Archive for the ‘1’ Category

Tuesday, December 12th, 2006

Eight million books

Last last night LibraryThing hit eight million (now: 8,034,234). Some facts:

  • The eight millionth book was H20: A Biography of Water by Philip Ball (2000), added by Kingfish.
  • If LibraryThing were a library, it would be the 14th larget library in the United States (ALA factsheet). At the current rate, we should be in in fifth place (10,370,78 books) by March or April, and second place sometime in the summer. But at 30 million books, topping the Library of Congress will take a few years.
  • If laid end-to-end, LibraryThing’s books would stretch 1,075 miles, from Boston to Milwaukee taking the route suggested by Google Maps. I’m not sure about the straight-line distance.
  • LibraryThing has between eight and fifty times as many books as the World’s Biggest Bookstore, in Toronto, Ontario. (The web won’t say, so I called. The person I got paused a long time—was ths a crank call?—and then replied “I keep hearing different numbers. It’s like a million or a hundred and fifty thousand or something.”)
  • LibraryThing hold 58,580 books by J. K. Rowling. If these were piled on top of one another, assuming three-inch high books, the stack would be eight times taller than the tallest skyscrapper in the world.
  • LibraryThing has 80 times as many books as you have hairs on your head.
  • If the books in LibraryThing were your intestine, and they were laid end-to-end, they would go all the way around the world one and a half times. Blech.

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Monday, December 11th, 2006

The New York Times Magazine!

Somehow we managed a small mention in today’s New York Times Magazine’s article on new ideas (the 6th annual year in ideas, nonetheless). The piece, on “Homophily“, talks about how this love of the same has played into social software. It concludes:

“To counter the seemingly universal trend toward homophily, Torkington invited his readers to figure out how to create “serendipity.” One information-technology specialist described a feature he would add to Facebook called “the Stretch,” which would help students “find a group of people a little different” from themselves. Someone else brought up the online book cataloger LibraryThing’s UnSuggester, which identifies the book least likely to share a library with the book you mention.”

Fame! (David Pogue, do you read the magazine? Do you want me to send you a copy?)

The best part – usually, Tim and I come across LibraryThing mentions from advance warning, vanity searches online, or emails from readers quick on the uptake. This one was great because we both found it on our own, and independently!*

*I make do with the online version during the week, but reading the Sunday New York Times in print is luxury. Even if it takes the whole day to read – picking up and putting it down to run errands, answer emails, make dinner, sew Christmas stockings (I’m a holiday/domestic genius today) – and if that means I don’t make it to the Magazine until 10:30pm, it’s worth it. Particularly worth it when I happen across LibraryThing on the bottom of page 52. As Tim said, “I was just reading along, and thinking ‘this would be a good place to mention Libr—OH MY GOD!'”

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Thursday, December 7th, 2006 scores, LibraryThing assists

Congratulations to, named one of the fifty top ecommerce sites by Internet Retailer magazine. Their category included iTunes, Netflix and SimplyAudioBooks.

As many of you know, I sold AbeBooks a 40% stake in LibraryThing back in May—I retain the rest—and LibraryThing and Abe have been working together since. Apparently Abe was picked for its focus on uncluttered findability and… for the investment in LibraryThing!

From the article:

“LibraryThing is a fantastic tool for avid book readers and collectors and may be even more sophisticated than the community features of “the Big Kahuna” of online bookselling,, says Sucharita Mulpuru, senior retail analyst at Forrester Research Inc. ‘The tags seem more relevant,’ she adds, ‘and the lists seem more germane to book lovers than the random lists that often show up on other user-generated content sites.'”

Apologies for recent (relative) silence. Chris, Abby and I met for the first time in months, and we emerged reinvigorated, well-fed, and with some clear short-term objectives: author enhancement, wish lists (dammit), search bugs and a blog-o-licious surprise.

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Monday, December 4th, 2006


Wondering why the site is crushingly slow? The UnSuggester was written up in Slashdot this morning, and the traffic is unbelievable.

So – go get a cup of coffee or hot chocolate (it snowed here in Boston last night, so that’s what I’m doing) and surf something else for a bit, read some of those books, or even ponder doing some work – and give us a chance to catch up!

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Monday, December 4th, 2006

Back from Victoria

Yesterday I completed a three-day odyssey to Victoria for the Christmas Party. Although Abe owns 40% of LibraryThing, they were 100% hospitable. I could tell what a fun company it was, even before the liquor started flowing.

I also enjoyed the company of Anirvan, Charlie and Giovanni* of BookFinder, and even managed to listen in on a conversation with Google. (As someone remarked before the call, it was “like calling God.”)

I didn’t have much time to work on the site (but minor tweaks to widgets, catalog), except on planes, where I lacked wifi, but managed to rack up a few blog posts like this one, pushing for a fun library catalog. Thanks to Abby and Chris sending out CueCats and fixing bugs while I was gone.

*Later they played “guess who?” with BookFinder baby pictures. As a new dad—which makes me highly sensitive to baby pictures—I have to say: Giovanni was one cute baby! (Second to Liam, of course.)

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Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

A small plug for Wordie

Fellow Portland Mainer John McGrath, of Squirl, hacked together Wordie, social cataloging and social networking for words. Basically, you “catalog” words and arrange them in lists (eg., my products named after their place of origin). If two users share a word, that connects them. It’s a deeply silly idea, but I love that he did it.

PS: Wordie is now included among LibraryThing’s “also on” list, available from your profile.

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Monday, November 27th, 2006

Small features and bug-fixes

I hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving as much as we did. With all the tryptophan in our systems, we didn’t make any major progress over the holiday. But we chipped away at some lesser features and bugs, in between courses:

  1. Groups now sport RSS feeds for recent messages. We plan to add feeds for your groups, your posts, etc.
  2. Tag pages now offer feeds for the most recent books tagged X in your library. They are also available when you look at a tag in your catalog too.
  3. LibraryThing widgets are now available in the Latin-1 character set (UTF-8 remains the default). If you have a blog in Latin-1, and a lot of non-English books, widgets now work.
  4. LibraryThing’s universal import feature now accepts raw, encrypted CueCat data, so you can scan your books away from an internet connection.
  5. The “all books” links on tag pages (eg., biography) is much faster now. (It’s not always fast, but it won’t take five minutes.)
  6. The same goes for “recently tagged X” RSS feed; it’s faster on high-frequency tags. I don’t think many of you were watching the most-recent “fiction” tags, but Google and Technorati were, and all the “database churning” was slowing the site down.
  7. Chris may have solved a major forum bug—the “Bermuda triangle” bug, where one message in 50 or 100 gets inexplicably lost. Cross your fingers and hope he’s right.

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Monday, November 20th, 2006

LibraryThing integrates with Shaman Drum

LibraryThing now integrates with Shaman Drum, the legendary independent bookshop in Ann Arbor, MI. Edit your profile, check a checkbox (down at the bottom) and your work page will sport availability and pricing information from Shaman Drum and a link to their site.

Right now, it’s just Shaman Drum. But the program is open to any bookstore. So long as you have a decent inventory system, it should be a snap. We’ve published participation details on our other blog. I’m going to approach a few, but feel free to let your local bookstore know about it.

If you’ve spent time in Ann Arbor, you know that Shaman Drum is the best bookstore in town, and one of the best independents in the country. It doesn’t exactly lack for competition, with the flagship Borders store across the street and the Dawn Treader one street farther. I went to grad school in Ann Arbor, and Shaman Drum was practically a second home. I’m so glad the fine folks who run the place were receptive to my idea.

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Saturday, November 18th, 2006

Germans: Swap English books

An eighth swap site has set themselves up to integrate with LibraryThing—this time with a twist: is for Germans—you need to have a German address—to swap books in English.

I think it’s a great idea. For someone like me, living near a good library and two or three good bookstores, swapping doesn’t necessarily make that much sense. When I weigh the mailing and bother costs against the costs of buying or borrowing a book, I usually choose the latter. But it would make a lot of sense for, say, French books, which can’t be found near me.* By catering to residents of Germany (Germans and a lot of expats) who read English, Bookswapper makes easy the satisfying of wants that otherwise would take a lot of effort to satisfy.

About the site, the creators, Kata and Resi write:

“The makers of are two real people, not some corporation. And wasn’t born in an office building but in our home, on a sofa, beneath overflowing bookshelves.”

Amen to that.

Note: The original rules didn’t anticipate a site like this, so I’ve decided to list second in and last in all other LibraryThings.

PS: I fixed a bug that was preventing LibraryThing from seeing everything our swap-site partners had. Numbers have jumped!

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Saturday, November 18th, 2006

8,388,608 books—sort of

Last night LibraryThing hit 8,388,608 books. That’s not books in LibraryThing—which stands at 7,268,540—but books ever in LibraryThing, including ones later deleted and some shadows. You might not think it, but 8,388,608 is a significant number. It’s half of 224, the largest number you can store in three bytes. It’s also the limit for MySQL’s “signed medium integer.” It’s 111111111111111111111111. The drawers are full of ones and there ain’t no twos.

Anyway, we hit the brick wall last night. I had previously expanded the book number field, but I forgot to change the databases that store some related metadata and reviews. So, last night, you couldn’t add a book, and this morning you couldn’t review one.

I’m really sorry about this. We’re good to go now. We won’t hit another wall until 8.4 billion books.

Interestingly, the same thing happend to Slashdot last week. Even Homer nods.

PS: I also fixed a bad problem with “search all fields.” Some queries ran quickly but some took ten or twenty minutes, by which time the user has generally gone on to better things (after re-running the query a dozen times which, let me tell you, doesn’t help much). It turns out MySQL was making periodic mis-guesses about which index to use. Somehow the index with eight million integers looked better than the one with a few hundred strings.

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