David Louis Edelman David Louis Edelman

Book-Geekity Fun with LibraryThing

I love snooping at other people’s libraries. Whenever I’m at someone’s house, you’ll usually find me with my head tilted to one side reading book jacket spines within the first ten minutes of walking in the door. I’ve been known to walk through IKEA paying much more attention to the books on the shelves than to the shelves themselves.

LibraryThing screen shotSo imagine my excitement when I discovered LibraryThing.

LibraryThing is basically a connected online database of your library. Search the database for books you own and add them to your digital library. Rate them, review them, tag them, comment on them, choose the cover and edition you own. See who else owns them, see what books other people who own them like. Track a user’s recent purchases or reviews with an RSS feed. (If you’re curious, you can view my profile or view my catalog.)

You might be thinking that Amazon already has some of these features. Yes it does, but that doesn’t make LibraryThing redundant. It seems to me that LibraryThing holds about the same relation to Amazon that a brick-and-mortar library holds to your local brick-and-mortar bookstore. Amazon tries to get you to pad your shopping cart at every turn by pointing out related items, add-ons, and discounts; LibraryThing is more concerned with building a book community where people with similar tastes can connect.

That doesn’t mean that LibraryThing is a non-profit. Clicking on book covers does take you to Amazon, and I presume that they get a cut of the sales in return. And the free cataloging of books only extends to the first 200 titles; to catalog an unlimited number of books, you need to pay $10 a year or $25 for a lifetime. LibraryThing just doesn’t shove the commercial upgrades in your face like Amazon does.

This lack of commercial pushiness may be LibraryThing’s best feature. As a result, the interface is clean, easy to navigate, and doesn’t clutter your browser with pop-up windows or ads.

You’re just left with… book-geekity fun. It’s like snooping through thousands of people’s libraries all at once.

The contents of a person’s library tells you a lot about the person herself. Does she own a lot of weighty contemporary literature? Escapist adventure novels? Tomes on politics and economics? A little of each? What would you do if you spotted Chapterhouse: Dune, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, and Clown Skits for Everyone sitting side by side on her shelves? (You could do what I did. Reader, I married her.)

More than that, the disposition of a person’s library tells you a lot about the character of the person herself. If you were to look at my library, for instance, you would see that many hardcovers are snugly encased in clear plastic Brodart covers, and there is nary a creased spine or a dogeared page to be found. I go out of my way to buy matched sets of books. You would conclude that I’m an anal retentive son of a bitch, and you’d be right.

I keep all my titles segregated by subject (science fiction, general fiction, nonfiction, poetry, etc.) and alphabetized by author. Each author’s works are sorted chronologically, with the occasional exception for numbered series. (Though may God have mercy on your soul if you suggest to me that The Magician’s Nephew is the first book in C. S. Lewis’s Narnia series instead of the sixth.)

LibraryThing lets book geeks like me fully engage their OCD tendencies, which is reason enough to buy in. Now I can sort, organize, catalog, and compare to my heart’s content in a safe online space.

Stop reading and go sign up already so I can start snooping in on your lives too.

(Update: Just before posting this, I discovered that LibraryThing actually plugged my book Infoquake on the official company blog, and listed me as one of 20 initial LibraryThing Authors. Thanks! Hope I can return the favor.)

Comments RSS Feed

  1. […] Another new one I spotted today at David Louis Edelman’s blog is called LibraryThing, which is a way to catalogue all the books you own online in a linked community. You can rate and review books, see who else owns the same items, check out other users’ new additions, and so on. I’ll report ion this one more thoroughly when I’ve given it a proper test. And lastly, I’ll re-plug a few tools I use already, and that most serious bloggers are already on top of. These may be of some interest to readers who aren’t quite so far down the web rabbit-hole yet, because it’s amazing how quickly you start to realise the benefits of them. […]

  2. Horia Nicola Ursu on May 25, 2006 at 1:03 pm  Chain link

    This LibraryThing thing seems to be exactly my thing. :) I’ll probably spend my next night exploring it. Thanks for pointing it out, Dave.

  3. anderson parker on July 31, 2006 at 9:45 pm  Chain link

    Dave – ince you like Library Thing, I wonder if you might be interested in trying out blueorganizer from adaptiveblue. It lets you collect books (and movies, wines, video game, and more) from your favorite websites then share them with your friends via RSS. Please check out http://www.adaptiveblue.com for more info. If you do try it, we’d love to know what you think.

  4. Samantha on April 3, 2009 at 6:06 am  Chain link

    Has anyone tried bookarmy it’s where i first started listing all of my titles, i’m yet to make the leap to LT.

  5. Sally - the best hair style in the world on May 12, 2009 at 9:54 am  Chain link

    Oh yeh, I’ve seen Bookarmy – it’s pretty good actually. Like you Samantha I haven’t delved into Library thing yet but will have a good look soon. The only other social networking site I go on is gurgle for parents as it’s a niche site I feel comfortable on…facewhatsit and mywhoopdidoodar are horrible sites!

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