Archive for the ‘bookstores’ Category

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020

Interview with Sistah Scifi

Sistah Scifi

LibraryThing is interviewing people in the book industry who are affected by current events. This month, we caught up with Isis Asare of Sistah Scifi, founded to uplift sci-fi and literature written by Black women. 

1. What is the mission of Sistah Scifi and how did it come about?

Sistah Scifi is a cauldron of all things afrofuturism; afro-mysticism; Black sci-fi; and voodoo casting spells to uplift literature written by Black women

2. How would you define afrofuturism as a genre and why do you love it? What are some good books to start with for people unfamiliar with afrofuturism?

I love this definition from Wikipedia:

Afrofuturism is a cultural aestheticphilosophy of science and philosophy of history that explores the developing intersection of African diaspora culture with technology. It was coined by Mark Dery in 1993[1] and explored in the late 1990s through conversations led by Alondra Nelson.[2] Afrofuturism addresses themes and concerns of the African diaspora through technoculture and science fiction, encompassing a range of media and artists with a shared interest in envisioning black futures that stem from Afrodiasporic experiences.

Sistah Scifi

I enjoy Afrofuturism because I love thinking about technology and the future. Afrofuturism layers core tenants of African diasporic culture – ancient African religions, equality, freedom, family – in a way where I feel seen and valued as a reader.
Ytasha Womack literally wrote the book on Afrofuturism: “Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture.” That would provide great context.
Isis Asare of Sistah Scifi
I would recommend Octavia E. Butler’s work as a place to start. Folks unfamiliar with her work can join the Octavia E Butler Read-A-Long. You can find details here.

3. What are some things that the wider sci-fi community could do to better support Black sci-fi literature and authors?

There are two things all readers can do:

1. Read and recommend science fiction books by Black authors – not simply because they are Black or because it is trending now but because these are compelling and highly imaginative stories.

2. Look for independent authors in the space. Sistah Scifi will launch two titles by independent authors Nicole Givens Kurtz and Venus Kalie this week.

Isis Asare of Sistah Scifi

4. Tell us about your home library—what’s in it? How is it organized?

My home library is organized in four sections – business strategy books like The Innovators Dilemma; race, gender and political studies such as Women in Tech; self awareness such as Being Black: Zen and the Art of Living With Fearlessness and Grace; African American Literature such as The Bluest Eye; and Afrofuturism such as An Unkindness of Ghosts.

5. What are you reading now?

I am reading Pet by Awaeke Emezi for the SOULar Power Book club.

Thanks, Isis and Sistah Scifi!

Are you affiliated with an organization that you think we might want to feature in our interview series? Reach out to info@librarything.com.

Labels: bookstores, interview

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020

Interview with Tom Holbrook of RiverRun Bookstore

Independent bookstores are struggling right now. We are eager to talk to booksellers about what’s going on, how they are dealing with this ongoing crisis, and ways we can help. We talked with Tom Holbrook of RiverRun Bookstore in Portsmouth, NH.

How has River Run been managing the Coronavirus?

Like all retail in New Hampshire, our sales floor is closed to the public, but we can do curbside pickup. As a result, we are fielding phone calls and emails all day long. In addition to curbside pickup we are delivering books to Portsmouth and Kittery, and mailing books anywhere in the US. It’s a lot of work—a lot!—but at least we have work to do and it is keeping the store in people’s minds.

How can people help you out, or help out their local indie?

Our customers have been amazing, and our online friends have been great as well. Our online ordering site usually gets a few orders a week. Since this started we’ve been getting 10–12 a day. That’s really the best way for people to help us out – buy a book from our website. It’s good for us, and good for them! It’s my hope that we are winning people away from Amazon during this time, and will be able to keep them as loyal customers. We also launched a great t-shirt online to promote reading and social distancing, and hit our goal of 100 shirts in 4 days. Our offer runs through April 30, so it’s not too late to get one!

Tell us about your home library—what’s in it? How is it organized?

At home, I don’t have as many books as people imagine, because I just borrow them from the store (shh!), but I keep them in a yellow room with bookshelves along the wall. One case is full of my favorite books that I want to keep and share, the other 3 cases are full of books I haven’t got to quite yet!

What are you reading now?

Currently I am reading Night Boat to Tangier (RiverRun | LibraryThing) by Kevin Barry, which has definite Joyce overtones in its dialogue and flow. Rereading Once & Future (RiverRun | LibraryThing) by Cori McCarthy and Amy Rose Capetta. Best YA I read last year, and the sequel just dropped so I need a refresher. My 11yo daughter and I are working our way through the Wells and Wong mystery series (RiverRun | LibraryThing), and we both love it.

Thanks to everyone who supports indie bookstores!

See all bookstore interviews hereDo you run an independent bookstore and would like to be featured in our blog? Please reach out.

Labels: bookstores, interview

Thursday, March 19th, 2020

Interview with Josh Christie of Print: A Bookstore

Josh Christie of Print: A Bookstore

Josh Christie of Print: A Bookstore

LibraryThing interviewed Josh Christie, co-owner, with Emily Russo, of Print: A Bookstore, in Portland, Maine about his bookstore and what book lovers can do for bookstores during this crisis.

Q: How has Print handled the Coronavirus?

On March 16th, we closed our doors to the public. We’re anticipating reopening on March 30th, though this could certainly change—our course of action will be determined by advice from state and national authorities.

While our doors are closed, we’ve shifted to online (printbookstore.com) and phone orders. We’re offering free nationwide shipping or local delivery for orders over $20, and curbside pickup for orders of any size. We’re also letting people know about their options for ebooks and audio books from Print, via Papertrell and Libro.fm.

We’re also using the temporary closure to tackle administrative and back-end tasks in the store, like updating our website and point-of-sale system, as well as deep cleaning and organization. There’s no lack of things to do, and we hope to keep our entire staff on for their regularly scheduled hours while we weather this crisis.

Q: How bad is this for indie bookstores like yours?

It’s hard to overstate just how hard this will hit independent bookstores. Most stores—even profitable ones—operate with precious little cash on hand, so any interruption in income makes available funds dry up quickly. With margins on books generally running about 5–10 percent less than other goods (and little opportunity to adjust prices, as they’re printed on the product), an already thin-margin business is about to get much tougher. And, since most don’t warehouse books of their own, any disruption to local or international supply chains could make getting books to customers difficult.

There’s also book signings and author events, which are impossible in a time of social distancing. Events aren’t a huge part of the bottom line for every store, but for many (including ours), they’re significant. We’ve already cancelled everything through the start of April, and if the need to socially distance extends to the summer these will only grow.

Which is to say, I don’t think it will be any easy time for any business of any size, but some of the structural and economic realities of bookselling make it particularly fraught.

We’ve already seen stories about stores laying off or furloughing staff, and we’re undoubtedly at the start of this rather than the end. For the majority of stores, I have to guess the best case scenario is a big impact on income and a reduction of payroll. For many, I fear this will result in closures.

Q: How can LibraryThing members help Print and other indies?

The most direct way to support bookstores like ours is to shop with us. The most significant impact would be made by buying gift certificates, which immediately injects cash into our businesses. However, any purchases are a huge help. It’s also still a great time to preorder books, which don’t provide income now but guarantees future business.

And, while it’s not a form of financial support, following our stores on social media and signing up for our newsletters will help us get the word out about how we’re navigating this crisis. Similarly, even if you aren’t in a position to buy from us, boosting and promoting us to others will get more people through our (virtual) doors.

We always end with two questions.

Q: Tell us about your home library. What’s in it, and how is it organized?

I live alone in a pretty small one-bedroom apartment, but there are multiple bookcases and bookshelves in each room (including a few I added to the walls myself when I ran out of space). I’ve been a buyer for bookstores for almost a decade, so I’ve got a pretty even split of finished books and bound manuscripts/galleys. My tastes tend toward narrative nonfiction, largely contemporary, and most of what I have reflects that. I’ve also written a few books, including one on the history of beer in Maine, so I’ve got a lot of older books about beer, brewing, and Prohibition.

Organizationally, it’s a bit of a mess. 7 or 8 years ago I scanned every book I owned into my library on LibraryThing, but at this point I’ll admit I don’t have a great sense of what I have or where it is. I could lie and say it’s meant to inspire browsing and seeing what strikes my fancy, but it’s really just laziness.

Q: What are you reading now?

As always, I have a few half-finished books scattered around me. There’s You Never Forget Your First (>Print | LibraryThing), the first significant biography of George Washington from a woman, by Alexis Coe. It reminds me quite a bit of Stacy Schiff’s Cleopatra (Print | LibraryThing) and Emily Wilson’s Odyssey (Print | LibraryThing) in how it recontextualizes history we’ve heard a million times. And then there’s Michele Harper’s The Beauty in Breaking (Print | LibraryThing), a memoir from a female African American emergency room physician being published by Riverhead Books this summer. I’m also a person who actually reads cookbooks from front to back (I love food writing, and recipes with a voice), and Alison Roman’s Nothing Fancy (Print | LibraryThing)  is on my nightstand. Finally, Homie by Danez Smith (Print | LibraryThing). Smith has been a favorite of mine since his 2015 collection Black Movie (Print | LibraryThing), and I’ve been slowly devouring his new collection over the last few weeks.

 

Labels: bookstores, interview

Sunday, April 7th, 2013

Mark the bookstores and libraries you’ve visited

UPDATE: See below for some new privacy controls we’ve added.

LibraryThing has long had a way to mark your favorite bookstores and libraries from LibraryThing Local, LibraryThing’s database of more than 80,000 bookish venues and 60,000 upcoming events.

Today we’ve added a way to mark places you’ve visited—in general or, by a simple “check in” button, the day you visit somewhere. You also get new lists of where you’ve been, and maps.

Here’s what the new visited options look like on a venue page.

By default everything you mark as favorite is also marked “visited.” But you can un-click “visited,” if a place is a favorite but you haven’t visited it.

Update: I’ve changed it so that the default is that favorites do NOT show up “venues visited.” To make them show up there, either mark them as visited or edit your local settings. By popular request on Talk, I’ve also added new settings to allow members to make both venue favorites and venue visited private—visible to themselves only. Here’s what the options look like, with the default state. Understand, venue favorites have ALWAYS been public. So this is an increase in user privacy. (Note that author favorites are still public. We will work to make them optionally private.)

Here’s the “Your visited” page, listing all the venues you’ve visited and the ones you’ve checked into. At present, all check-ins are public. (There will be preference options soon.)

Here’s what the large map of venues you’ve visited looks like:

You can see my list of visited venues and my large map. They’re a work in progress, but it’s liberating to be able to record all venues, not just those I want to mark out as special favorites.

Whether on a venue page, your visited page or in your News Feed page, you can share your status on Facebook and Twitter. When you click “share” it looks like it usually does:

Let us know what you think, report bugs or suggest improvements on Talk at New Features: Mark the bookstores and libraries you’ve visited.

Labels: bookstores, librarything local, new feature, new features

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

Let’s show our love for Longfellow Books!

width="300"During last weekend’s blizzard, our much-beloved independent bookstore here in Portland, Longfellow Books (see them on LibraryThing Local), suffered significant damage when a water line in the building’s sprinkler system froze and caused torrents of water to pour through the ceiling directly onto the books. Co-owner Chris Bowe told the local paper that as much as half of the stock was damaged by water: much of the rest was saved by the quick actions of the Portland fire department.

I’ve heard from several of you this week asking how we can help. For now, the single best thing we can do to show our love for Longfellow is to buy some books from them. They’re taking orders by phone (207-772-4045) and through their website, and they’ve printed up some limited edition Flood of 2013 Gift Certificates, which you can order online. It’s even International Book Giving Day, so what better time than the present? (Also, it’s Valentine’s Day, and books make great gifts for that special someone!).

The Longfellow staff have been working hard all week to try and get the store open in time for their Pussy Riot Valentine’s Day Benefit event tonight at 7 p.m., and once they get things back up and running they may have other/different ways we can volunteer and help out. We’ll be sure to pass those along to you all. For now, head on over to longfellowbooks.com and buy a book (or six) or a gift card. Let’s help show Longfellow how much we care!

[Update: Just after we posted this the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance also announced some other ways to help – check those out here].

Labels: bookstores, love, portland

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Free accounts for bookseller reference libraries!

A good reference library is a must-have for any bookseller, but having a wide range of useful reference sources at hand is particularly necessary for the booksellers who operate at the used/rare/antiquarian end of the spectrum. If you’ve ever had a chance to browse through a really good bookseller reference library, you’ll know immediately what I’m talking about (and, like me, you’ve probably had to be practically dragged away from the shelves).

Brooke Palmieri, a bookseller at Sokol Books, Ltd. in London (read a profile of Brooke from the Fine Books Blog’s “Bright Young Things” series here, or check out her excellent blog, 8vo), has been cataloging Sokol’s reference library on LibraryThing (Sokol_Books_Ltd), and that got me thinking about ways we might be able to encourage other booksellers to use LibraryThing for their reference collections. A good first step: free accounts for everyone!

So, as of today, we’re offering free lifetime LibraryThing memberships to booksellers who are members of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association (ABA), Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America (ABAA) or the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB)!*

Just open an organizational account on LibraryThing and email me (jeremy@librarything.com) with the username you choose, and I’ll upgrade it to lifetime status. You commit to adding your reference library to LibraryThing. It doesn’t have to be immediately, of course; booksellers are some of the busiest people I know! You’ll have a useful catalog of your reference books, and the world will be able to (virtually) browse your shelves. And if you want a hand cataloging, let me know that too – we can almost certainly pull together a merry band of LibraryThing volunteers to come help sometime (and, ahem, do some shopping too!).

Huge thanks to Brooke for providing the impetus for this, and for the picture (a portion of the Sokol Books collection). She noted on Twitter this morning that the reason she started cataloging on LT was that the library “isn’t consistently organized & I when I first started working I needed to learn its contents FAST. I have heard horror stories of firms owning multiple copies of expensive bibliographies because their libraries are disorganized … so cataloguing a ref library saves 1) time 2) money 3) teaching other employees what you have committed to muscle memory.” If we can help at all with any of that, we’re happy to!

Mmm, bookstores. For more ways to use LT, see our How Bookstores Can Use LibraryThing page.


* If you’re a bookseller and not a member of those assocations, but have a large reference library you want to catalog on LibraryThing, just email me; we’ll make it work.

Labels: booksellers, bookstores, references

Friday, October 21st, 2011

LibraryThing Meetup in Boston!

Are you up for a day of bookish enjoyment, food, and LibraryThing socializing? Join us on Saturday, November 12 for a series of meetups in Boston, centered around the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair, one of the best book fairs in the country!

We’ll begin the day by meeting for brunch at 10 a.m. at Trident Booksellers and Cafe on Newbury Street and stop in at Raven Used Books’ Newbury Street location before the book fair opens at noon (at the Hynes Convention Center).

Commonwealth Books is providing free passes for the book fair, and offering at 15%-off discount to LTers for Saturday, so after we’ve seen the fair we can head downtown during the afternoon for visits there and to the Brattle Book Shop. In the evening, we’ll go out to Cambridge for dinner and visits to Harvard Bookstore and the Raven location on JFK Street.

Help us plan in the Talk thread, and sign up on the wiki page to let us know what meetups you might attend (feel free to come to as many or as few as you like!). We hope to see you in Boston!

Labels: bookstores, boston, meet up, members

Monday, November 16th, 2009

Local Book Search: A new way forward for bookselling

We’ve just released a slew of new features (see overview). We hope members like them all, but Local Book Search is the most important. I won’t mince words: it is intended to change bookselling forever.

The Idea. It’s a simple idea: a location-based search for books. After all, you can ask Google for pizza where you live. But you can’t do it with books, until now.

Just Show Me the Feature! Here are some sample links:

Imagine if all the bookstores and libraries in central London were searchable.

The Vision. More and more people look to the web, even for local information. I can’t remember the last time I checked a newspaper for movie times or local music. Bookstores, however, have largely stayed off the “local web.” Those that expose their holdings do it inconveniently. Many don’t at all, either because their systems are old, or on principle. And nobody has ever tried to tie it all together, like Local Book Search attempts to do.

Physical bookstores often complain about online prices, but a lot of the problem is just convenience. If I lived in San Fransisco and wanted a copy of Steinbeck’s The Moon is Down, I probably wouldn’t bother to call up all my local bookstores; Amazon is quick and easy, and will surely have it. Local Book Search find a half dozen copies, new and used, in just seconds.

At a minimum, this is a cool test. Maybe bookstores will prefer to keep their holdings information to themselves and shut us out. A bookstore near me won’t participate because they think the information is “valuable” and, if it were online, “people would know what we don’t have.” I think that sort of thinking is the road to a world without bookstores.

Online bookselling is here to stay. It’s a wonderful thing. Same-day online delivery, as recently offered by Amazon, is something new. But physical book stores are also very important. We hope local book search can be one of the things they need to survive and prosper.

Who are you searching? The list currently stands as follows:

How are you doing it? We’re doing it in a mix of ways. A number of bookstores, including Powells, Porter Square and City Lights, send us their files. We have special permission from Abebooks too, so we pre-parse the Abebooks sellers.* (Members have helped us connect them to LibraryThing.) Indigo/Chapters gave us their blessing, and a convenient way to do it.

The rest involve just-in-time searches. Every system is different, so we’ve written a special connector for each, but the usual pattern is some sort of multiple-ISBN fetch. In every case, we’ve obeyed a site’s “robots.txt” file–going only where we’re allowed, and hitting a website no faster than once per second. That’s also why we’ve stayed off some biggies, like Barnes and Noble–their store holdings pages are prohibited by robots.txt.

Why aren’t there more indies? We introduced basic bookstore integration back in 2006 (!), taking only indies. It never really took off, because we couldn’t convince IndieBound to offer access to the files, and, I think, asking booksellers to upload their file to IndieBound and then LibraryThing was a hard sell.

Since then, we’ve pushed hard to get indies involves, with no success. We even lost our first participant, when Ann Arbor’s Shaman Drum went out of business. Those who follow our Twitter stream will remember a lot of hand-wringing over the topic. (In fairness, IndieBound has expressed interest, but they are still working on their platform.) So, we went and did it outselves, with whom we could.

The “connectors” all take about the same amount of time, whether we pick up 400 stores in Borders, or a single store in the Strand. So, by time, we’ve spent most of it integrating with indies. We have a decent list of other indies to add, when we get the chance.

The Future. Obviously, we know this is bigger than LibraryThing. If you have an idea about where it should go, chances are we’ve had it too. We’re working on it.

We are, incidentally, aware that we’re weak on the library front. We have 40 libraries now and, if all LibraryThing for Libraries sites agreed, we could get up to 170 systems (more than 1600 buildings). Unfortunately, you can’t really screen-scrape most library systems; they tend to break under the strain. Nobody really has the data necessary, except perhaps for OCLC.

So, OCLC, how about it? Our peanut butter. Your chocolate. Don’t libraries deserve to be part of this? Can we let bygones be bygones?

What we need? Bookstores who want to participate should send me an email (tim@librarything.com) or a Tweet (@LibraryThingTim).

Bookstores concerned about LibraryThing servers hitting them too hard should also write us. We’re keeping close tabs on how often we scrape sites. (We also cache results for 24 hours.) In many cases, we could do it more efficiently, if we were allowed to access search pages, not just product pages. And we can try fewer ISBNs. Or, if you are able, we can parse your files and never hit your site.

All told, we think the traffic is good for you—it will get you sales. But we are conscious of limited technology budgets, and will work with you to increase the benefit, and decrease the potential cost.

Kudos. Thanks are owed to:

  • LibraryThing members who are helping us connect Abebooks to LibraryThing.
  • Abebooks. In theory, local book search could cut them out of the equation, as people walked into a store, instead of buying online. But they saw it as a valuable service to their members, and an overall win. Abebooks deserves applause for taking a risk.
  • Indigo/Chapters. Every time I deal with them, I marvel at how easy they make things. No meetings, just agreement to test it out. Indigo, like Abe, is Canadian. Is there something in the water?
  • Powell’s, Porter Square Book and (tiny) City Lights Books in Sylva, NC deserve thanks for being with us from the first. Because their method–sending us files–is so much easier for us, we’re planning to create some special features for them.
  • Programemrs Chris and Mike, and non-programmers Dan and Stephanie. The “Get this Book” and “Local Book Search” project took over two months, and involved huge amounts of new code, and also data entry. As Chris remarked, for most companies, “this would be a site.” It is an awesome achievement.

Come talk about it. Come talk about all this on Talk.


*Abebooks.com sellers already total over 1 million books, and we haven’t caught up with all the Abe-to-LibraryThing work members have done. We think they’ll end up around 1.5 million books total.

Labels: abebooks, booksellers, bookstore integration, bookstores, local book search, used bookstores

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

Introducing LibraryThing Local

Today we* unveil a major new section of the site, LibraryThing Local.

What is it? LibraryThing Local is a gateway to thousands of local bookstores, libraries and book festivals—and to all the author readings, signings, discussions and other events they host. It is our attempt to accomplish what hasn’t happened yet—the effective linking of the online and offline book worlds. Books still don’t fully “work” online; this is a step toward mending them.

LibraryThing Local is a handy reference, but it’s also interactive. You can show off your favorite bookstores and libraries (eg., mine include the Harvard Bookstore, Shakespeare and Company and the Boston Athenaeum) and keep track of interesting events. Then you can find out who else loves the places you do, and who else is going to events. You can also find local members, write comments about the places you love and more.

LibraryThing members rock. LibraryThing Local just opened, but for the past week we’ve let a few members in to check it out and add venues.** They went crazy!

Together, about two-dozen members added over 2,600 venues. The coverage is spotty, covering the members personal interests. So, Paris is a literary desert, but Chicago and Antwerp are a mess of little green and blue dots, and even frosty Juneau (pictured right) is done.*** LibraryThing Local would be boring without content, so everone owes a debt of gratitude to members like SilentInAWay (400), alibrarian (351), christiguc (302), Talbin (242), SqueakyChu (240), boekerij (217) and others for kicking things off so well.

This kind of passion give us hope that LibraryThing Local will swiftly become the web’s best, most complete source for finding bookstores and library—and for the events they throw. Unfortunately, we only got events working yesterday, so there are only 200 so far. Something to work on?

Authors! Publishers! Libraries! Bookstores! Right now, everyone can add events. But they won’t necessarily get to you, so go ahead and add your venues and events. We are experimenting with the concept of “claiming” a venue, so that a bookstore of library can assert control over its basic factual information. (You don’t control the comment wall, of course.) For now, you need to email us. Go to a venue for more details.

Beta, Forevah. LibraryThing Local is not “done.” It’s missing key features, like RSS. And it has a few bugs. For good or ill, that’s how we work around here.

The main planned improvements are:

  • RSS Feeds
  • Fine-grained privacy settings
  • Author and work integration
  • Enhanced features for bookstores and libraries that take part
  • More stats, like the most interesting events

I’ve started two discussion threads:

Needless to say, I can’t wait to see what members think of it. We’ll do our best to make it as good as we can.

Use BookTour! (We do not.) LibraryThing Local was something I’ve wanted to do since visiting Ireland a year ago and not knowing where the bookstores were. But I didn’t get serious about the idea until approached by BookTour.

BookTour is a startup founded by Chris Anderson, author of The Long Tail and the upcoming Free. Chris’ idea was to make a central site to collect information about authors on tour.

LibraryThing agreed to be BookTour’s first partnership. But along the way we ran into difficulties. We wanted strong venue information, so members could show off their favorite bookstores and libraries. BookTour is focused on the events more than venues, which include many duplicates. Eventually it became clear to me we were after different things, so we parted ways.

Although LibraryThing Local is now doing some of the same things, I hope blog readers will check out BookTour. I expect them to be adopted by other book-related sites and, at present, their data is more copious than ours. Certainly, no author should tour without first adding all their events there, and they have a very handy Excel-based upload option that will appeal to publicists with large numbers of events.


* Chris (conceptDawg), whose favorite bookstores include Bienvielle Books, built much of LibraryThing Local. Send praise his way!
**We released LibrayThing Local to a private but non-exclusive beta group two weeks ago. Later, after deciding not to use others site’s data (see above), we let members add their own venues, and later events.
***Best of all the Alaskan-adder, alibrarian, has no connection to Alaska whatsoever. He just got tired adding every library in New York City.

Labels: authors, book world, bookstores, librarything local, new feature, new features, publicists, publishers

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

Powell’s books!

Powell’s City of Books

Click on a store to see holdings.

Powell’s Books, “the world’s largest new and used bookstore,” located in Portland, OR, has joined our neighborhood bookstore program.

This means that work pages now show store-by-store availability from Powell’s, alongside the other bookstores you elect. You can click to find out details, hold the book or buy it online.

There are a couple of ways of add Powell’s to your LibraryThing “experience.” The easiest is to go to edit your profile. Down at the bottom you’ll see bookstores, including Powell’s.

In keeping with the neighborhood focus on the program, we’ve split the data out individual Powell’s locations, and not counted inventory in warehouses, whether in Oregon or elsewhere. This meant that—barring last-minute changes—if it shows up on LibraryThing, they have it in stock where it says. We’ve also broken up results into New, Sale and Used categories.

As elsewhere, we pull in all editions of a work, from the paperback to the hardback to the CD version—even versions in other languages. In some ways, this “works”-level view of Powell’s inventory goes beyond what they do. (And in some ways it’s more annoying, since LT’s first result may be the French version on eight-track tape.)

Our thanks go out to our new friends at Powell’s. The catalyst was apparently a rabid LTer at Powell’s—can the user reveal himself?—but I found everyone there extremely sympathique and eager to get this done.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention LT has a Powell’s Group. I’d love comments here, but I also started a post on Talk.

What it means. First, we hope this makes our Portland members happy; they’ve been agitating for us to do something with Powell’s for a long time now.

It may be a bigger win. So far, our bookstore program has been small. We still have only eleven bookstores in the system, six Powell’s stores and five others. But Powell’s is the biggest independent and a leader of them. We hope it convinces others to take advantage of us on this—completely free—service.

We’re particularly interested in getting Booksense stores in. We already parse the Booksense format, so we could add a few hundred stores with virtually no effort.

The big picture. On the web, books are broken. A few small parts are solved or on their way—Amazon, Abebooks.com, Google, Powells—and this gives many the illusion that books are a solved problem. But the rest of the “bibliosphere” isn’t where it could be. Libraries and publishers, authors and most bookstores are adrift, and not part of the conversation.*

But things are changing. One day—not too far off—local bookstores will be fully “on” the web, just like Amazon is. They’ll not only have websites, they’ll have feeds and APIs, and sites like LibraryThing will be able to give and get data seamlessly. You’ll be able to find a book in your town as easily as you find a pizza. They’ll be truly part of the web, not just on it.

We’re not there yet. Most of the bookstores we’ve worked with have had another, different data format. None have APIs.

But it’s going to happen! And we think that, if we keep working to hook up the pieces, we’ll be part of the solution.

*My correspondent at Powell’s asked me for examples. Here’s my rant/reply:

You can’t Google a book and find out where in town to get a copy. You can’t Google a book and find out whether your public library has a copy. Your library doesn’t know the author is touring the area. The author doesn’t know which independent bookstores are selling the most copies, and so where to read. Bookstore software is crap and most independent bookstores aren’t online at all. The second-largest US bookstore chain—Borders—is less online that Powell’s! Libraries are absolutely *terrible* online; you will rarely get a library in the first ten pages of a Google search because search engines can’t “see inside” library websites. Library data is largely inaccessible and dominated by an inflexible data monopoly. Book data is mostly from Amazon or from a welter of other companies that don’t or can’t help any but the largest providers. Publisher websites a seldom more than 1990s brochure-ware. Small presses sometimes have good websites, but aren’t included in the book-data game. There’s no online network for authors and agents. There isn’t even a decent “works” system for books—and to the extent there are systems like this, publishers and libraries have completely different systems.

PHOTO CREDIT: Powells.com.

Labels: bibliosphere, bookstore integration, bookstores, powell's books