Author Archive

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

September Early Reviewers batch is up!

The September 2013 batch of Early Reviewer books is up! We’ve got 104 books this month, and a grand total of 2,760 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:
http://www.librarything.com/er/list

The deadline to request a copy is Monday, September 30th 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, and 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!

Taylor Trade Publishing Tundra Books Lion Fiction
Riverhead Books Bethany House Oxford University Press
Random House Ballantine Books Coffeetown Press
Prufrock Press Greenleaf Book Group Orbit Books
Henry Holt and Company McBooks Press Random House Trade Paperbacks
White River Press Ashland Creek Press Demos Health
WaterBrook Press Akashic Books Leafwood Publishers
Crown Publishing Quirk Books Milkweed Editions
Palgrave Macmillan O’Reilly Media Viva Editions
Informed Decisions Publishing AltWit Press Plume
William Morrow Bison Books Kurodahan Press
Hunter House BookViewCafe Human Kinetics
Whitepoint Press The Plaid Raccoon Press Gueem Books
Dewey Larson Publishing National Board of Boiler and Pressure Vessel Inspectors Recorded Books
Dragonwell Publishing Orca Book Publishers JournalStone
Pants On Fire Press MSI Press Algonquin Books
Minotaur Books Exterminating Angel Press Galaxy Press
Galaxy Audio

Labels: early reviewers, LTER

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

New historical libraries in LibraryThing: Mailer, Ransome, Galileo, de Sade, Child, Dana

Another update on some Legacy Libraries folks have added recently or are working on now:

Since I wrote last we’ve had one library completion, that of author Norman Mailer. Mailer’s library is at the Harry Ransom Center at UT Austin, and we were able to bring it into LibraryThing by importing the MARC records. Thanks to jburlinson for adding in the records that didn’t import and for sprucing up Mailer’s profile page.

Mailer’s 851-title library contained a huge number of his own books in various editions and translations: check out his author cloud! Volunteer jburlinson commented on the author cloud “I think he would have been pleased with how it looks.”

If you have any information on additional Mailer books, &c., please let us know in the discussion thread.

Another author’s library in the works is that of Arthur Ransome, being cataloged by LTer cynfelyn. Ransom’s catalog so far includes more than 700 identified titles, with a bunch more still to be added.

My favorite collection from Ransome’s library so far is Lakes & Pirates, a list he drew up for children who enjoyed his books and were looking for other reading material.

Know of other Ransome books? Tell us in the discussion thread.

Legacy Libraries volunteer ColmGuerin is hard at work on the library of Galileo Galilei. Nearly 300 titles have been entered so far, with more to come.

Galileo’s library was collected by his student Vincenzo Viviani, and bequeathed by Viviani to the hospital of Santa Maria Nuova in Florence. The books are now among the collections of the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze, the National Central Library in Florence. You can get a sense of the books entered so far from Galileo’s tag cloud.

As always, we’d appreciate any assistance or additional information on this library: jump into the Talk thread!

Another recent addition is the library of the Marquis de Sade, being cataloged by lolawalser from a transcription of a 1776 inventory of de Sade’s chateau, La Coste. So far a total of 295 titles have been identified and added, including a fair number of works by Rousseau, Locke, Hume, Hobbes, and Voltaire.

Speaking of Voltaire, his library still has many books to be added, so if you’re feeling adventurous (and/or have pretty good knowledge of French), join us! There’s a discussion thread where we’re working out the details, and a wiki page where you can claim a section and add some books.

We’ve started work on the library of Julia Child, a good chunk of which is now in the collections of the Schlesinger Library at Harvard. To help out with this one, please join us in the Talk thread and we’ll get you set up with some books to catalog (much easier to manage than Voltaire’s, to be sure).

Finally, on the Libraries of Early America front, I’ve been working on adding the books of Francis Dana (1743-1811), a Massachusetts lawyer and diplomat. Dana’s library is pretty neat in that it’s drawn from not only some lists of books, but also an impressive collection of receipts and order lists which document his book purchases, loans, and other things quite nicely. I’ve been a little busy what with moving and all, but I hope to finish Dana’s library off before too much longer.


How can I help? We’re always looking for volunteers to help catalog Legacy Libraries. Come join the Legacy Libraries group: introduce yourself, tell us some authors or other historical figures you’re interested in, and we’ll come up with a good Legacy project that would benefit from your help. If you know of somebody important we’re missing, let us know: if we can add their library, we will!

Labels: legacies, legacy libraries

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

Author interview: Samantha Shannon on “The Bone Season”

Some excerpts from my interview with Samantha Shannon, which appeared in the August State of the Thing newsletter. Samantha is the author of The Bone Season, the first volume in a seven-part series, released just yesterday by Bloomsbury.

Do you recall which part of The Bone Season came to you first? Was there a particular moment that inspired the novel?

I was doing an internship at a literary agency in Seven Dials—a junction in London where seven streets meet—when I had the idea. I imagined a girl having the exact same day at work that I was, but she happened to be clairvoyant.

The Bone Season is set in 2059, but in an alternate world which diverged from our own in 1859. I’d love to hear how you set about developing the universe in which the novel takes place, and the sorts of things you had to consider as you did so.

I wanted my clairvoyant society to be a cross-section of historical types of divination, so I did quite a lot of reading about classical and Renaissance impressions of augury, soothsaying and so on. Scion evolved in my mind as a response to the criminal underworld (whereas in the story itself it’s vice versa), and I did a lot of thinking about how to create a believable world in which clairvoyance is persecuted, and about what the people of Scion might hear, see, feel and think in their everyday lives.

Much of The Bone Season is set in what was once Oxford (where you have, I should note, recently finished your undergraduate career). What was it about Oxford that made it work well as the setting?

Oxford was perfect for The Bone Season. Although it’s a modern place in many respects, there are still vestiges of archaism and tradition, and its spectrum of old buildings, from various centuries, give it an eerie sense of being frozen in time.

Who are some of the authors you particularly admire or who’ve had some influence on your own writing?

Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale was what first got me interested in dystopian and speculative fiction, alongside Orwell and Wyndham. I specialised in Emily Dickinson at university; her poetry inspired many of the themes I want to explore in later Bone Season books.

What books have you read and enjoyed recently?

I just finished The Gamal, the debut of Irish novelist Ciarán Collins, which I thoroughly enjoyed. At the moment I’m reading the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy, Catching Fire.

Samantha also talked to me about working with Imaginarium Studios on the film version of The Bone Season, and told me what she’s liked most about the publishing process. Read the rest of our interview.


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Labels: author interview, state of the thing

Monday, August 12th, 2013

Seven newly-completed personal libraries: Joyce, Pym, Truman, Thackeray, Eisenhower, Marshall and Carroll

It’s been a busy few weeks for the Legacy Libraries, with a whole bunch of projects recently completed plus a number of fascinating new ones now underway (more on those later in the week). Today I’ve got a rundown of recently-finished libraries, plus a trivia question for you which I’ll answer at the end of the post: which novel is held in common between five of the seven?

James Joyce. One of the longest-running Legacy projects, James Joyce (started back in 2008 by rfb) was recently brought as near to completion as currently possible by BuiltByBooks, who added extant copies held at the Harry Ransom Center and the University of Buffalo, as well as a number of additional books identified through catalogs and other sources. The Joyce library now includes some 1,175 titles: see the author cloud or the tag mirror to get a quick sense of Joyce’s books.

More titles will be added to this library as they are identified (there are certainly lots more out there: we know that Joyce parted with some 2,000 books in Paris in 1939, and most of those have not yet been identified specifically). There’s a great deal of information about Joyce and his books on his profile page; the story makes for fascinating reading! If you have information about Joyce books not included in the LT catalog yet, please let us know in the discussion thread.

Barbara Pym. Thanks to alison_felstead, LibraryThing now includes the library catalog of British novelist Barbara Pym (author page). Pym, known for her novels Excellent Women and Quartet in Autumn (among others) was described in a 1977 article by Philip Larkin and Sir David Cecil as the most underrated writer of the twentieth century.

Pym’s 590-title library was cataloged by her sister Hilary Walton after Pym’s death in 1980, and the records are held at Oxford’s Bodleian Library. Those have been augmented in the LT catalog with information from Blackwell’s Rare Books catalogs (through which much of Pym’s library was sold in 2005).

Alison, who works at the Bodleian Library, will be speaking about the Pym Legacy Library project at the Barbara Pym Society’s annual conference at the end of this month (see the program here), so if you’re in or around Oxford, be sure and go see her presentation!

Harry Truman. Another long-running project recently completed is the library of Harry Truman, begun back in 2008 with a section of books from his home study. This summer I cleaned up the existing records and completed the cataloging of the home study collection (now numbering 833 titles), and then a number of volunteers jumped in to help out in adding books from Truman’s post-presidential working office (795 titles).

Thanks to mrmapcase, cbl_tn, Michael.Rimmer, pussreboots, Kaczencja, WillowOne and waitingtoderail for their good work on this library. If you have information about other Truman books we should add, let us know here.

Note that certain books in the Truman library (mostly in the home study collection) post-date Truman’s death, and were likely added by Bess Truman. To what extent the books listed there belonged to her is somewhat unclear, and we’re seeking additional information from the National Park Service to help us try and clarify that.

William Makepeace Thackeray. The library of author William Thackeray (known for Vanity Fair) originally intrigued BuiltByBooks during his work on the Leonard & Virginia Woolf library, which contains a volume from Thackeray’s collection. He tracked down an 1864 auction catalog of Thackeray’s books and added to LibraryThing 391 titles that were identified in the catalog. A whole bunch more listed there cannot be identified specifically, as is often the case with such sales … but Thackeray’s books were marked with a small oval stamp containing his initials, so we’re hopeful that perhaps other books will turn up.

If you have information about any additional Thackeray titles, please let us know here.

Dwight D. Eisenhower. Back in May we started a flash-mob project to catalog the library of Dwight D. Eisenhower (or, at least, those portions of Eisenhower’s library located at his farm in Gettysburg, PA). We zipped right through it, and the LT catalog now includes some 904 titles covering all sorts of different subjects, from humor to mysteries to biographies (check out the tag cloud). There are more Eisenhower books to be added from other locations, and we will add those later on as the source material becomes available.

Thanks to all those who helped out with this library: KCGordon (who also sussed out the source list for us), cpirmann, tortoise, Esquiress, mrmapcase, jcbrunner, buk1968, and waitingtoderail.

George C. Marshall. Nearly 900 titles from the library of American military commander and cabinet secretary George C. Marshall were recently added to LibraryThing by KCGordon, who obtained a list of the books in the collections of the Marshall House (previously known as Dodona Manor) in Leesburg, VA. Lots and lots of history, military, and government books on Marshall’s shelves, as you might expect, but he also had a fair number of humor books, French literature, and poetry titles as well.

With whom does Marshall share the most books in common? Why Ernest Hemingway and Carl Sandburg, of course.

Lewis Carroll. Last but certainly not least, BarkingMatt has finished work on the library of Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (better known to us as Lewis Carroll), amounting to some 2,600 titles from auction and bookseller catalogs. Some of the catalog descriptions are quite useful, giving information on the presentation signatures or marginal notations in the books: Carroll’s copy of Idylls of the King, for example, was presented to Carroll by Tennyson himself, while a copy of a play derived from Alice in Wonderland contains “notes in pencil by [Carroll] criticising the performance.”

A huge thanks to all the volunteers who have worked on these libraries! As I mentioned at the top, there are a number of new, exciting Legacy projects being worked on now, but I’m going to save those for another post since this one’s gotten fairly extensive already (I’ll be posting about completions more frequently in future, so we don’t run up quite such a backlog—my apologies). But I did promise an answer to the trivia question: which novel is held in common by five of the seven newest Legacy Libraries?

Drum roll please … the answer is Jane Eyre, copies of which are to be found in the libraries of Pym, Eisenhower, Joyce, Carroll, and Thackeray. See other books these libraries share, or take a look at the books you have in common with them here.


How can I help? We’re always looking for volunteers to help catalog Legacy Libraries. Come join the Legacy Libraries group: introduce yourself, tell us some authors or other historical figures you’re interested in, and we’ll come up with a good Legacy project that would benefit from your help. If you know of somebody important we’re missing, let us know: if we can add their library, we will!

Labels: legacy libraries

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

Author interview: Paul Collins on “Duel with the Devil”

Some excerpts from my interview with Paul Collins, which appeared in the July State of the Thing newsletter. Paul teaches in the MFA program at Portland State University, and is the author of many books, including Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books, The Book of William, and more. He’s also NPR’s “literary detective,” and writes for a wide variety of publications. His new book, Duel with the Devil was published in June by Crown.

In Duel with the Devil you tell the story of a gruesome 1799 New York City murder case in which a young woman’s suitor is accused of causing her death. The young man puts together something of a “dream team” of defense lawyers: who were his attorneys, and how did he manage to obtain such impressive counsel?

The defendant, Levi Weeks, managed to get the three best lawyers in NYC: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and Brockholst Livingston. Weeks was a construction foreman, but his brother Ezra Weeks happened to be the most successful developers in the city—and Hamilton and Burr were both clients of his! Hamilton in particular was running up an impressive tab (which he couldn’t pay) having Weeks build him a mansion, so he certainly owed a favor.

I might add that while Livingston’s the least known of the trio, he was no slacker himself: the guy was later appointed to the Supreme Court.

This wasn’t the only time Hamilton and Burr found themselves on the same side of a courtroom, right? What others sorts of cases did they cooperate on?

They usually worked on commercial cases—property disputes, insurance cases over lost ships, that sort of thing. They were often on opposite sides, but not always—in fact, right before this case, they’d wrapped up a monster settlement for a client named Louis Le Guen. Since Aaron Burr was even worse with money than Hamilton, he promptly asked Le Guen for a loan!

You’ve got one of the best titles out there, as NPR’s “literary detective.” I’d love to hear a bit about how you seek out the sorts of fascinating historical stories you like to tell: do you go in search of them, or do they tend to be just things you’ve stumbled across in the course of other research and then decide to follow up on?

Often I’ll just grab random old newspapers and magazines (in libraries or online) and start snooping, but a surprising amount of the time it’s weird, random stuff I find while looking up something else. Chance favors the prepared mind and all that.

On this book in particular, though, a lot of the small and odd details came pretty systematically—namely, I read through nearly every available Manhattan newspaper from 1799 and 1800. That’s not quite as insane as it sounds, because newspapers back then were 4 pages long! Still, it was thousands of pages, but that’s always my favorite part of writing—wandering through those lost-dog notices and molasses shipments and yellow fever quack cures. Probably a whole bunch of other stories will now spin off from that experience.

What books have you read and enjoyed recently?

The British Library recently reissued Andrew Forrester’s Victorian pulper The Female Detective (1864), which I’d never read before and was fascinated by. As a writer, I really love the premise of Alexandra Horowitz’s new book On Looking—basically, walking around the same NYC neighborhood eleven times with different kinds of experts observing it each time. And as someone fascinated by disastrously bad movies, I’m excited to see Tom Bissell’s upcoming The Disaster Artist, about the making of “The Room.” I was actually with Tom the first time either of us saw it, and…wow. Just…wow.

Also, I’ve just come off a Wodehouse reading jag. After eight or nine of his books in row I felt like I’d consumed an entire sheet cake, but it’s a testament to him that, well, I’m seriously thinking of reading a tenth.

But wait, there’s more! Find out what Paul’s working on now, and about some surprising tidbits he’s found during his researches. Read the rest of our interview.


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Labels: author interview, state of the thing

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

August Early Reviewers batch is up!

The August 2013 batch of Early Reviewer books is up! We’ve got 106 books this month, and a grand total of 3,225 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:
http://www.librarything.com/er/list

The deadline to request a copy is Monday, August 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, and 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!

The Permanent Press Taylor Trade Publishing Tundra Books
Putnam Books Riverhead Books Random House
Quirk Books Henry Holt and Company Del Rey
Minotaur Books Nilgiri Press Candlewick Press
Crown Publishing Dundurn Cleis Press
Viva Editions Apex Publications Akashic Books
EgmontUSA Maiden Lane Press WaterBrook Press
Thomas Dunne Books Pants On Fire Press O’Reilly Media
Kregel Academic & Ministry Chronicle Books Palgrave Macmillan
Milkweed Editions Algonquin Books Demos Health
Greenleaf Book Group Pale Fire Press Hunter House
Alaskan Gothic Press HarperCollins Human Kinetics
CarTech Books Recorded Books McBooks Press
Bridgeross Communications BookViewCafe Last Light Studio
JournalStone Orca Book Publishers Thunder Lake Press
Booktrope Open Books John Ott
Upper Rubber Boot Books MSI Press Elephant Rock Books
Small Beer Press

Labels: early reviewers, LTER

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

Author interview: Travis McDade on “Thieves of Book Row”

For the July State of the Thing newsletter, I interviewed Travis McDade about his second book, Thieves of Book Row, published in June by Oxford University Press. Travis is curator of rare books at the University of Illinois College of Law, where he teaches a class called “Rare Books, Crime & Punishment.”

Set the scene for us, if you would, by providing a brief description of what Book Row was like during its heyday. Is there anyplace even comparable today?

Book Row was six blocks of Manhattan’s Fourth Avenue packed with bookstores and personalities. Most of these shops were run by men who had learned the trade at the elbow of other booksellers, so there was a well-earned knowledge of the book business, of lower Manhattan and of other booksellers’ aptitudes. These guys were well-read and hard-nosed. There is a tendency now to look back with the sort of nostalgic, moonlight-and-magnolia gloss we often do with the recent past—and some of that is deserved—but Book Row wasn’t Disneyland. It was a labor of love for many of these guys, but it was definitely a labor. And life in Manhattan in the early 20th century was no picnic.

There are places now that have clusters of bookshops—Hay-on-Wye in the west of England springs to mind—but nothing like Book Row. What made it unique was a combination of these personalities, certain historical economic forces, and the nature of New York City at the time. It couldn’t have existed anywhere else, and it can’t exist now.

The theft ring you write about in Thieves of Book Row was no fly-by-night operation: these guys were organized! Give us a sense of how the operation worked, who was involved, and the impact these thefts had on the book and library world of the time.

Like most cottage industries, it developed organically. It started out as just some guys stealing books and selling them to shops—the classic American story!—and it grew from there. A confluence of events made this theft ring, like Book Row itself, possible. By the second half of the 1920s, there was reliable transportation, a decent economy and a rise in the value of a certain type of books. These books, as it happened, were sitting on the open stacks of libraries all over the American northeast, most librarians not even imagining they were worth the effort to steal. Once, at least, they had been right about that. But by the 1920s, it made good business sense to send men from Manhattan to Worcester, Massachusetts, to steal half a dozen books, if the men could then easily move on and hit Lancaster, Leominster, Gardner, etc. The thieves would get paid a standard rate of $2 per book and the bookstores would sell them for anything from $25 to $1,000.

Just to give an indication of how large the theft ring was, by the time it came to an end, the major problem was not getting the books out of libraries but finding places to store the surplus.

One of the key thefts you focus on in the book is the snatching of a copy of Poe’s Al Araaf from the New York Public Library. What made this particular book such a desirable commodity at the time? And how did that theft turn out for the thieves in the end?

Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems was Poe’s second publication, but the first to use his name. Like much of his early work, because it had not been popular, few copies were saved. This, coupled with the fact that the value of Poe works had been party to an inexorable upward climb for three decades, made it a hot commodity.

I’ve tried to get my head around the “why” of the theft. The question “what were they thinking” is often hard to understand in retrospect, and I confess I can’t be sure what the answer is. The theft from the New York Public Library seems to me a great deal like awaking a slumbering giant. The NYPL employed a man whose sole job was to keep its books safe—a unique position at the time—and had powerful allies in the city. When there were so many other compliant victims out there, why would anyone want to give the NYPL a reason to get involved? Recklessness? Spite? Because it was there? I don’t know, but it spelled doom for the theft ring.

Tell us about the research for this book. What sorts of sources did you find that allowed you to reconstruct this theft ring and its deeds so thoroughly?

This book started out as a small part of a chapter in a larger book, when my only sources were a few newspaper articles and a New York appellate court case. Then I stumbled across a memoir that had a few pages on the theft and, very quickly after that, an article in a book collecting magazine from 1933. Each of these offered their own bits of information, each was written in an entirely different voice and each at different removes from the scene of the crime. Most of my previous research was based on court and law enforcement records—dry, fact-based, close-in-time material. The writing of this book, typified by those first sources, required me to draw on a range of much different sources to create a narrative.

Booksellers’ memoirs—even if they did not mention this crime, or Book Row—were great, adding a certain life to the book. But there were also other types of first-person reporting that was extremely helpful: correspondence, court testimony, depositions, etc. These are more raw than memoir, because they aren’t meant for public consumption, and so offer up little facts that a person would not ordinarily think to include in a more formal record.

I also read a lot of fiction from the time. Most of this was not helpful, except for providing context, but some bits and pieces made it into the story. There is even a little humor in the book, if you look hard enough. For example, I rely on a 1920s article from The New Yorker, at one point, to add levity to a passage; so you can probably guess that what humor exists is bone dry.

For more on Thieves of Book Row, what Travis is reading now, and a bit about what he’s working on next, read the rest of our interview.


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Labels: author interview, state of the thing

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

LibraryThing’s Chocolate Redesign

Before and after, band-aid to chocolate.

An anonymous member sent us a box of dark chocolate-covered cherries. Very appropriate, and very much appreciated!(2)

We’re rolling out lots of changes. See also The New Home Page »

You may have noticed a few changes around the site … last week we pushed live the first major redesign of the LibraryThing site in… ever!(1) The final concept and design were something of a group effort, but the vast majority of the work was done by Christopher Holland (conceptdawg). Note that the new design is separate from the new Home page, blogged about here.

New colors. The top nav bar has turned chocolate brown with red highlights. Goodbye, band-aid/dead salmon color! You’ll see other new accent colors around the site as well.

Smaller, “fixed” top nav. The top nav is 25% smaller than the old version. This means you see more content on each page without scrolling. Like many sites today, the top nav is now “fixed,” remaining at the top when you scroll down the page. This feature is disabled on mobile devices, which handle “scrolling” differently, and, by request, we’ve also made this optional. To turn it off, click this at the bottom of the page.

Profile tab. We’ve removed the “Profile” tab. But you can still get to your profile with one click from anywhere on the site: just click your member name in the upper right corner! You can also get to your profile from the “subnav” on the home page.

New comments indicator. You’ll see a small yellow box appear in the upper right corner of the site when you have a profile comment. It will now even tell you how many new comments you’ve received.

A work in progress.

We’ve begun the process of standardizing the entire site to make all of the hundreds of LT pages look nice with the new color scheme, etc. We’re not quite there yet. There’s lots of work left to do, mostly little things where the old design is still poking through. We’re hacking away at those now.

Members who joined prior to the launch of the redesign can revert to the old design for the moment. This will not be available permanently (it’s simply too much work to try and maintain two different systems), but it’s there for now.

We want your thoughts. What do you think? What do you particularly like, or dislike? Come tell us in the New design – Comments #3 Talk thread.

Found a bug? Come report it in the New design – Bugs #2 thread.

Previous threads of interest (we’re well past 1,700 posts about the design alone…)


1. For a few months LibraryThing’s color was an even more terrible greige.
2. Truth be told, 72?!? That’s over 3,800 calories!

Labels: christopher holland, design, features

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

The New Home Page

This blog post is the “coming-out” party of the new home page, introduced last week. After extensive discussion—over 1,000 messages—with many changes and improvements suggested and implemented, “home” is effectively done.

What’s the point? The new page is designed as a simple but rich “home” for how you use LibraryThing. It is a “central place” that puts everything in front of you and keeps you up-to-date. But since members use LibraryThing in so many different ways—cataloging, keeping track of current reads, getting new recommendations, socializing, etc.—it had to be a menu of options, and extensively customizable.

The new home page replaces the old, introduced five year ago, which had grown cluttered, long and slow. It was customizable, but limited and buggy, and many members skipped it.

Pages and Modules. The new home page is divided into pages like “About you” and “Recommendations,” plus a main “Dashboard” area.

The pages sport 47 modules—more than twice as many as before. Modules do things like list your most recent activity, recommend books, update you on what your friends are reading, and track your contributions to the site.

Customize it. The home page was designed to start off useful, but many users will want to customize it.

  • You can reorder the modules on every page.
  • You can put the modules in one column or two, and set where the column break is.
  • You can move modules on and off your dashboard, and other home pages.
  • Every module can be customized, often extensively (see the example below).

Most members will want to focus on their dashboard—adding, deleting and reorganizing the modules until they’ve got the perfect jumping-off page for the rest of their LibraryThing.

What’s new? New modules include:

  • Member Gallery. See pictures in your gallery and add new ones from the home page.
  • Recent Member-uploaded Covers for Your Books. Keeps you up-to-date on the newest covers other members have uploaded for your books.
  • Your Notepad. Create a handy list of shortcuts or notes.
  • Your Library over Time. A cool chart showing how your LT library has grown.
  • Lists. Modules for Your Lists, Active Lists, Recent Lists, Lists You Might Like bring LibraryThing’s Lists feature in the mainstream.
  • Your Recent Reviews. Reminds you what you’ve reviewed recently.
  • Reviews for Your Books. Find out what other members are saying about your books.
  • LibraryThing Roulette. Click for a random book, author, series, etc. Weirdly addictive, and helpful for helpers.
  • Helper modules. A page with statistics and links to venue linking, work combining and the dozens of other ways LibraryThing members help each other.
  • Recent Haiku. See book summaries / by members cleverly put / in five-seven-five.
  • Thingaversaries. Members have been celebrating the anniverary of their joining LibraryThing for years; the home-page module makes that easier.

What’s improved? Along with all the new features Tim also thoroughly redesigned and streamlined many of the existing Home page modules:

  • Tag watch is back! The much-missed Tag watch feature has returned, much simpler and easier to use.
  • Recommendations now includes subsets. You can choose between top automatic recommendations, recent automatic recommendations, and recent member recommendations.
  • Dates. Recently-added books and recent recommendations now include dates, so you can see when you added a new book or when a recommendation was made for you.
  • On This Day now factors in the popularity of the authors, so it gives you the most relevant author birth- and death-days. By default it also prefers to show authors you have. There’s also a new “On this day” Common Knowledge page.
  • We redesigned the Featured Authors section (in the Books section under Discover), to show more LibraryThing authors.

Background: We also recently released a new design—out with the “band aid” or “salmon” and in with the chocolate. Staff, especially Chris (ConceptDawg) is still working on that design, tweaking color choices and making sure it works right on all the browsers and devices out there. See the design blog post for more.

The changes to the Home page are largely based on discussions in the Wide open: What to do with your home page? thread, and Tim (timspalding) had great fun coming up with the new layout and all the brand-new, nifty features that are part of this.

What do you think? Come tell us in the New home – Comments #3 Talk thread.

Find a bug? Report it in the New home – Bugs continued again thread.

Additional threads of interest:

Labels: design, features, home

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

July Early Reviewers batch is up!

The July 2013 batch of Early Reviewer books is up! We’ve got 157 books this month, and a grand total of 4,445 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:
http://www.librarything.com/er/list

The deadline to request a copy is Monday, July 29th 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, and 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!

The Permanent Press Taylor Trade Publishing Tundra Books
Lion Fiction Putnam Books Palgrave Macmillan
Random House Akashic Books Blacksmith Books
Quirk Books Henry Holt and Company Minotaur Books
Del Rey Penguin Young Readers Group Gefen Publishing House
Coffeetown Press CarTech Books Monico
Open Lens Delacorte Press Spiegel & Grau
Crown Publishing Candlewick Press Kayelle Press
Bethany House Chosen Books Gray & Company, Publishers
Libertine Press Mythos Press Enigma Press
Enigma Press Grimoire Press Sentient Publications
GMTA Publishing, LLC Celestial Press Ballantine Books
Petra Books BookViewCafe Riverhead Books
Bantam Dell PublicAffairs Gotham Books
JournalStone Seventh Rainbow Publishing William Morrow
Plume Orca Book Publishers Booktrope
W.W. Norton Elate Press Apex Publications
Galaxy Audio MSI Press Viva Editions
Cleis Press Oxford University Press Marble City Publishing
McFarland February Books Humanist Press
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers Sheridan House Georgetown University Press
Wayman Publishing Demos Health Five Rivers Publishing

Labels: early reviewers, LTER

Saturday, July 6th, 2013

New Legacy Library projects: Truman, Voltaire

We’ve got a couple fun new Legacy Libraries projects in the works, and welcome volunteers to help us catalog the books!

Harry Truman’s “home study” library from his Independence, Missouri residence is already in LibraryThing (see it at the Harry Truman profile page), but we now also have a list of books from his “working office” at the Harry S Truman Library and Museum to add, so let’s get to it!

See the Talk thread or jump right to the project wiki page to get started and claim your section of the library list. No worries if you haven’t worked on a Legacy Libraries project before – this is definitely a good introduction to them! I’ll be helping out too, and will answer any questions you have on the Talk thread.

We’re also currently getting started on Voltaire’s library, which may be a little trickier but still promises to be great fun! You can watch progress on this one here, and please feel free to jump in and help (given the nature of Voltaire’s collection, we’re looking at you, French/Russian readers!).

There’s a discussion thread where we’re figuring out a good work-plan for this one, and a wiki page where you can claim a section and add some books.

Have fun, and thanks in advance for joining us on these!

Labels: legacy libraries

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

June Early Reviewers batch is up!

The June 2013 batch of Early Reviewer books is up! We’ve got 106 books this month, and a grand total of 2,865 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:
http://www.librarything.com/er/list

The deadline to request a copy is Monday, June 24th 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, Australia, and 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!

Henry Holt and Company Taylor Trade Publishing Putnam Books
Riverhead Books The Permanent Press Prufrock Press
Random House Candlewick Press Tundra Books
Crown Publishing Algonquin Books Plume
Palgrave Macmillan Pintail Ballantine Books
Sakura Publishing Marble City Publishing Apex Publications
Dundurn Information Today, Inc. koehler Books
Nonstop Press Bethany House Pixel Hall Press
Penguin Group (USA) In Fact Books Greenleaf Book Group
Akashic Books February Partners WaterBrook Press
Cleis Press Alaskan Gothic Press Humanist Press
Quirk Books Thames River Press Whitepoint Press
Open Books BookViewCafe Arabella Publishing
McFarland Human Kinetics Orca Book Publishers
JournalStone Garnet Publishing Chosen Books
Booktrope Dragonwell Publishing December House
Del Rey Wayman Publishing Penguin Young Readers Group
Istoria Books

Labels: early reviewers

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

Author interview: Julie Wu on “The Third Son”

For the May State of the Thing newsletter, I had the chance to interview Julie Wu about her debut novel The Third Son (Algonquin Books). Julie studied literature at Harvard and medicine at Columbia, and received a 2012 fellowship from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. She lives near Boston.

Can you tell us about the origins of The Third Son? Do you recall which part of the story came to you first?

My first inkling of the main character was in 1989. I was sitting in my parents’ suburban Boston kitchen and suddenly had the image of a little boy on the floor of his parents’ house in Taiwan. It was the first time I’d ever visualized a scene so vividly. I rushed to my typewriter to record the musty smell, the dark floorboards, and the boy’s sadness. Thinking back on it now, I believe that boy was Saburo.

How did the story change during the research and writing process?

In 1989 I tried to make that boy the protagonist of a different book entirely—one set in contemporary suburban America in a Taiwanese-American household. That book stalled when I asked my parents questions for background information and I realized how boring my book was in comparison with their actual lives. I was resistant, though, to the idea of basing a book on my parents’ story.

It was 2002 when I finally sat down to interview my parents in earnest. I was pregnant with my first child and maybe had gained some perspective, as well as an understanding that my opportunities to find out my parents’ stories were finite. My first draft was very much based on their lives, but over the following years I learned that in order to make the story a universally appealing, cohesive, suspenseful, and satisfying work, I would have to feel absolutely free to take liberties with the story, the plot, the characters, etc. Now the book is its own self-contained story. Of course, despite that I made every effort to make sure the book is historically accurate.

The early sections of the book are set in Taiwan during a particularly tumultuous period in its history (which I’d venture to guess many of your American readers probably won’t be familiar with). Can you recommend some further reading on the history of Taiwan that interested readers might turn to?

There’s a classic work by George Kerr called Formosa Betrayed. George Kerr was an American diplomat at the time of the February 28 massacres in 1947, and his account of the events on Taiwan and his colleagues’ efforts to get the American government to intervene are both devastating and eye-opening.

Another interesting account is Peng Ming-Min’s autobiography, A Taste of Freedom: Memoirs of a Formosan Independence Leader, in which he describes his arrest for trying to distribute a manifesto for Taiwanese independence. Peng conceals the details of his dramatic escape to Sweden to protect his friends, but more recently, in the book Fireproof Moth, American missionary Milo Thornberry describes exactly how he and others helped mastermind Peng’s escape. There are museums in Taiwan that document the events of 1947 and the subsequent White Terror. These include the Taipei 228 Museum, the National 228 Museum, Jing-Mei Human Rights Memorial Park (a former military court prison) in Taipei, as well as the Green Island Human Rights Memorial Park on Green Island, on the site of the offshore prison where long-term political prisoners were held. The website associated with the Green Island museum is maintained by its designer, Ronald Tsao, and is quite extensive and informative: http://2011greenislanden.wordpress.com.

When and where do you do most of your writing?

I write mostly in my dining room and in the public library. I probably get the most done in the library, because there I’m not distracted by the pantry and the refrigerator, and I’m too embarrassed to sit around just doing Facebook.

Any particular writing tips you’d like to share?

Don’t worry about getting stuff out fast. Make your work the best it can be. Agents and editors are just people like everyone else. If tons of them don’t connect to your work, that means tons of other readers won’t either. If that matters to you, figure out why and fix it.

What’s your library like? What sorts of books would we find on your shelves?

My library is a jumble of all kinds of books—high-falutin’ French literature from college that I can’t understand anymore, Taiwanese history books, parenting books and travel guides, medical textbooks, and, of course stacks, and stacks of wonderful novels of all genres, famous and not-so-famous, many of them authored by friends.

For more about Julie’s next project, some of her favorite libraries, and more, read the rest of our interview.


If you’d like to receive our State of the Thing newsletter, you can add it in your email preferences. You also have to have an email address listed.

Labels: author interview, state of the thing

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

Author interview: Jennifer McVeigh on “The Fever Tree”

Some excerpts from my interview with Jennifer McVeigh, which appeared in the May State of the Thing newsletter. Jennifer studied English literature at Oxford and has worked in the film, television and radio industries. Her debut novel, The Fever Tree, was published by Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam in April.

Give us, if you would, The Fever Tree in a nutshell, for those who haven’t yet had a chance to read it.

The Fever Tree is a novel about a woman who is forced to leave behind everything she has ever known, and emigrate to South Africa to marry a man she barely knows. It’s a novel about a country in the making, about diamonds and disease, love and redemption.

What part of the novel came to you first?

My husband and I were driving across the hot, dusty plains of Namibia in Southern Africa, when we passed a high wire fence cordoning off a diamond mine. I remember thinking—who were the men who first came here to mine for diamonds? What kind of lives did they lead, without running water or sanitation? And who were the women who came with them? When I came back to England I did some research, and became fascinated with the early days of the diamond rush in South Africa, when men travelled hundreds of miles to the diamond fields with little more than the shirts on their backs, and when fortunes could be won and lost on the luck of uncovering a stone.

What were some of the historical sources you found most interesting and useful as you wrote The Fever Tree?

I drew on a huge range of historical sources. The British Library was particularly useful, and it was there that I poured over guide books to South Africa, written in the 1880s, read Victorian newspapers published on the diamond fields, and discovered the diary which told the story of a smallpox epidemic which raged on the diamond mines—the true story which lies at the heart of the book. But there were other sources. It was in Kimberley, the famous diamond mining town, that I came across a book of old photographs taken on the diamond mines, which made real for me the lives of the men, women and children who camped in tents, in the dust and the filth, on the diamond fields, hoping to make their fortune.

How did your own experiences traveling in southern Africa come into play as you wrote the novel?

When I travelled in South Africa, I was fascinated and unsettled by its dark concoction of pioneer spirit and racism, by the brutality of its urban landscapes—with their sprawling townships which spoke of labour migration and forced evictions—and the astounding beauty and wildness of its countryside. These contradictions, I realised, had their roots in my story—in the discovery of diamonds, when men like Cecil Rhodes, driven by greed, used their political influence to create an economy based on lines of race. The more I learned, the more I was able to make sense of what I had seen in South Africa, and the people and attitudes that confronted me.

When and where do you do most of your writing?

Once the research is out of the way, most of the actual writing is done at home. At my desk, in bed, standing by the toaster. Anywhere where I can catch myself off guard and get words down on paper.

But wait, there’s more! Read the rest of our interview.


If you’d like to receive our State of the Thing newsletter, you can add it in your email preferences. You also have to have an email address listed.

Labels: author interview, state of the thing

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

Author interview: Colum McCann on “TransAtlantic”

For the May State of the Thing newsletter, I had the chance to interview Colum McCann, winner of the 2009 National Book Award in fiction for Let the Great World Spin. His new novel, TransAtlantic, will be published on June 4 by Random House.

TransAtlantic opens with three stories of voyages to Ireland: Frederick Douglass in 1845, Jack Alcock and Teddy Brown in 1919, and George Mitchell in 1998. How did you decide on these three, and were there other voyages that you considered using and decided not to?

I suppose that writers must always gravitate towards their obsessions, and one of my obsessions was the idea that Frederick Douglass went to Ireland, a black slave, in 1845, but he was also an author, an orator, an intellectual, a dandy, an abolitionist, a humanitarian, a contrarian. What a story! I was also obsessed with the idea of writing about peace and what it could possibly mean in this day and age, which made George Mitchell a fascinating subject. Alcock and Brown landed in between these narratives, in more sense than one: they almost split the time difference between 1845 and 1998. But these were the only stories I contemplated. They seemed to bridge each other perfectly.  They are—in my imagination at least—braided together. They inform one another.

Give us a sense of how this novel came together, if you would. Where did you begin, and how did you shape the narrative to create the final version of the story?

It began with Douglass. It continued with Mitchell. But it was bridged by Alcock and Brown, which was the section that came easiest to me. But the moment I knew I “had” the novel was when I realised it was much more about the supposedly anonymous corners of human experience. The story belonged to the women. That’s where the truth lay. It is, in a sense, a feminist novel.

The novel’s real main characters, of course, are the women whose stories are at its heart: four generations of women beginning with Lily Duggan. Tell us a bit about them, and are they also based on real characters in part, or are they entirely fictional creations?

They are entirely fictional. And yet they live and breathe for me as much (if not more) than the supposedly “real” characters. It is very much a novel about women and their intersection with history; it’s also a novel that hopefully forces a reader to confront what is “real” and what is not.

You must have done extensive research for this book: what were some of the sources you found particularly useful or compelling?

The further I go along in my career, the more I realise that books belong to others more than to myself. It feels to me that this book was a community effort and the grace of the book (if it has any grace) belongs to others. I am indebted to countless numbers of people. I am aware that this could sound coy, or full with false humility but the fact of the matter is that a writer gets his or her voice from the voices of others. We are indebted to those who have come before us.

In the acknowledgements you mention that George and Heather Mitchell “had the great grace to allow me to try to imagine my way into their world.” I’d love to know more about what you learned from Senator Mitchell and how you worked those details into the story.

George and Heather Mitchell are an amazing couple, an astounding story of love and resilience and decency. They allowed me, at first, to imagine their lives. Then they read the manuscript and were charming enough, and humble enough, to allow me any mistakes. So I wrote the section before I met Senator Mitchell, and then I shaped it to get as close to the truth as I thought I might possibly get. They helped me realise what it was that I wanted to eventually say.

What’s your favorite scene or line from TransAtlantic?

Oh, this is very much a “slice the baby” question. How can one choose? I suppose the last line is very important to me, though I very much like line 247 and line 822 (just kidding!). I am very proud of the Douglass section—that one broke my heart until I felt like I had properly captured him. But this is an impossible question and I’m delighted by its impossibility.

For more from Colum McCann, including some advice on writing, a few of his favorite authors, and what he’s been reading recently, read the rest of our interview.


If you’d like to receive our State of the Thing newsletter, you can add it in your email preferences. You also have to have an email address listed.

Labels: author interview, state of the thing

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

Books received in Ghana!

We are very happy to report that nearly 3,000 books for the Bright Future School in Keta, Ghana have been successfully delivered and were happily received by the students there earlier this month!

Keith Goddard at Books Matter posted a short video on Facebook of the students saying “thank you,” so check that out if you can (it’s almost guaranteed to make you smile!). Keith reports that the school was actually on break when the books arrived, so there will be more pictures of the students with the books soon.

Earlier this month, another hundred books were presented to the library of the University of Health and Allied Sciences: Ghana TV was even on hand for the arrival of the books!

All of the books sent to Ghana this spring are cataloged on LibraryThing in the Books Matter account, and members have been helping out by adding tags to the library.

Keith is planning on sending the next batch of already-donated books to an orphanage in Kumasi, located in northern Ghana. The orphanage houses some two hundred residents ranging in age from six months to 20 years. The books will be cataloged and tagged on LibraryThing prior to shipment.

If you can help out by making a donation to help ship the books, it would be greatly appreciated! A gift of $1 basically funds the shipment of one book to Ghana, so every little bit helps! Head over to the Books Matter site and you can make a donation today. LibraryThing will be giving a $800 donation as well, from the funds raised by members adding events to LibraryThing Local over the winter.

For more on our Books to Ghana project and our partner Books Matter, see our announcement blog post. To help out with tagging the books or to discuss the project generally, chime in on the Talk thread.

Labels: books for ghana, gifts

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

Join the June ReadaThing!

Mark your calendars! Coming up soon is a weeklong, start-of-summer June ReadaThing. All are welcome, and you don’t have to read for the full week: 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 midnight on Tuesday, June 11 UTC/GMT: that’s 8 p.m. Monday in the Eastern US/Canada/LT time zone. This ReadaThing will run for a full week. See the time chart here.

For more information, see the announcement thread; to sign up, head right to the ReadaThing wiki. As we get closer to the date, watch the ReadaThing group for the “What will you be reading?” thread, and during the ReadaThing you can use the “Log Book” thread to document your ReadaThing experience.

If you haven’t participated in a ReadaThing before, give it a go if you can!

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


* Summer reading spot photo submitted by LTer connie53.

Labels: readathon

Monday, May 20th, 2013

Better Twitter sharing for LT reviews

Mike has just pushed some new enhancements to review-sharing on Twitter. When you share a review, Twitter will now recognize the link as a LibraryThing review and you’ll see a “View summary” link below the text of your tweet. The summary view includes a headline, a cover image, and a short snippet from your review.

Here’s what one looks like:

If you haven’t already, connect your LibraryThing account to Twitter on the Sites/apps page (and be sure to say “yes” when Twitter asks if you want to grant us permission). Please note: LibraryThing never shares to Twitter without your explicit consent.

There are various places you can share, usually marked with the “share” icon (). Sharing is always available at the top right of the site. We also enable members to share to Facebook (for more on recent upgrades to Facebook sharing, see the Better Facebook sharing post.

Come discuss on Talk.

Labels: twitter

Monday, May 13th, 2013

Flash-mob: Help catalog Eisenhower’s Library!

Thanks to LibraryThing member kcgordon, we have a list of the books at the Eisenhower National Historic Site in Gettysburg, PA, so we thought it would be fun to do a quick flash-mob of these (there aren’t a huge number of books, so this probably won’t take too long).

We’ve kicked things off already (see Eisenhower’s profile page) but there are quite a few books still to be added, and we’d love to have your help!

See the Talk thread or jump right to the project wiki page to get started and claim your section of the library list. No worries if you haven’t worked on a Legacy Libraries project before – this is definitely a good introduction to them! I’ll be helping out too, and will answer any questions you have on the Talk thread.

NB: Another LTer is working on obtaining a list of additional Eisenhower books from his home in Kansas, so with any luck at all we’ll be able to add those soon as well. We’ll keep you posted!

Labels: flash-mob cataloging, fun, legacy libraries

Friday, May 10th, 2013

Sync your Goodreads to LibraryThing

Wait … what?

Did you know that you can now sync between Goodreads and LibraryThing? You don’t have to choose. Use both sites!

Getting started

To sync, go to Import books from Goodreads.

If you’re signed into Goodreads an export file should download for you automatically; if it doesn’t, there are some fallback instructions on that page. Select the downloaded file using the “Choose File” button and click “Upload” to import it into LibraryThing.

Import options

Once you’ve uploaded your file, you’ll see a breakdown of the books in the file, displaying the total number of books, books already in your library, books without ISBNs, and the number of valid ISBNs.

  • Choose sources: Source your data from Amazon or top libraries around the world.
  • Collections: Drop books into a specific LibraryThing collection.
  • Mass tagging: Add tags to everything.
  • Handle books without ISBNs: Choose whether to import non-ISBN books.

Sync options

Under “Handle duplicates,” you’ll see options to import duplicates again (i.e., create a whole bunch of duplicates), omit duplicates, or sync duplicates.

If you sync, you’ll see options depending on the differences between your Goodreads books and your LibraryThing catalog.

  • Replace “date read” with imported info: “Date read” goes into LibraryThing’s “date finished.”
  • Add shelves to existing tags: This adds your Goodreads “shelves” to LibraryThing as tags.
  • For reviews, you can replace existing reviews or add new reviews if you haven’t yet posted a review on LibraryThing for those books.
  • Replace ratings.
  • Replace pages with imported data: This changes the “number of pages” in LibraryThing.

After this, click “Import books.” Old books sync immediately. New books are added to the import queue.

Labels: import

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

Better Facebook sharing

LibraryThing’s Mike Topper has just pushed a big change in how members share their LibraryThing news on Facebook. The change—integrating into Facebook’s Open Graph structure—makes the things you share more visible to your friends and integrates them more cleanly into your Facebook timeline.

If you haven’t already, connect your LibraryThing account to Facebook on the Sites/apps page (and be sure to say “yes” when Facebook asks if you want to grant us permission). Please note: LibraryThing never shares with Facebook without your explicit consent.

There are various places you can share, usually marked with the “share” icon (). Sharing is always available at the top right of the site. We also enable members to share to Twitter.

Here’s what the new sharing action for reviews looks like from within Facebook.

Facebook will also aggregate multiple instances of an action together and display that to your friends.

Adding a book

Adding a book to a collection

Adding a book to your wishlist

Rating a book

We’ll be rolling out more of these types of actions moving forward, so stay tuned.

Come talk about this and Facebook sharing generally on Talk: New Features


Many thanks to the members of the Board for Extreme Thing Advances who helped us out with testing these changes.

Labels: facebook

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

May Early Reviewers batch is up!

The May 2013 batch of Early Reviewer books is up! We’ve got 134 books this month, and a grand total of 4,345 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:
http://www.librarything.com/er/list

The deadline to request a copy is Monday, May 27th 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, and 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!

Henry Holt and Company Taylor Trade Publishing Putnam Books
Monarch Books Riverhead Books The Permanent Press
Safkhet Select Prufrock Press Random House
Crown Publishing Charlesbridge Plume
Quirk Books Five Rivers Publishing Palgrave Macmillan
Kregel Publications Camel Press Coffeetown Press
December House Akashic Books Apex Publications
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers Viva Editions Cleis Press
Random House Trade Paperbacks Beaufort Books ArbeitenZeit Media
Coral Press Gotham Books Avery
Crossed Genres Publications Indigo Ink Press Mulholland Books
Human Kinetics Bellevue Literary Press Algonquin Books
Iridescent Publishing Whitepoint Press Hudson Whitman/ Excelsior College Press
Cosmic Casserole Press William Morrow United Arts Media
White Wave BookViewCafe Fog Ink
MSI Press Grey Gecko Press Improvisation Publishers
CarTech Books EgmontUSA McFarland
JournalStone Ambergris Publishing Marble City Publishing
Penguin Young Readers Group Candlewick Press Wayman Publishing
Galaxy Audio Galaxy Press Istoria Books

Labels: early reviewers, LTER

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

April SOTT & Author interviews

The April 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. It includes interviews with authors Tatiana Holway and Marie Brennan.

I talked to Tatiana Holway about her book The Flower of Empire: An Amazonian Water Lily, the Quest to Make it Bloom, and the World it Created, published by Oxford University Press this month. Some excerpts:

What a story! It’s hard to imagine a country getting excited about a flowering plant today, but in early Victorian England, just that happened, as you tell us in your book. What was the plant, and why did so many find it so fascinating?

You’re right: most of us these days do tend to think of gardening as just a hobby and flowers as mere decor. For Victorians, though, gardening and flowers were intertwined with almost every aspect of daily life. Add to that the sheer numbers of new flowers that were turning up as Britons explored (and absorbed) more and more parts of the world, and the deluge of information about them that was surging through the ever more widely circulating popular press, and you can see how news of the discovery of a colossal tropical water lily could cause quite a stir. Then add the further fact that the plant was discovered in Britain’s only South American colony—the one where it so happened that Sir Walter Raleigh had gone looking for El Dorado and so much of Britain’s imperial ambition had been formed—and the fact that it was identified as a new genus just when the 18-year-old Princess Victoria happened to become queen—you could say all the forces were in place for a perfect storm. The naming of the flower Victoria regia set it off.

Are you a gardener yourself? If so, what are some of your favorite plants to grow?

Absolutely! After growing up in New York City—”gardenless,” as Victorians might have said—I found myself living in a house with a yard, stuck a trowel in the dirt, and fell head over heels with growing flowers: lilies of the valley, violas, forget-me-nots, daisies, delphiniums, sweet peas, morning glories, poppies, veronicas, daylilies, plantain lilies, lavender, roses, clematis, bell flowers, cone flowers, black-eyed susans, hollyhocks, phlox …

What’s your own library like? What sorts of books would we find on your shelves?

Loads of books on natural history, plus loads on British history, plus loads of Victorian literature and literary criticism. I have a soft spot for 17th-century poetry, so there’s quite a bit of that, and then there’s plenty of contemporary fiction, and pockets of all sorts of other books, too. I can’t live without the OED. That and about a dozen other well-thumbed reference works are on my desk. Naturally, companions to gardens and flowers are there, too.

What have you read and enjoyed recently?

Issues of Punch from the 1850s and ’60s and of The New Yorker from the last few months. Richard Russo’s Straight Man was great fun on a short trip recently. The other day, I started Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace by Kate Summerscale. It’s a nonfiction work, based on a Victorian woman’s diary, and very well written. Julian Barnes’s The Sense of an Ending is definitely on my list. I’m also looking forward to giving the novels of Jeffrey Eugenides a try.

Read the rest of our interview with Tatiana Holway.

I also had the chance to talk with Marie Brennan (LibraryThing member castlen) about her recent book A Natural History of Dragons (Tor).

Do you recall what first gave you the idea to write a novel about Hollywood fame and its effects on both the famous person and those around him?

Tell us about Lady Trent, the narrator/memoirist of A Natural History of Dragons. What’s she like, how does she get interested in dragons, and what can readers expect from her memoir?

She’s a deeply geeky woman who became obsessed with dragons at a young age, when she began collecting sparklings (tiny insect-like draconic creatures) and decided that anything with wings was awesome. Her memoirs chronicle the process by which that enthusiastic girl became first an amateur naturalist, then a professional one, then a rather famous (not to say notorious) one. As she is writing her memoirs in her old age, she doesn’t much care what people think of her anymore, and often has trenchant comments to make both on society and her own youthful errors.

What gave you the idea to pen a novel in this particular narrative form?

It really just fell into place, when I first started chasing the idea. The first-person point of view drifted right away into a retrospective voice, Isabella looking back on her life, and then it seemed obvious to write it as an actual memoir—which is, after all, a very Victorian thing to do. (The book is set in a secondary world, but it’s very much modeled on the real nineteenth century.)

You and your husband have been LibraryThing members since 2006 (http://www.librarything.com/profile/castlen). Tell us about your library: how is it organized? Do you and your husband integrate your books or keep them separate?

We integrated them when we moved in together—and yes, both parts of that were considered Big Steps in our relationship! Back then we marked our books with initials in case of separation, but the books we’ve gotten since then are unmarked. God help us if we ever get a divorce; that could get ugly real fast …

As for organization, fiction is downstairs, with mass-market paperbacks in one bookcase (with very closely-spaced shelves) and hardcovers and trade paperbacks on another. Those, of course, are all alphabetized by author. There are two bookcases with comic books and roleplaying games, and then in my husband’s office, various science and technical books. My office contains the nonfiction part of our library, arranged by subject, along with odds and ends like the travel books, foreign language dictionaries, manga, and so on.

It sounds a bit obsessive, but with more than two thousand books, we’d never find anything if it weren’t organized.

You’ve written about the importance of buying books from physical bookstores: what are some of your favorite bookstores, and why?

I love Borderlands Books in San Francisco. It’s a specialty bookstore, with science fiction and fantasy and horror, and its selection is fabulous. They host a large number of readings and signings and other events, and the staff are very knowledgeable and friendly—basically, it has all the classic virtues of the independent specialty store.

Read the rest of our interview with Marie Brennan.


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, state of the thing

Friday, April 26th, 2013

Books for Ghana: LibraryThing teams up with Books Matter!

Between November and April, LibraryThing members raised nearly $2,600 for needy readers by adding events to LibraryThing Local!

When we announced this initiative we asked for your help in coming up with the best way to use this money to put books directly into the hands of readers who would benefit the most from them. We wanted to find a project where our contributions can really make an immediate, tangible difference, and one with which LibraryThing and its members can build an active and ongoing relationship.

We’re very pleased to announce that we’ve found just such a project!

Books to Ghana

In February we donated donated $600 of the funds raised to Keith Goddard’s Books4Ghana campaign on IndieGogo, enough to put that effort over the top. Keith, who’s been a public school teacher in Toronto for the past fifteen years and has family connections in Ghana, began collecting books last summer for the Bright Future School in Keta, Ghana, a K-9 school with 600 students and thirty faculty members.

The first batch of 200 math textbooks and 500 children’s books were sent in August 2012, and arrived in October. Another 3,100 books Keith collected from schools around Toronto (and stored in his house!) were shipped this February after the successful IndieGoGo campaign, and arrived just a couple weeks ago. They will be delivered to the school later this month. You can browse the catalog of these books at http://www.librarything.com/profile/booksmatter. As the project expands and books arrive at additional libraries, we’ll be separating these out into separate LT catalogs for each library, so that they can be optimized to fit the specific needs of each school (and so that they can be updated as needed, of course).

Keith has now launched a new website for the Books Matter project at http://www.booksmatter.org, and is in the process of registering as an official charity. He’s currently rounding up the next batch of books to ship over to Ghana, and identifying the schools there that will benefit most from books we send.

Phase One: How to help now

Right now the major need is funding for shipping already-donated books to Ghana: payment for a shipping container, sea transport to Accra, Ghana, and then transportation from Accra to the schools in the Volta region). It costs approximately $1 per book to pay for shipping (as Keith says, “$10 sends 10 books, $50 sends 50 books: the math is simple, but the effect is profound”).

We’re going to be giving more of the money members raised by adding events to LT Local for this, and we invite you, should you feel so inclined, to head over to Books Matter and donate directly to the cause as well. If you donate, make sure to mention you’re a LibraryThing member!

Phase Two: Collection Development

This is about more than money. Books Matter is cataloging everything they send to Ghana.

Having everything cataloged allows us to do more than send random books. We can get involved in collection development—sending the right books to the right schools to fill gaps or to focus on areas of interest. We can do this site-wide or in groups. So, for example, wouldn’t it be cool if the “Green Dragon” and “Science!” groups could collaborate to make sure they’ve got a good collection in their area? And teachers and children at the schools can also participate, telling us what they need and how we can help!

That’s our idea. We’ll support it with some money and with features. But members will have to drive it. Let’s see what we can all do for readers in another country.

Come talk about phase two here: http://www.librarything.com/topic/153515

Why we’re doing this.

We’ve wanted to do something like this for a long time. We feel it’s important to give back when we can, and we want to give our members an easy way to contribute to a worthy project that puts books in the hands of readers who need them. By working with Keith and Books Matter, we’re in on the ground floor of a new, exciting project with lots of growth potential, and will be able to work with him to make sure that our contributions get where they need to go.

We’re really delighted about this, and we hope you all will be too!

Labels: events, fun, gifts, librarything local

Friday, April 26th, 2013

A raft of LibraryThing improvements

Our developers have made a whole slew of improvements recently. If you’re not following New Features, you may have missed them. Here’s a roundup.

The person who normally draws our yellow arrows died.

Share buttons on Add Books

We’ve added “share” buttons to the add books page, so you can share your new books on Facebook and Twitter easily. Come discuss.

Date formats and date-read changes

Change your default date format. You can now edit the way you’d like dates to appear in your catalog for the date-read, date-acquired, and entry date fields. 2013-04-26, or “YYYY-MM-DD,” is still the default, but you can change it to M/D/YYYY, or “January 1, 2012,” or several other display options. Change this setting on any book’s edit page, from Edit your profile > Account settings, or in the lightbox which appears when you edit the reading-date fields in your catalog.

“Imprecise” or “fuzzy” dates. Rather than having to enter a full year-month-day (2012-12-23) date, you can now just enter a year and a month (2012-12) or a year (2012).

Non dates and bad dates. You can even enter non-dates (“Banuary 2012” or “Sometime in college”) and the text will save and stick. It will, however, be displayed as red text. Dates from before 1970 now save correctly too.

New lightbox for editing dates. Editing reading dates from within the catalog now works slightly differently: if you double-click one of the reading date columns you’ll now see a lightbox appear, and you’ll be able to edit any reading dates for that particular book.

“Reading dates” catalog field added. We’ve added a new “Reading dates” field to Your books: this uses two columns and includes both the “Date Started” and “Date Finished” reading date fields. It sorts by the latest date in either “Date Started” or “Date Finished,” which is usually what you want. Add this to one of your display styles at http://www.librarything.com/editprofile/styles.

Back-end changes. These improvements required various important back-end changes, basically completely revising how and where the date-read data is stored. These were important not only for the improvements mentioned here, but also as we move into more changes to the “currently reading” structure (coming soon). This is step one of a multi-step process.

Questions, comments, bugs to report? Come discuss on Talk.

View, sort by work’s average rating

By popular request, we’ve adding a way for you to view or sort by a work’s average rating in your catalog. The column is called “Work: Average Rating.” Add it to one of your display styles at http://www.librarything.com/editprofile/styles. The column shows the work’s rating graphically (with stars, making it easy to compare your ratings with the average) as well as numerically, to allow more precision. The total number of ratings is also displayed.

For more on this, see the Talk thread. Over 250 members voted on how to style it, and we ended up coming up with a compromise.

Import/sync improvements galore.

With the recent influx of imports from Goodreads members and others, we took the opportunity to spend some time with our import code, and it is now much improved. There are still some major improvements to be made, but it’s running much more smoothly than before. Key changes:

Importing is much faster. You should see a marked increase in speed when it comes to processing imported files: we’ve dedicated some more processing power to handling imports, and made some speed improvements in the queue-processing code as well.

Syncing. You can now sync between Goodreads and LibraryThing accounts, allowing you to periodically update your LibraryThing library from your Goodreads account. Synced fields include reviews, ratings, date read and shelves/tags.

Bug fixes. We fixed a number of bugs in the import code. Here’s a sampling:

  • There were a number of issues with imports from Shelfari, Anobii, and Calibre that were causing all sorts of strange things to happen. Imports from those sites should now be much more successful (author names should come in completely, for example, rather than partially as they were in many cases).
  • A bug which caused collection assignments to go awry was eliminated.
  • Books which only include an ISBN-13 are now imported using the ISBN, rather than as ISBN-less books.
  • We’re now blocking any records without any data in the title field, as well as any blank rows in the imported file, from adding as blank LibraryThing book records.

Better tracking. During this process we added a number of new and very useful tracking measures on the back end so that we can monitor imports in a more coherent way and help to troubleshoot bugs much more easily.

Need to import? Head over to http://www.librarything.com/more/import and add or sync your books.

“Left-nav” standardization

As a first step in the direction of a site redesign, we’re working on standardizing various elements of the site, so they all look the same across LibraryThing. We’ve begun this process with the “left nav”—what we call LibraryThing’s secondary, left-aligned navigation menus on Talk, Groups, Recommendations and lots of other pages. Basically the code for these was the same, but a whole bunch of differences cropped up depending on which page you visited.

We’ve now standardized these based on the version previously used in Talk, with the addition of a blue “call out” bar by the item you’ve selected.

Labels: design, features, import, new feature, new features

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

Edible Book Contest Winners!

Thanks to everyone who entered our second annual virtual Edible Books Contest! Once again your biblio-culinary talents impressed and amazed! Check out all of the entries in the gallery.

Without further ado, your winners …

The grand prize goes to new member GSCK for this sinister tableau of books by David Wong: This Book is Full of Spiders and John Dies at the End. The books are made of vanilla and chocolate cake, with fondant and white chocolate spider webs. Another view here.

Along with the honor and fame, GSCK wins a $50 gift certificate to Longfellow Books, an LT t-shirt, stamp, and sticker, plus a CueCat and three lifetime gift memberships to LibraryThing!

We picked two runners-up: both will win their choice of an LT t-shirt, stamp, or CueCat, plus two lifetime gift memberships. First we have mellu for an anagrammatic and delicious-sounding take on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, made from “layered sponge cake filled with raspberry mousse + bilberry jam, decorated with red marzipan and white sugar paste.”

Our second runner-up this year is v4758, for a birthday cake of “desert island books,” made from “innumerable batches of Victoria sponge and enough fondant icing to satisfy even the sweetest tooth.” v7458 even provided a cross-section. The books are Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, as well as Bradford’s Crossword Solver’s Dictionary.

We also chose a couple of Honorable Mention winners; each will receive a lifetime gift membership. These are jorkar for an axolotl cake to celebrate the release of Susan Hood’s Spike, the Mixed-up Monster and debwalsh51 for her take on Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus.

And just because it made me laugh, I have to mention “Maybe Tomorrow” by GSCK: It’s captioned “Homage to The Art of Procrastination: A Guide to Effective Dawdling, Lollygagging and Postponing made out of frosting. I haven’t gotten around to making the cake yet.”

I’ll be contacting the winners to claim their prizes.

Congratulations to our winners, and thanks again to all the entrants!

Labels: contest, contests, fun

Monday, April 8th, 2013

April Early Reviewers batch is up!

The April 2013 batch of Early Reviewer books is up! We’ve got 112 books this month, and a grand total of 3,420 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:
http://www.librarything.com/er/list

The deadline to request a copy is Monday, April 29th 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, and 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!

Henry Holt and Company Taylor Trade Publishing Putnam Books
Riverhead Books Pintail The Permanent Press
Two Lines Press Prufrock Press Zest Books
Random House Ashland Creek Press McFarland
Akashic Books Cleis Press Viva Editions
Charlesbridge Open Books Plume
Spiegel & Grau Live Consciously Talonbooks
Humanist Press Marble City Publishing Exterminating Angel Press
CarTech Books Quirk Books William Morrow
Palgrave Macmillan Bantam Ballantine Books
Whitepoint Press Camel Press Crown Publishing
JournalStone BookViewCafe Galaxy Audio
Galaxy Press Algonquin Books Seventh Rainbow Publishing
Bellevue Literary Press Human Kinetics Publishing Directions LLC
Hogback Publishing Opus International Palari Publishing
Booktrope Wayman Publishing Doubleday Books
Hampton House Publishing, LLC Hunter House

Labels: early reviewers, LTER

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

Edible Books Contest deadline extended!

It’s been just a little bit busy around here these past few days, so we’re going to extend the deadline for entering this year’s Edible Books Contest.

The new deadline for entry is 4 p.m. EDT on Thursday, April 18. The original post is below, with all the contest info, how to enter, all the prizes, and more. Check out all the entries submitted so far at the EdibleBooks2013 gallery.


We had so much fun with last year’s virtual Edible Books Contest, we’ve decided to make it an annual event!

How to participate:

1. Create an “edible book.” We’re defining this broadly, so entries can include dishes:

  • referencing a book’s title or characters (puns are entirely welcome)
  • inspired by a book’s plot
  • in the shape of an actual book (or eBook, or scroll, etc.)
  • takeoffs on the LibraryThing logo

2. Take some photos of what you made. The photo at right is the grand-prize winner from last year’s contest. See more of the winners here or all of the entries in the gallery.

3. Upload the photo to your LT member gallery. Sign in, then go here and click the “Add another picture” link to add the image.

4. When adding the image, tag it “EdibleBooks2013”. This will add your image to the contest gallery, and counts as your entry into the contest. If your photo doesn’t have the tag, we won’t know that you’ve entered. You’ll be able to see all the entries here.

5. Tell us about it in the “Title/description” box.

Deadline: Add your photos by 4 p.m. EDT on Thursday, April 18.

What we’ll do:

Based on all the images in the “EdibleBooks2013” photo gallery, LibraryThing staff will choose the following winners:

Grand Prize (1)

  • A $50 gift certificate to Longfellow Books
  • An LT t-shirt (size/color of your choice)
  • An LT library stamp
  • A CueCat
  • An LT sticker
  • Three lifetime gift memberships
  • Great honor

Runners Up (2)

  • Your choice of one LT t-shirt, stamp, or CueCat
  • Two lifetime gift memberships

We may also pick a few Honorable Mentions—final number will depend on the number of entries received—and they’ll receive a lifetime gift membership.

Have fun!

Fine Print: You can enter as many times as you like, but you can only win one prize. Your dish must be made of edible ingredients (no hats, lost-wax sculptures, performance art), and by entering the contest you certify that it is your own creation. Entries submitted to previous LibraryThing Edible Books contests will not be considered. All decisions as to winners will be made by LibraryThing staff, and our decisions are final. LibraryThing staff and family can enter, but can only be honored as prize-less runners-up. Any images you load stay yours, or you can release them under a copyleft license, but we get a standard “non-exclusive, perpetual” right to use them.

Questions? Feel free to post questions/discussion/etc. here.

Labels: contest, contests, fun

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

Welcome Goodreads Members!

Goodreads members will find many familiar features, but not this.

Since Amazon bought Goodreads, we’re seeing a lot of Goodreads users checking out LibraryThing. Here’s a quick guide for them.

Getting Started with LibraryThing:

1. Sign up. Go to the homepage and join.

2. Find your friends. Visit the Friend Finder page to connect your LibraryThing account to Facebook and Twitter. Invite your friends to join LibraryThing, or connect with those already on the site. LibraryThing isn’t as forward as Goodreads—we never post anything without your explicit consent, never send messages to others without your consent, and never make someone your friend on LibraryThing just because you know them on Facebook or Twitter. But you can reach out to the people you want to.

3. Import your books. You can import/sync your books directly from Goodreads at http://www.librarything.com/import/goodreads.

In the last week we’ve upgraded the Goodreads import, so everything you care about should come through. (If you imported before all the improvements were pushed, try again and “sync.”)

Lots of members use both sites. Our import also works as a “sync” between the two sites. You can re-sync at any time, bringing in new Goodreads reviews and other data.

4. Share what you’re reading. Click the “share” link at the upper right corner of the site to get your News Feed page:
http://www.librarything.com/yourfeed.php. Click “Share this” under any item to post to Twitter or Facebook.

5. Have questions? Visit the Welcome to LibraryThing group to ask any questions you have. Our members and staff are happy to help! You can post in the Welcome Goodreads refugees thread, or start a new thread for your specific question. Some of our awesome LibraryThing members have already started a handy Goodreads to LibraryThing guide, too, to help answer some frequently-asked questions.

Things to check out

Trying hard to meld the best of LibraryThing and Goodreads.
  • Find out what makes LibraryThing tick. Tim, the staff, and thirty-eight members recently got together to hammer out what we’re proud of. See What Makes LibraryThing LibraryThing?
  • Groups. LibraryThing has more than 9,000 discussion groups, covering just about every imaginable topic. Check them out at http://www.librarything.com/groups.
  • Early Reviewers Giveaways. Each month we work with publishers to give out thousands of books to interested readers, by matching the books on offer up with the books in your library. You can see last month’s list; the April list will be up soon. Sign up to be notified when new books arrive you can ask for. These aren’t just random giveaways, though: we use a complex algorithm to find the best possible readers for the books on offer.
  • LibraryThing Local. If you visit the “Local” tab at the top of the site, you’ll see http://www.librarything.com/local, our gateway to more than 80,000 bookstores, libraries and other bookish venues around the world. Set your location to see venues and events near you, or mark your favorite venues so you can see just their events quickly and easily.
  • Help and FAQ. LibraryThing is a huge site, and can be fairly intimidating at first. We’ve got an extensive help wiki, with brief overviews of many of the major features.
  • Are you an author or a publisher? We welcome authors and publishers to LibraryThing! See our How Authors Can Use LibraryThing or How Publishers Can Use LibraryThing for some hints and tips on how best to get involved on the site.

Above all, welcome, and enjoy!


Salmon photo courtesy James Bowe on Flickr. (NB, the salmon is a joke referencing the frequently-discussed LibraryThing color scheme.)

Labels: LibraryThing

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

What makes LibraryThing LibraryThing?

On Tuesday afternoon, LibraryThing staff and members got together on the collaborative editing site PiratenPad to hash out “What makes LibraryThing LibraryThing?” for newly-arrived Goodreads members and others. This is the result. Tim took the lead, but 38 members contributed.

What we are

LibraryThing is a community brought together by the love of books.

What defines us

Kraken cake by member TheCriticalTimes.
The name “LibraryThing” was originally a take-off on Lovecraftian lines.

LibraryThing is not one thing. LibraryThing means different things to different people. Some use it to record what they’re reading now; some catalog every book they own. Some talk on our groups all day long, others never interact with anyone. Some share everything to Facebook, others keep their library private. Some use it for book discovery and recommendations, some to help out other book lovers with their knowledge of authors, books and series. There are members for whom this blog post would be totally unfamiliar. We value what all members do with the site.

LibraryThing is about quality cataloging. LibraryThing started seven years ago as a way for regular people to have a professional-quality library catalog, and this is still the center for many members. We show this in our sources—searching over 700 libraries around the world. And we show it in how you can edit everything in your catalog. This isn’t just authors and titles, but every bit of data you could think of about a book, from the Dewey Decimal number and publication information to the book’s height and weight.

LibraryThing is book-geekery. We love the stuff of books—the details, the trivia, the connections among books and between books and other parts of life. We’ll tell you what percentage of your authors are dead, how much your books weigh, and whether a pile of them would be taller than Niagara Falls (see yours).

LibraryThing is about readers, not marketing. Our members like to read and talk about books, and of course we love to buy them too. But we think that reading and talking works best apart from commercial interests.

  • Our book recommendations are never influenced by commercial considerations.
  • Author and publisher spam has alienated a lot of people at other sites. We take a hard line. Authors have various official ways to promote their books, including LibraryThing Early Reviewers, Member Giveaways, and a Hobnob with Authors group. And they benefit from making sure their author page is tricked out with photos, links to their site and so forth. But other than that authors participate as readers first of all.

Book love by member madinkbeard.

LibraryThing is communities. LibraryThing is a community, and LibraryThing includes many communities, especially groups like 75 Books Challenge , The Green Dragon and Folio Society Devotees. Members get together offline from time to time. And every year many members participate in SantaThing, Secret Santa for book lovers.

We have no “users.” If you’re not the customer, you’re the product. If a social website can’t support itself on customers and straightforward products, it’ll eventually sell out what you gave it—your data, your friends, and the community itself.

“No users” includes charging members. We say $10 for a yearly membership, $25 for a lifetime. In fact, you can pay as little as $1, and we often give free memberships if people ask nicely. (Until Friday ALL new members get a free membership.) But we want what paying creates—customers, with loyalty and rights—not “users”.

Members contribute. LibraryThing members have spent years of their time improving the data, helping themselves and other book lovers. They disambiguate authors and editions, add author photos, enter awards and events, organize series, police for spam and ratty data, and translate the site into more than a dozen languages. (See our helpers page.) Unlike some other sites, here all members are equal, with the power to make (or reverse) changes. And nobody can change your catalog.

LibraryThing is libraries. Public and academic libraries account for about 40% of reading, but get lost in other, commercially motivated venues. Not at LibraryThing. We love libraries—five of LibraryThing’s ten employees have library degrees and six have worked in one. Libraries give us our best data, and give us access to books no online bookseller knows about.

As part of its core mission, LibraryThing sells software and data to libraries, such as LibraryThing for Libraries. Bibliographic data is always free to libraries, including Common Knowledge and our editions data.

We’re advertising-free. Members see no ads on LibraryThing. If you’re not signed in, we show some Google ads, but they’ll vanish as soon as you create an account (free or paid).

LibraryThing is smart. LibraryThing has some of the most passionate, articulate members in the book world.

Members run rampant. LibraryThing is a company, but we tend to run it like a club, or maybe a collective. Employees listen to members and work with them. We’re going to listen and be straight with you. We’re not going to sell you out. If we do, members should take their data, take our free and copyleft data, and find a better site. Doubt us? Tell us how to earn your trust.

LibraryThing doesn’t push. We are about the books and the cataloging. If you want to share what you’re reading, great. But we’re not going to spam all your friends every time you add a book or join a group. We don’t make sharing the default just because it’s free advertising. We also don’t send out any automatic emails with updates or change our privacy policies to suit commercial interests. And we never make you automatically friends with someone on LibraryThing just because you know them on Twitter or Facebook.

LibraryThing is independent. LibraryThing has owners, including Tim, the founder and majority owner, and minority partners in Bowker and Abebooks. But we make our own decisions. And we’re a real company with real revenue, not a venture-capital-funded company waiting to “flip” to some dreadful new master.

LibraryThing supports the whole book world. Being independent allows us to work with everyone. We have pages and programs for authors and publishers, bookstores and libraries. “LibraryThing Local” promotes venues and upcoming bookish events around the world. Our “Get this book” includes libraries and indie bookstores at the same level as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. We also have an API for indie bookstores to include information about their current holdings.

No fine print. Our Terms of Use are written in real English, and protect members as much as anything. There are no weird trap doors—we don’t claim we own your copyright, we don’t tell you how to link to us, etc. They also include a quote from Shelley.

LibraryThing supports free speech. We provide a space for readers to say what’s on their minds, without fear of being ejected for an unpopular view. We make an exception for personal attacks: you can say what you want, but stick to ideas, not people.

LibraryThing was the original social book site. We invented the idea. We know that this and $2.50 will get us a cup of coffee, but we still feel responsible for the idea, and making it fun and rewarding, not commercial, exploitative, invasive and creepy.

LibraryThing is a work in progress. Since starting as nothing more than a basic catalog, members have guided our development to an unusual degree. Our current development priorities include:

  • Better cataloging, especially Goodreads imports, ebooks and adding books, from “Add books” and elsewhere.
  • Better sharing. We’ve lagged behind on sharing to social networks. We’re catching up fast.
  • Better design. Members like a stripped-down, information-dense aesthetic, but, well, we really need a cleanup and refresh.
  • Mobile version.

A few unique things about the site

Nobody has ever done anything like our Legacy Libraries.

We didn’t even mention cataloging flash mobs.

International sites. LibraryThing is also available in more than a dozen other languages, such as German (LibraryThing.de), French (LibraryThing.fr) and even Esperanto (epo.librarything.com) and Pirate (pir.librarything.com). We also catalog from hundreds of non-English libraries, so you can add all your Italian books as easily as those in English.

Common Knowledge. Common Knowledge is our vast fielded wiki system of member-added data about books and authors, capturing everything from characters to series and awards information to related movies, dedications, author information, and much, much more. The data are available via an API, for free.

LibraryThing Local. A gateway to more than 80,000 bookstores, libraries and other bookish venues, every single one added by LibraryThing members. Mark your favorites, scope out where to visit, and browse over 65,000 upcoming events. See it at http://www.librarything.com/local. LibraryThing Local is also available on-the-go via our Readar iPhone app, or via an API for free.

Legacy Libraries. LibraryThing members have cataloged the libraries of more than 200 famous dead people, from Thomas Jefferson and C.S. Lewis to Marilyn Monroe and Tupac Shakur.

CoverGuess. We show you a cover image, you use tags to describe what you see. If your tags match up with those used by others, you get points.

Book Haiku. Summarize any book in the form of a haiku.

Dead salmon color. Need we say more?

Join us

So that’s what LibraryThing is. Does this sound fun? Join us!


You can see how we came up with this document on PiratenPad: http://librarything.piratenpad.de/ep/pad/view/449/rKERKCJPlZ (drag the slider to the beginning and press the play button to see the edits “as they happened”).

Labels: LibraryThing