Archive for the ‘book covers’ Category

Friday, May 12th, 2023

Updated CoverGuess and Contest!

We’ve revamped CoverGuess, our collaborative cover-tagging game. We’ve made it faster and changed some rules. Very soon we’ll be releasing a cool new feature based on it. (Hint: You’ll be able to search for covers by what’s on them.) And we’re giving out prizes to LibraryThing members who play.

CoverGuess is a LibraryThing institution. Starting in 2010, we invited members to describe book covers, racking up points for matching other members. In 13 years members have added more than 3.2 million tags to book covers! 

Now we’re launching a new and improved version of the game, to get it ready for a new search interface, with some new rules:

  • Eight tags. As searchers are likely to focus on the most significant elements, we’re asking members to focus on the eight most relevant tags. (You can add more, but you won’t receive points for them.)
  • Omit bare colors. And we’re asking members to avoid bare color tags, like “blue” or “red.” You are still encouraged to use colors when describing things on the cover, such “blue horse” or “yellow flower.” (We’re going to get covers’ predominant colors another way, so we don’t want you to have to waste your time labeling them.)
  • Multi-Word Bonus. Scoring has changed slightly. You now get a bonus for multi-word tags. For example, matching “green field” is worth 2x points, and matching “bird in cage” is worth 3x.
image of LibraryThing's new CoverGuess game


We’re running a month-long contest to celebrate the launch of the new CoverGuess! We’ll be keeping score from May 12th–June 12th, with prizes going to the top ten players, as well as ten other randomly selected participants.

The top player will receive an extra grand prize as well.

We’ve got a selection of stickers, coasters, tote bags, stamps, t-shirts and CueCats (more details to come) to give away, so come check it out here, and start tagging:

Questions? Come join the conversation on Talk.

Labels: book covers, contests, CoverGuess, covers, games

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

CoverGuess: The game that helps people find books…

I just released an amusing diversion called CoverGuess.

Check it out here, and talk about it here.

What is CoverGuess?

CoverGuess is a sort of game. We give you covers, and you describe them in words. If you guess the same things as other players, you get points.

Why are you doing this?

The goal is to have fun, but also to build up a database of cover descriptions, to answer questions like “Do you have that book with bride on the bicycle?”

What’s the best way to do it?

Think about it how you’d describe the cover to someone—pick out the most significant elements. Does it have a car or a pair of shoes? Color terms are good, and so are terms like “blurry” or “sepia.” Above all, pick terms other players will be using.

How do points work?

You get one point for every matched term, for each other member who had it. So, if you say “car” and “dog” and two other members said “car” and one said “dog,” you get three points. Obviously, it’s better if you’re not the first member to tag the image, but the system randomizes that aspect. When you’re the first to tag an item, you get 0.25 points for your effort.

Aren’t you trying to use members’ free labor to make money?

Yes and no. All the data here is released under a Creative-Commons Attribution-Noncommercial License, and will be available in feed form. That means any non-profit entity, like a library, can use it without charge. We also commit to license it on the same terms to any bookstore with less than $10 million in sales. That leaves huge companies. If any want it, we’ll charge them!

Anything else?

It was partially inspired by Google’s ImageLabeler. Our anti-spam engine does something similar too.

The whole thing was perhaps summed up best in a tweet to me:

Labels: book covers, new feature, new features

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

Cover page changes

I’ve revamped each work’s “covers” page—a.k.a. “change cover”—to emphasize the higher-quality images among out 1,000,000 covers.

1. The images are bigger, so you can see quality, and because covers are so beautiful.
2. The algorithm now sorts larger covers higher, so that members are more likely to pick higher-quality versions of their cover. The existing sort order was reinforcing the use of low-quality images, even when LT had high-quality ones.
3. High-quality images now say “high quality” and list the original dimensions.

Here are some examples: The Odyssey, Pnin, The Kama Sutra, Pudd’nhead Wilson, Origin of Species, Life of Pi, Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Labels: book covers, covers, new features

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

A million free covers from LibraryThing

A few days ago, just before hitting thirty million books, we hit one million user-uploaded covers. So, we’ve decided to give them away—to libraries, to bookstores, to everyone.

The basics. The process, patterned after the cover service, is simplicity itself:

  1. Take an ISBN, like 0545010225
  2. Put your Developer Key and the ISBN into a URL, like so:
  3. Put that in an image tag, like so:
    <img src="">
  4. And your website, library catalog or bookstore has a cover.

Easy details. Each cover comes in three sizes. Just replace “medium” with “small” or “large.”

As with Amazon, if we don’t have a cover for the book, we return a transparent 1×1 pixel GIF image. So you can put the cover-image on OPAC pages without knowing if we have the image. If we have it, it shows; if we don’t, it doesn’t.

The Catch? To get covers, you’ll need a LibraryThing Developer Key—any member can get one. This puts a top limit on the number of covers you can retrieve per day—currently 1,000 covers. In fact, we only count it when a cover is made from the original, o our actual limit will be much higher. We encourage you to cache the files locally.

You also agree to some very limited terms:

  • You do not make LibraryThing cover images available to others in bulk. But you may cache bulk quantities of covers.
  • Use does not involve or promote a LibraryThing competitor.
  • If covers are fetched through an automatic process (eg., not by people hitting a web page), you may not fetch more than one cover per second.

You will note that unlike the new API to our Common Knowledge data, you are not required to link back to LibraryThing. But we would certainly appreciate it.

Caveats. Some caveats:

  • At present only about 913,000 covers are accessible, the others being non-ISBN covers.
  • Accuracy isn’t guaranteed–this is user data–and coverage varies.
  • Some covers are blurrier than we’d like, particularly at the “large” size. This is sometimes about original files and sometimes about our resizing routines. We’re working on the latter.

Why are you doing this? The goal is half promotional and half humanitarian.

First, some background. This service “competes” with Amazons cover service, now part of Amazon Web Services. Amazon’s service is, quite simply, better. They have far more covers, and no limit on the number of requests. By changing the URL you can do amazing things to Amazon covers.

The catch is that Amazon’s Terms of Service require a link-back. If you’re trying to make money from Amazon Affiliates, this is a good thing. But libraries and small bookstores have been understandably wary about linking to Amazon. Recent changes in Amazon’s Terms of Service have deepened this worry.

Meanwhile, there are a number of commercial cover providers. They too are probably, on average, better. But they cost money. Not surprisingly many libraries and bookstores skip covers, or paste them in manually from publisher sites.

That’s too bad. Publishers and authors want libraries and bookstores to show their covers. Under U.S. law showing covers to show off books for sale, rental or commentary falls under Fair Use in most circumstances. (We are not lawyers and make no warrant that your use will be legal.) We’ve felt for years that selling covers was a fading business. Serving the files is cheap and getting cheaper. It was time for someone to step up.*

So we’re stepping up. We’re hoping that by encouraging caching and limiting requests, we can keep our bandwidth charges under control. (If it really spikes, we’ll limit new developer keys for a while; if you submit this to Slashdot, we will be Slashdotted for sure!) And it will be good for LibraryThing—another example of our open approach to data. Although none of our competitors do anything like this—indeed our Facebook competitors don’t even allow export although, of course, they import LibraryThing files!—we think LibraryThing has always grown, in part, because we were the good guys—more “Do occasional good” than “Do no evil.”

If we build it, they will come. If the service really pick up, we’re going to add a way for publishers, bookstores and authors to get in on it. We’d be happy to trade some bandwidth out for what publishers know—high-quality covers, author photos, release dates and so forth. We’ve already worked with some publisher data, but we’d love to do more with it.

*In the past, we had been talking to the Open Libary project about a joint effort. We even sent them all our covers and a key to the identifiers that linked them. But nothing came of it. To some extent that was our fault, and to some extent not. (I think them and us would differ on the blame here.) In any case, I was tired of the time and transactional friction, and wanted to try a different approach.

Labels: apis, book covers, covers, open data

Monday, April 28th, 2008

Covers: Better, Bigger, Blanks, Defaults and Statistics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Labels: book covers, new feature, new features

Thursday, November 8th, 2007

Cool member covers rolling in

Two days ago I asked members to send us alternate “default covers” and the covers are rolling in, even though I neglected to say how. We love all of them—they’re excellent. It’s going to be hard to pick winners.

How to send more: Since the files are big, there’s no easy way to post them; send to my email,




From cckelly


Image:book-cover-violet.jpg Image:book-cover-black.jpg Image:book-cover-brown.jpg Image:book-cover-blue.jpg Image:book-cover-green.jpg Image:book-cover-red.jpg

My original cover

Labels: book covers, contests

Tuesday, November 6th, 2007

Help out with default covers!

LibraryThing now shows a special blank cover whenever a book lacks one.

We think we can do it better. We’d love members to be able to pick a different cover, and even different default covers for different books. For example, I’d love to have a default cover for the Loeb Classical Library’s Latin (red) and Greek (green) books.

So, let’s open it up. LibraryThing members have time and again shown they take better pictures than us. So let’s have a contest!

UPDATE: Two people sent in some very slick covers, in a rainbow of colors. I think they’re pretty cool. Check them out below. I also set up a wiki page for the contest.

What do to: Take a photo of your favorite, probably old book. Make sure you take it from directly above and the image is clear.

The image. Quality is key. The image need to be large and clear. You don’t need to Photoshop it yourself—slicing it out of background and removing the title, if there is one—but it has to be doable. Shadows are killer.

The rules. We’ll give out three-to-five free accounts, but we reserve the right to use any image submitted. All images will be credited on the page where you choose them, if you want it.

Sent today!:
Image:book-cover-violet.jpg Image:book-cover-black.jpg Image:book-cover-brown.jpg Image:book-cover-blue.jpg Image:book-cover-green.jpg Image:book-cover-red.jpg

Current page:

Google’s default covers:

Labels: book covers, contest, covers