor Trade Publishing Lamington Press Sourcebooks
Safkhet Select Safkhet Fantasy

Labels: early reviewers, LTER

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

Author rating statistics

I’ve added an author sub-page for “Rating statistics.” It shows all an author’s works, together with their ratings. In addition to the average (mean), it also has rating count, median, and standard deviation. You can click on a column to sort by it, and filter out books with few ratings—useful for more popular authors.

Check out some examples: Ann Patchett, John McWhorter, David Sedaris.

Labels: authors

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

Help libraries damaged by Hurricane Irene

Author Kate Messner posted yesterday about serious damage suffered by the Wells Memorial Library in Upper Jay, NY from Hurricane Irene’s floodwaters. Almost their entire childrens’ book collection was soaked beyond salvage, and they could use donations of money or books to replace the lost titles.

We’re sure there are other libraries out there in the same situation, so we want to help however we can. I’ve set up a wiki page to track needs and how to help, and I’ve contacted librarians at various libraries in the Bahamas and the U.S. reported to have suffered damage from Irene. I’ll be updating the wiki page as I get new information, but others should feel free to add to it, or to email me ( with updates.

I’ll be sending copies of some of my favorite childrens’ books, as well.

Come discuss on Talk.

Labels: altruism, libraries, love