Tuesday, October 11th, 2005

Universal Import files—and now web pages!

Universal Import is now truly universal. It accepts both files and web pages. I’ve successfully tested it with:

  • Delicious Library, Readerware, Book Collector
  • Amazon (Wishlists, Listmania, past orders), Barnes and Noble, Booksense
  • Bibliophil (export or URL), BookCrossing, Reader2, Listal, What Should I Read Next
  • Home-brewed text files
  • Mumbling ISBNs near your computer, rotary telephone or toaster

See the post below for more on how it works. Again, it won’t fetch your comments, the date you bought something or track down books without ISBNs, but it should do most of what you want most of the time. If you have problems, be specific about them. Go ahead and send me files and URLs.

Let me know if you end up drawing books from a site I haven’t mentioned. I’m keen to add it to the list.

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Tuesday, October 11th, 2005

Universal Import added

I’ve added a “Universal Import” feature. After wrangling with a dozen or so different formats, I chucked the nonsense and made a single Swiss-army-knife import. Universal Import works on:

  • Desktop applications like Delicious Library, Readerware, Book Collector, etc.
  • Online services that offer exports (eg., Bibliophil)
  • Home-cooked text-files, spreadsheets and databases

For each one, it grabs the ISBNs and looks them up against the libraries you specify. The upside is the data is fresh, top-quality and drawn from wherever you want—from Amazon to libraries in Turkey. The downside is that it only grabs the ISBNs. It doesn’t try to wrangle all the other stuff.

This was not done lightly. Individual filters take a long time to build and require all sorts of compromises. LibraryThing users clamoring for imports are distributed among a half-dozen applications and various home solutions. So, instead of making 5% of my users 100% happy, I decided to make 100% of my users 95% happy.

I hope you like it.

Coming tomorrow: Imports from web sites like Amazon and AllConsuming!

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Sunday, October 9th, 2005

Picture upload

I’ve added the ability to upload profile pictures, not just link to one somewhere else. Go to your profile and click “Edit your profile” to do this.

If this works reasonably well, I’ll also let people upload book covers. This will be restricted to paid users to avoid porn spam. (Also added to the terms.)

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Sunday, October 9th, 2005

Return of the divet / 400,000

Alert LibraryThing-ers will notice the return of the divet ( ) when adding books from libraries. Click it and get a lot more information about the book: ISBN, publication and physical description info, and sometimes even summaries and tables of contents. It’s a small change, but actually a sign of the skeleton poking through—the database and parsing changes necessary for adding Italian libraries and bulk imports from Delicious Library and other desktop applications. (My efforts to get the desktop book cataloging people to discuss synching—or really to even talk to me—have failed. It’s time for import filters.

Contest update: So far, only one person‘s sent in a book-pile photo (a good combo). Anyone else? I figured someone would want a free membership!

400,000. LibraryThing passed 400,000 books cataloged. At current pace we’ll hit 1/2 million when I’m in Cambridge, MA. I think that calls for a Scorpion Bowl at the Hong Kong Restaurant, don’t you?

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Wednesday, October 5th, 2005

Book-Pile Photo Contest

I’m getting very tired of my pile of books. It’s a bad pile, done in haste. But I’m seeing some fun “LibraryThing” photos on blogs and Flickr (my apologies for all the disarray LibraryThing is causing!). Wouldn’t it be fun to get more people’s library photos?

Therefore, I announce the first annual LibraryThing Book-Pile Photo Contest.

The rules:

  • Take a photo of a pile of books—something like the home page photo.
  • Some of the spines should face the camera so the titles can be read.
  • The books should be against a white or light background, so I can snip them out of the background easily in Photoshop.
  • Express your cleverness in the book-choice. Do not include yourself. I also think you should avoid football trophies, two-handed swords, etc, but go ahead and include dogs and cats. Don’t let the books fall on any babies.
  • By submitting the image you agree to allow LibraryThing to use it, as well as anyone else so long as they’re talking about LibraryThing or the contest.
  • Send original or otherwise large files to timspalding gmail.com, or just post it on Flickr and send me the URL.

The judging: If I get a lot of good stuff, I will probably do some sort of voting thing on LibraryThing. That would be fun. If not, the winner is whoever I want.

The benefit: Winner gets two free memberships and eternal glory. Two runners-up get one free membership each. Yeah, pretty pathetic.

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Wednesday, October 5th, 2005

Reviews up a notch

Users like Wyvernfriend (299 reviews!) are finally getting their due. Although reviews remain—and will remain—secondary to cataloging, they are now a bit more “out there.”

Check your profile for a reviews page, listing the books you’ve reviewed (if any). That page also lists the books that others have reviewed but you haven’t. Over on the Zeitgeist page, I’m now listing the most prolific reviews and the most-reviewed books.

In other news, you’ll notice that clicking on another user no longer automatically sorts the books according to whether or not you share them. Instead, the catalog tells you how many books you share and gives you a special link to see them. The processing time (comparing all your books against all someone else’s books) was really slowing LibraryThing down. Indeed, you should find things a little faster overall.

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Monday, October 3rd, 2005

Library for poor Brazilians—how to help?

A kind user sent me this inspiring October 2 LA Times story, “This Illiterate Brazilian’s Home Speaks Volumes,” about a poor Brazilian who, basically, started a library in his house.

I’d love to find somewhere to point people so they can donate. I’m sure even small donations would go a long way. If nobody official is collecting—some library association perhaps?—I’ll set up a collection page here.

There’d be nice symmetry there. LibraryThing has seen a lot of Brazilians since being profiled in two papers there.

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Monday, October 3rd, 2005

LibraryThing now searches thirty-one libraries

It’s official: LibraryThing has expanded to thirty-one libraries in thirteen countries.

Not only Australians and Canadians now have major collections in their countries, but also Turks, Danes, Swedes and Dutch. US collections like Yale and the University of Chicago add more scholarly heft, and a user reported that the University of California system is excellent for paperback science fiction.

In addition to the libraries, LibraryThing also works with all the Amazons—now including Amazon Japan. All the national Amazons can also be accessed using the LibraryThing/Amazon bookmarklet, which allows you to add books to your LibraryThing library while browsing on Amazon.

European diacriticals now work well, albeit with some library-specific glitches (eg., the Australian National Library strips accents out and the Royal Danish Library sends the strangest character set). But internal searches still have some diacritical problems…

More libraries

LibraryThing will continue to add libraries. Unfortunately, not all libraries present open web interfaces. Here are global and UK lists of some of the libraries that may work. Some, like the BL, use a format I haven’t designed for yet. Feel free to suggest items off the list, or other open Z39.50 libraries you know about.

Other news

  • LibraryThing will hit 325,000 books in about an hour. No, I’m not staying up for it.
  • I’ve been trying to promote the site to the mainstream media. It seems unfair that it’s been profiled in two Brazilian papers, but I can’t get the Boston Globe to pick it up. Sheesh, I should start reading the Herald.
  • I’ve been looking at similar sites, and pleased to discover LibraryThing’s user growth rate matches the hot social software site 43Things (see here, reporting 12,000 users in two months; LT did 6,000 in one month). 43Things has a bunch of employees and is bankrolled by Amazon (originally in secret).
  • LibraryThing is not bankrolled by Amazon or anyone else, nor are we going to sell our data to them. (Amazingly, I never really announced that before. You are a trusting lot.)
  • In related news, I just finished the site’s first Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. In the end, I decided against the naked-photography clause. Your pictures will be returned.

What I’m working on

  • I’m taking a breather on new libraries. Maybe users will suggest some good ones. It’s hard to know what to add sometimes. I stopped when I realized that a particular Swedish word probably meant “veterinary.” Not a top priority.
  • I’d like to add more data back into the search view. (The “little divet” that used to come up when you use the Library of Congress.)
  • I should add RSS. I’ve been promising it for ages.
  • Ditto power editing/tagging.

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Sunday, October 2nd, 2005

Interim post on multiple libraries

I’m going to blog tonight about a bunch of new features and the addition of some thirty libraries, now working well with language support. Before I do I wanted to ask if people are able to figure out the “more libraries” feature, and whether the libraries added to the experience. Do you use them? Is the user interface confusing? Do you want more ability to customize? Do you miss the little divet that used to give you the cataloging info for a book? (I do.)

So, the floor’s open for multiple-library issues…

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Friday, September 30th, 2005

LibraryThing adds 10 new libraries

LibraryThing has made another great leap forward. Until now LibraryThing drew exclusively on the Library of Congress and the five national “Amazons.”

Today ten more libraries have joined the mix:

  • United States: Boston University, The University of California system, The University of Chicago, Yale University
  • Britain: The National Library of Scotland, The London School of Economics, The National Library of Wales
  • Canada: The Canadian National Catalogue
  • Australia: The National Library of Australia
  • Denmark: Det Kongelige Bibliotek

Searching for books should also be faster, both because connections are shared between users and because you can now shift libraries when one doesn’t respond well.

It is a starter list. The US additions are a strong start. I hope Canadians, Australians and Danes will be happy seeing their national libraries included. Brits may feel the absence of Cambridge, Oxford and the British Library—the latter two are open and will be added. The French and Germans were, I confess, slighted, although the Canadian National Library has a lot of French literature. And what can I say to the Brazilians who have flocked in such numbers after LT was profiled in O Globo? I’ve looked and I will keep looking. I have an open Z39.50-based library in Portugal, but it is either down or on the blink. There are also some private universities in Brazil that are said to have open catalogs. I will find something for you!

There are a number of ramifications to the change that aren’t yet resolved:

  • Although I now have richer data and can populate additional fields, including series, language and edition, I have not yet exposed them to viewing and editing.
  • You will note that newly added books lack accents. Look on the bright side—they don’t have the wrong accents.
  • Fortunately, accents are coming. New books have a checkbox for “Update as cataloging data improves.” Keep this checked and accents will soon appear where once there was none. All I have to do is crack the obscure character set Marc records employ…

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