Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

New Local: LibraryThing Local Gets a Redo

We’re very excited to announce a whole series of improvements to LibraryThing Local, your gateway to tens of thousands of bookstores, libraries, book festivals, author readings and other bookish venues and events.




The major improvements are:

Speed. As the data grew, Local got slow, especially if you lived somewhere like New York. The html pages for places like that were also gigantic. (And I mean gigantic. They crashed browsers!) New Local is much faster, with page-load times of a few seconds at most, and pages under 100k.

Better, bigger maps. You can now zoom, click and drag the maps and new venues will come in dynamically. (Before they just stopped outside the sample area.) Each map also has a full page mode (see New York, NY) that fills the page.

More venues! More events! Our recent push for events produced a huge influx of new venues and events. We also wrote special scrapers for most of the major publishers, and B&N and IndieBound stores, which more-than-doubled what users entered.

We’re up to 80,500 venues, including 28,000 bookstores and 45,000 libraries, and 118,000 bookish events, including nearly 10,000 upcoming.

All-in-all, we’re confident that no other source has as much information on bookish events as LibraryThing Local.

Books for Ghana. We’re also extremely pleased that by adding events to LT Local, members raised more than $1,700 for needy readers. So far we’ve contributed $600 of that to Keith Goddard’s Books4Ghana campaign on Indiegogo, putting that effort over the top. This will fund the shipping of several thousand books to the Bright Future School in Keta, Ghana this spring. We hope to work with Keith more going forward.

New version of Readar. We’ve updated Readar (formerly Local Books) to make it compatible with the 5S.

If you haven’t used it yet, Readar is a simple app for bookstores, libraries and bookish events near you. I use it all the time at home—every time I want to call a bookstore, they’re all right there. And I use it whenever I go on a trip, so I know where to spend my free time.

Local Members. The Local members page, which shows members near you who’ve chosen to make their location public, has been thoroughly revamped and updated, with a pleasant checkerboard view. It’s on “infinite scroll,” so that it loads ahead of you, like Pinterest. The members are sorted semi-randomly, with members who are more active on LibraryThing or share something with you nearer the top.

To add a public location, or remove yours, edit your profile. As of now, only about 27% of members have public locations. You also have a “private location,” so you can find out what’s going on in your town without telling anyone where that is!

Profile page changes. Just some slight tweaking on your profile page: we’ve moved the “About me” and “About my library” sections up a bit, so they now appear before your lists of groups and favorite authors and venues. We’ve added a “Favorite venues” link directly to your LT Local Favorites page.

Event filtering. Back in November we added a way for members to filter out events they didn’t have any interest in seeing. We’ve expanded that to filter out some less “pertinent” events—mostly all the Nook demos at B&N stores—at a global level, so they won’t show unless you want them to. You can toggle to seeing absolutely everything by choosing “all” instead of “most” above event lists.

Helper stats. We’re rearranged the Stats/Memes page a bit, adding a Helper section where you can see all your Helper badges, your Common Knowledge contributions, and your additions to LibraryThing Local. The new Local page shows all the venues and events you’ve added so far. (See yours or MDGentleReader‘s.)

Better Venue Linking. Linking up the brief location info on publishers sites (eg., “Tattered Cover, Denver”) to their real-life LibraryThing venues (e.g., this) has become a crucial step in getting so many events in LT Local. We’ve improved the Help Connect Bookstores and Libraries to LibraryThing page to help helpers out more—providing a list of best matches. It speeds things up enormously. (Many thanks to MDGentleReader, rosalita, eromsted, lilithcat, SqueakyChu and many others for doing so many the old way.)

Talk about it. Come talk about the changes here! If you find a bug, tell us here.

Labels: events, librarything local, new features

Monday, February 4th, 2013

February Early Reviewers batch is up!

The February 2013 batch of Early Reviewer books is up! We’ve got 110 books this month, and a grand total of 3,871 copies to give out.

First, make sure to sign up for Early Reviewers. If you’ve already signed up, please check your mailing address and make sure it’s correct.

Then request away! The list of available books is here:
http://www.librarything.com/er/list

The deadline to request a copy is Monday, February 25th at 6 p.m. EST.

Eligiblity: Publishers do things country-by-country. This month we have publishers who can send books to the US, Canada, the UK, and more. Make sure to check the flags by each book to see if it can be sent to your country.

Thanks to all the publishers participating this month!

Algonquin Books Henry Holt and Company Tundra Books
Chronicle Books Random House The Permanent Press
Riverhead Books Taylor Trade Publishing Putnam Books
Ballantine Books Prospect Park Books Entangled Publishing
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books Union Books Quirk Books
Illuminated Publications, LTD Plume Petra Books
University Press of New England Eerdmans Books for Young Readers Random House Trade Paperbacks
Rovira i Virgili University Press Oxford University Press Spiegel & Grau
William Morrow Randall House Publications JournalStone
Hunter House Orbit Books WaterBrook Press
HarperCollins Greyhart Press Stone Bridge Press
BookViewCafe Palgrave Macmillan Istoria Books
Galaxy Audio Prufrock Press Gotham Books
Avery St. Martin’s Griffin Ripetta Press
Information Today, Inc. Orca Book Publishers Zest Books
CyberAge Books Crown Publishing Bellevue Literary Press
Thomas House Publishing A & N Publishing Open Books

Labels: early reviewers, LTER

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Join the 75 Books Challenge for 2013!

Looking for a fun way to get more involved with LibraryThing? Join the 75 Books Challenge for 2013, one of the site’s most active (and entertaining) groups. Members take a stab at reading 75 books over the course of the year (although, as the group description notes, “It turns out we care less about the numbers than we do about the exchange of book info and the community of readers”). Your mileage will vary.

Participants are invited to start a thread and list/discuss what they’re reading (here’s the full list so far), but the group goes way beyond that, with monthly Take It Or Leave It (TIOLI) challenges, monthly themes, group reads, meetups, and more.

This is the sixth year of the LT 75 Books Challenge, and it gets more and more interesting every time. I’ve joined the fray for the second time this year (you can see my reading thread here): I had a great deal of fun last year, and am excited to be back in the game for 2013!

The activity level is fairly high, but there’s a handy wiki to help you keep things straight, and of course the members of the group are always helpful to new members. Most importantly, it’s a fun way to meet other LibraryThing members and discuss what you’re reading (also, be warned, your wishlist is very likely to grow by leaps and bounds!).

To participate, just jump right in by visiting the group page. And have fun!

Labels: groups, reading

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

January LTER Batch is up!

The January 2013 batch of Early Reviewer books is up! We’ve got 84 books this month, and a grand total of 2,750 copies to give out.

First, make sure to sign up for Early Reviewers. If you’ve already signed up, please check your mailing address and make sure it’s correct.

Then request away! The list of available books is here:
http://www.librarything.com/er/list

The deadline to request a copy is Monday, January 28th at 6 p.m. EST.

Eligiblity: Publishers do things country-by-country. This month we have publishers who can send books to the US, Canada, the UK, and more. Make sure to check the flags by each book to see if it can be sent to your country.

Thanks to all the publishers participating this month!

Bethany House WaterBrook Press Quirk Books
Algonquin Books Henry Holt and Company Penguin Young Readers Group
Tundra Books Hudson Whitman/ Excelsior College Press The Permanent Press
Taylor Trade Publishing HarperCollins Ballantine Books
Human Kinetics Crown Publishing Dragonfairy Press
Scribner Books Palgrave Macmillan Greenleaf Book Group
Chronicle Books Random House Apex Publications
Leafwood Publishers Universal Technical Systems Hunter House
Sakura Publishing Orbit Books CarTech Books
Simon & Schuster Grey Gecko Press Riverhead Books
Random House Trade Paperbacks Chin Music Press BookViewCafe
Signet Lion Fiction Gotham Books
Orca Book Publishers Open Books JournalStone
Nonstop Press Prufrock Press Dragonwell Publishing
Winged Victory Press William Morrow B&H Publishing Group
Safkhet Soul

Labels: early reviewers, LTER

Friday, January 4th, 2013

December SOTT & Author Interviews

December’s State of the Thing, LibraryThing’s monthly newsletter of features, author interviews and various forms of bookish delight, should have made its way to your inbox by now. You can also read it online. It includes interviews with authors Simon Garfield and Douglas Hunter.

I talked to Simon Garfileld about his new book On the Map: A Mind-Expanding Exploration of the Way the World Looks , published by Gotham Books last month. Some excerpts:

I’m going to begin by asking you the first question I asked Ken Jennings when I talked to him about his book Maphead: so what is it about maps, anyway? Why are so many people so fascinated by them?

Maps have helped define what makes us human. Maps were one of the earliest forms of communication, almost certainly existing before language and speech. I’m inclined to agree with Richard Dawkins when he suggests that our ability to draw maps—to show fellow hunters where the juicy elk were—was a key factor in expanding the size of our brains, enabling the leap from apes to homo-sapiens. Beyond all this, maps are frequently beautiful artifacts, telling the best stories in a direct way. The idea of the book was to retell the best of these stories. And occasionally, of course, maps just help us get from A to B.

What first got you interested in maps, and when?

I first got hooked as a boy travelling on the London Underground at the age of 10. The famous Harry Beck tube map—now copied all over the world—was in every carriage and platform. I didn’t realize its significance (geographically it’s incredibly inaccurate, but as a diagram it’s a great piece of information engineering), but I was entranced by the names on it and its possibilities. The prospect of travelling to the end of any of the lines—Amersham at the end of the Metropolitan line, say—seemed as exotic and far away as Antarctica. I’ve collected tube maps ever since, and now framed copies line my hallway at home.

What have you read and enjoyed recently?

Two books I’ve loved of late: Walking Home by Simon Armitage, a funny account of a soggy walk across the Pennine Way from Derbyshire to Scotland, reading poetry at some unlikely venues en route to pay his way. And an oldie but goodie: 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff, the classic epistolary account of a tough American lady’s relationship with a London bookshop and its staff (and its books).

Read the rest of our interview with Simon Garfield.

I also had the chance to talk with Douglas Hunter about his recent book The Race to the New World: Christopher Columbus, John Cabot, and a Lost History of Discovery (Palgrave Macmillan).

Christopher Columbus is, of course, a household name, but John Cabot may not be known to many readers. Who was this man, and what did he do?

John Cabot (as he was known in England) was a Venetian citizen who persuaded England’s Henry VII in 1496 to grant him some fairly generous rights to prove a westward route across the Atlantic to Asia’s riches. His first try in 1496 was a failure, but his second voyage in 1497 made the first known landfall since the Vikings somewhere in northeastern North America, probably in southern Labrador or the coast of Newfoundland. At the time, Columbus hadn’t moved beyond Caribbean islands in his own discovery efforts.

Cabot was a bit of an odd duck. He wasn’t a seasoned mariner. He was a hide trader who dabbled in property renovation and fled creditors in Venice in the 1480s for Spain. Reinventing himself as a marine construction engineer, Cabot pitched the king, Fernando, on an artificial harbor scheme for Valencia in 1491-92. Fernando and Cabot couldn’t line up the money for that project, and Cabot next surfaced in the historical record in 1494 in Seville, the headquarters of the Columbus scheme, overseeing an important bridge project. But Cabot appears not to have done any work on it, and by December 1494 he was essentially being run out of town by displeased nobles. Reinvented himself yet again, Cabot surfaced at the court of Henry VII in England, in January 1946, with his Asia voyage scheme. And so this considerable rival to Columbus emerged from within Columbus’s own milieu.

You suggest that Cabot may have accompanied Christopher Columbus on his second voyage, in 1493. Lay out the evidence for us, and explain what this finding might mean for our understanding of the history of exploration (or for Cabot and Columbus themselves).

What’s really puzzling about Cabot’s career is how he managed to persuade Henry VII to grant him such generous rights for an Asia voyage in 1496 when he had no apparent track record as an expert mariner, let alone as an exploration promoter.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that English mariners out of Bristol already may have reached the New World, perhaps earlier than 1470. Cabot could have tapped into this lost knowledge in proposing his voyage to Henry VII. But if that awareness was circulating, why didn’t Henry give the job and its many privileges to an Englishman? Henry was a shrewd and tight-fisted ruler. Something about Cabot’s pitch persuaded him that this Venetian deserved the rights handed over to him.

There is more to this than I can explain here, but the most compelling case Cabot could have made for the rights he secured was that he had already been to Asia, and so he knew how to get there. Cabot was a bit of a confidence man. I think either he claimed something he hadn’t done, or he had actually already had been to Asia, or the New World, rather, with Columbus. There are a couple bits of circumstantial evidence to support the distinct possibility that Cabot had been on the second Columbus voyage, which departed Spain in September 1493.

One of the bits of evidence I use is a really opaque letter written by the Spanish monarchs to their ambassador in London in early 1496. I engaged the help of an academic expert in early Spanish, and the letter seems to refer to Cabot as “the one from the Indies.” Anyone interested in the tough slogging of historical translation should visit my website, follow the link for this book, and read the essay about “lo de las yndias.”

What’s your own library like? What sorts of books would we find on your shelves?

As I’m in the middle of doctoral studies, not surprisingly my shelves are groaning with works of history. My main doctoral fields, Canadian history and Aboriginal history, account for a lot of what’s at hand. There are also a couple shelves full of works dedicated to exploration. A lot of those are reference books, from the Hakluyt Society and Repertorium Columbianum for example, with annotated transcriptions of key sources. I do read for pleasure, both fiction and nonfiction, though.

Read the rest of our interview with Douglas Hunter.


Catch up on previous State of the Thing newsletters.

If you don’t get State of the Thing, you can add it in your email preferences. You also have to have an email address listed.

Labels: author interview, state of the thing

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

Welcome KJ!

We are very pleased to welcome KJ Gormley (LT member kjgormley) to the LibraryThing team. KJ will be assisting Abby and Kate by providing technical and customer support for our LibraryThing for Libraries products (see the job post).

KJ grew up on the coast of Maine and earned her BA in Cultural Anthropology from Smith College. After school, she went to work for the Skidompha Public Library in Damariscotta, Maine, where she worked in the Development department and did technology assistance. She moved to Portland in September, and enjoys watching the sun set over Back Bay from her window. KJ will be joining Tim and Jeremy in working most of the time at LibraryThing HQ in Portland.

When not reading, KJ enjoys writing fiction, making a fool of herself at dance classes, playing ukulele, and sampling the Portland food culture. She is currently reading and watching her way through the collected works of Shakespeare. Her favorite authors are Robertson Davies, Ruth Ozeki, Neil Gaiman, and John Irving.

You can follow KJ on Twitter at @kjgormley.

Labels: employees, LTFL

Monday, December 17th, 2012

LT Staff’s Favorite 2012 Reads

I asked everyone on the LT staff to put together a list of their five favorite reads from 2012. Here’s what they came up with:

Tim:

The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene.

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell.

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann.

Why Big Fierce Animals are Rare: An Ecologist’s Perspective by Paul A. Colinvaux.

Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl (with my son).


Abby:

The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro.

Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeannette Winterson.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan.

Abby adds “Because picking just 5 is hard, honorable mention to: The Rook by Daniel O’Malley, Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness, and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.”


Chris H.:

Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham.

The Fourth Part of the World by Toby Lester.

The Icon Handbook by Jon Hicks.

The Art of Urban Sketching by Gabriel Campanario.

The Road to Ubar by Nicholas Clapp.


Jeremy:

Charles Jessold, Considered as a Murderer by Wesley Stace.

The Passage of Power by Robert Caro.

The Rector and the Rogue by W.A. Swanberg (the new edition edited by Paul Collins).

The Social Conquest of Earth by E.O. Wilson.

The Stockholm Octavo by Karen Engelmann.

Honorable mentions here for The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King and PYG: The Memoirs of a Learned Pig by Russell A. Potter. NB: I always post a top ten fiction and a top ten non-fiction list on my blog on December 31, so check in there at the end of the year for the complete list.


Kate:

How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran.

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed.

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides.

Kate gives an honorable mention to Pulphead: Essays by John Jeremiah Sullivan.


Mike:

The Blinding Knife by Brent Weeks.

In the Woods by Tana French.

The Riyria Revelations (series) by Michael J. Sullivan.

Chronicles of the Black Company by Glen Cook.

Hide and Seek by Ian Rankin.


Seth:

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Hunter.

PHP Master: Write Cutting-Edge Code by Davey Shafik.


What were your favorite 2012 reads? Come tell us here.

Labels: holiday, lists, reading, top five

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

End-of-2012 ReadaThing!

Mark your calendars! Coming up soon is the special End-of-2012 ReadaThing! All are welcome, and you don’t have to read for the full week: the goal is to have a few people from around the world reading at any given time during the ReadaThing. You don’t even have a pick a set time if you don’t want to – just dip in and out as your reading schedule permits!

The official start time will be at midnight on Sunday, 23 December UTC: that’s 7 p.m. Saturday in the Eastern US/Canada/LT time zone. This ReadaThing will have a staggered ending at midnight local time on January 1, 2013, to ring in the New Year in true LT style. See the time chart here.

For more information, see the announcement thread; to sign up, head right to the ReadaThing wiki. As we get closer to the date, we’ll add threads where you can post what will you be reading, and during the ReadaThing you can use the “Log Book” thread to document your ReadaThing experience.

For more on ReadaThings, and to participate in planning future events, join the ReadaThing group.

Labels: holiday, readathon, reading

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Welcome Seth, LT’s new sysadmin!

We are delighted to welcome Seth Ryder (LT member sryder) to the LibraryThing staff. Seth is our new systems administrator, and aside from all the usual system-administrator-type stuff, we threw him into the deep end last week by having him help us out with SantaThing ordering on his fourth day on the job!

Seth grew up in a small town outside Grand Rapids, Michigan. He worked for a large hosting company in the midwest where he spent his time as a Systems Administrator and even dabbled with a bit of quality assurance work for their internal development team. He has also has been doing freelance development for a few small companies over the past three years. At LibraryThing, Seth steps in to succeed Brian Stinson, who left LT for a great job at Kansas State University, where he’s working on his graduate degree in political science.

When he’s not busy keeping LibraryThing up and running, Seth says he enjoys attending concerts, learning about new technologies, reading fantasy books, exploring local breweries with friends, and hacking on personal projects. His favorite authors include J.R.R. Tolkien, George R.R. Martin, J.K. Rowling, and Brandon Sanderson. You can follow him on Twitter at @sethryder.

Labels: employees, sysadmin

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

December LTER Batch is up!

The December 2012 batch of Early Reviewer books is up! We’ve got 87 books this month, and a grand total of 2,469 copies to give out.

First, make sure to sign up for Early Reviewers. If you’ve already signed up, please check your mailing address and make sure it’s correct.

Then request away! The list of available books is here:
http://www.librarything.com/er/list

The deadline to request a copy is Wednesday, January 2, 2013 at 6 p.m. EST.

Eligiblity: Publishers do things country-by-country. This month we have publishers who can send books to the US, Canada, the UK, Israel, and more. Make sure to check the flags by each book to see if it can be sent to your country.

Thanks to all the publishers participating this month!

Archipelago Books Taylor Trade Publishing Mulholland Books
Ballantine Books Random House Monarch Books
Quirk Books Henry Holt and Company Safkhet Fantasy
Safkhet Cookery Eerdmans Books for Young Readers WaterBrook Press
Dragonwell Publishing Bell Bridge Books Plume
Scribner Books The Permanent Press Kirkdale Press
JournalStone Algonquin Books Crown Publishing
Random House Trade Paperbacks CarTech Books Sunrise River Press
Fine Life Books Penguin Young Readers Group Crossed Genres Publications
Top Five Books Illuminated Publications, LTD BookViewCafe
Pink Petal Books Jupiter Gardens Press Humanist Press
Orca Book Publishers Demos Health Two Harbors Press
Copper Ridge Press Hunter House PublicAffairs
Portfolio Prufrock Press Glass House Press
Dog Ear Publishing

Labels: early reviewers, LTER