Archive for June, 2006

Wednesday, June 7th, 2006

Announcing LibraryThing Mobile

It’s very hard to take a photo of a mobile phone screen.
This is what the screens look like on a decent phone.

I’m very excited to announce LibraryThing for your mobile phone!

(I don’t know know about you, but I hate it when company say it’s “very excited,” but this is me, Tim Spalding, and I am very excited. Really. Take my pulse; this is the highlight of my damn week!)

The URL for LibraryThing mobile is:

You can see it in action on a fake screen at:

The idea is simple—you get the most important features of LibraryThing through your cell phone’s “internet” feature. So you can check whether you have something—by title, author, tag or ISBN—when you’re in the bookshop, browse your catalog, and read your reviews. You can even accesss your “Pssst!” recommendations. But I don’t know anything about cellphone security, so you can’t add items, and you can’t look at private libraries—even your own.

Don’t fret, you almost certainly have SOME kind of internet connectivity on your phone. My old black-and-whie Sprint phone had it. Abby’s old, crappy Verizon phone had it. The only difference is how many lines you’ll see at time, and whether the Amazon covers come in. Needless to say, internet access usually costs something. My phone costs $5/mo. and regular “minutes”; Abby’s phone charges a piratical 1 cent per kilobyte—so I tried to keep the pages super clean. LibraryThing is not responsible if you run up $500 in charges.

Many thanks to the LibraryThing Mobile beta testers, Astrud, Birdie, Deirdre, Edward, Sarah, Woodrow. There are probably some more problems, but I am—see above—too excited to wait any longer.

So, the question is: Does it work for you? What else do you want it to do?

PS: Yes, I am still interested in an iPod version, and plan to work on it soon.
PPS: I can’t find my copy of Amazon Hacks. Does anyone have the URL for an Amazon Mobile link? I need to include it if I’m going to draw on Amazon’s cover art. Of course, I’d include links to any other mobile book sites. Are there any?

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Monday, June 5th, 2006

Library Mashup Competition

Over on the LibraryThing “ideas” blog, Thingology, I’ve blogged about the “Mashing up the Library” competition, a Talis-sponsored contest for the most interesting library-oriented mashup. They’re making me a judge, which is too bad, because it would be fun to enter…

£1,000! Spread the word.

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Sunday, June 4th, 2006


Sorry about the slow-downs today, which occasionally resulted in server overloads (very long page-loads). This is in part related to recent traffic increases, and in part to imperfect optimization. I fixed one major bottleneck, and am looking for others.

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Friday, June 2nd, 2006

LibraryThing hits 3 million books

Another big milestone: LibraryThing hit 3,000,000 books today!

The pace is quickening. Fridays are the slowest days, but LibraryThing users still added 15,000 books to their catalogs—and 20,000 Thursday. I can’t pin this on any particular source—I even ended a brief experiment with Google ads—just the gradual lifting of boats from an increasingly viral site.

The three-millionth book was William Gibson’s Count Zero, added by bastardsnow at 3:45pm EST, and shared with 346 other LibraryThing members. Hey there—you now have a paid account!

For those keeping score at home, LibraryThing would now come in 79th on the American Library Association’s list of 100 largest US libraries, climbing 21 spots in 30 days. And yes, I know LibraryThing isn’t a library by the ALA’s definition, nor by many other definitions. Whatever it is—I’m pulling for a “republic”—it’s growing.

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Friday, June 2nd, 2006

Permanent links for books

Every day more bloggers are choosing LibraryThing as the place they link to when they mention a book, bypassing commercial sites and their product pages. They’re doing this despite an arbitrary and unfriendly URL scheme accessible to only the most tech-savvy users.

To help I’ve added permanent links at the bottom of the book- and social information pages. In the near future I’ll be adding an ISBN-based URL scheme.

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Thursday, June 1st, 2006

Search all fields / review improvements

I’ve made improvements to two areas—searching and reviews.

Searching all fields. I admit it: the old searching capabilities were weak. The new ones are better, but not perfect. Under the Search tab you’ll now see two options, “Search titles/authors” and “Search all fields.” The former is the old, lame search. The latter is the new “all fields” search.

All fields means: title, author and other authors, ISBN, date, publication, LC call number, Dewey, series, BCID, “summary,” comments and review.

When you do the new search LibraryThing will take a moment to prepare. If you have only a few hundred books, you may not see or only briefly glimpse the flip-flopping killer whale (at right, in case you missed it). In theory, you won’t see the whale again unless you add a bunch more books. In fact, I will probably be clearing out the searching cache as I make improvements and get the bugs out.

Some drawbacks:

  1. The “all fields” does not include tags, which has its own search function.
  2. There remains no “advanced” search, where you could choose which fields to search. This will have to wait on anticipated server and database improvements; even though it has more books than all but 100 libraries in the US, LibraryThing still runs on essentially one $2,500 server. (There’s a lesson in here about library IT costs.)
  3. The “search library” link in the catalog does not yet include the feature. I am thinking that “all fields” will not be the default, with perhaps a checkbox to search just titles and authors. But I want to monitor resource usage before I do that.

Reviews. This one has been up for about a week, with a “beta” announement in the Google Group. The new reviews screen (example) shows your reviews, others’ reviews of books in your library, both with full text. The old review screen just listed reviews by title, without the text. The old one also was alphabetical-only, where the new defaults to showing the newest reviews first. I think the improvement make the review screen more “current,” informative and fun.

There was some feedback on the Google Group from users who liked the old one better. I much prefer the new one, but I’m open to some combination of the new and the old. Or I could just keep the old around, but that strikes me as wiggly.

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