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About Books and Works

This feature is still young, and the documentation is evolving. See the Google Group for constant discussions. Or go ahead and email Tim at timspaldingAT SIGNlibrarything.com. You can also check out the LibraryThing blog to learn about new features, take user polls, etc.

What is a work?

The purpose of works is social. Books that a library catalog considers distinct can nevertheless be a single LibraryThing "work." A work brings together all different copies of a book, regardless of edition, title variation, or language. This works system will provide improved shared cataloging, recommendations and more. For example, if you wanted to discuss M. I. Findley's The Ancient Economy, you wouldn't really care whether someone else had the US or the British edition, the first edition or the second.

What is a book?

The "This Book" data on the book information page is particular to YOUR copy—the distinct edition that's sitting on your bookshelf. None of the combining and separating of works will change anyone's personal book data.

What works should be combined?

Title variations. The British Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is, apart from a few slang tweaks, the same as the American Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. These people ought to be able to speak to each other.

Non-English editions. Il codice da Vinci and The DaVinci Code are, for social purposes, the same book. For example, there are too few Italian books in the system for any of the recommendations to be good, but with work combinations, the system can suggest that people who own Il codice da Vinci might also like Deception Point.

Special editions. The deluxe, illustrated edition of Alice in Wonderland is the same work as a humble Dover edition.

Formats. The audio book of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility is the same work as the paper copy.

What works shouldn't be combined?

Part/whole issues. The Fellowship of the Ring is not the same work as The Lord of the Rings. This part/whole relationship will be handled by a future improvement.

Books ABOUT a book. This includes "Cliff's Notes," "Spark Notes," critical interpretations, adaptations, etc. A study guide to Foucault's The History of Sexuality is not the same as the book itself.

Derivative works. The CD of the musical Wicked is not the same as Gregory Maguire's novel. Nabokov's screenplay to Lolita is not the same as his novel.

What are some edge cases?

Remember, the purpose of the system is social. Therefore, I feel that some edition or language differences are so major as to be socially significant (see blog and Google group for debate). I have two examples:

  1. The Kama Sutra is not the same as the The Pop-Up Kama Sutra (a remarkable assemblage of paper and thread). In theory the same text, the content is really quite different, with attending social differences.
  2. A Greek edition of Homer is not the same as an English translation. Socially, the former connects you with other Greek scholars, and should recommend other Greek-language works, not the "Classics of Western Civilization" works that the English translation does.