An irregular, irreverent, post-modern account of the surreal, the ordinary, and the bizarre happenings on and around the Felia lavender farm in Crete

Sunday, October 16, 2005

LibraryThing - a thing about book collections

During the past week I've been playing around with a website called (don't worry about typing the URL there's a link to it on the right side of this page just under the "iPower blogger" ad - just click either the "my library" link or the "powered by LibraryThing link to see the full thing) and although it's far from perfect it does offer some fascinating social things involving books - like finding people who share books with you; who has a library like yours and some other stuff like the LibraryThing widget on this blog.

Ostensibly it is supposed to be about cataloguing your book collection but in some ways that is its weakest part. OK, they now have an import feature but it is a very blunt instrument (despite it being touted as the Swiss Army knife of imports) and after my last import I spent damn nigh two days de-duplicating the results. If, like me, you have a lot of books with no ISBNs then getting your collection online is going to take you a while.

Gripes aside (for now anyway) I've managed to get a fair chunk of my collection online ( aboout 790 so less than half more but than a quarter) and I can play with the fun, social, features of LibraryThing that make it so addictive. I can see, for example, which books I have that nobody else has (well nobody on LibraryThing anyway). I can see how widespread the literary canon is among book owners. I can kind of peek into other peoples bookshelves and see books by writers I like that I haven't seen or heard of. I can get self-penned profiles of people who use LibraryThing.

There isn't a real community thing going yet but I expect it to happen - people who have common interests tend to chum up on the internet and book collecting is a pretty consuming habit/passion - and I can imagine active members spending a lot of time on the site. You are allowed to write your own reviews and that alone could take forever.

There's a Zeitgeist page on the site that is host to some statistically based lists that deserve a look:
25 largest libraries - surprisingly this top out at someone with a library of nearly 9,000 books (I guess the haven't ever thrown anything away);
Top 25 books - Harry Potter and Da Vinci Code crap tops this list depressingly, although Catcher In The Rye sneaks in;
Top 25 authors - J K Rowling tops this list - not surprisingly but there are a fair few sci-fi authors too so I suspect that there are a lot of SF fans on LibraryThing.

Currently the total number of books catalogued on LibraryThing runs to 499,939 but that only amounts to 271,030 unique books 271,030 - not too shabby but one wonders whether this is a representative sample.

There's one thing on the site that fascinates me and that I've emailed the owner about: when comparing your collection to find "similar libraries" one of the factors that is taken into account is the "obscurity" of your books! I suspect this may be a raw ratio that has to do with how many of the books in your collection are not owned by anybody else but nonetheless it's an interesting idea.

1 comment:

  1. Bet nobody on LibraryThing admits to owning "The Adventures of Toby Twirl" by Sheila Hodgetts;
    surely one of the greatest books ever written.