We just inked a deal with AquaBrowser, an Amsterdam-based library catalog company. See the Thingology Post.
Archive for the ‘1’ Category
Monday, August 6th, 2007
This should be big boost for our Dutch site, LibraryThing.nl. Until now, there was only one Dutch-language source, TU Delft**. Between the four new sources LibraryThing now embraces virtually all in-print Dutch books, 70,000 cover images and millions of older books.
I hope this will make LibraryThing a much more attrative place for Dutch readers to catalog their books and do the other things LibraryThing is about.
Adding Dutch books required extensive work. Giovanni, LibraryThing’s newest (fractional) employee, helped us track down Bol and Bruna data, our first non-Amazon retailer. On my side it involved dealing with five new formats. Fortunately, much of the work will contribute to adding other sources.
There were some wrinkles:
- Bol and Bruna are a single search on combined data. Neither feed was intended for personal cataloging, and I found holes in both sets that the other could improve. Even so, the data is thin by LibraryThing standards, lacking publication years and other important fields.*** The covers are great.
- The Bol/Bruna mash-up was an innovation. LibraryThing trusts that both retailers want to let their customers catalog the books they bought at their stores. But if either tells us to stop, we’ll politely give up our affiliate accounts and withdraw their data. In appreciation for their service to Dutch-language readers, we have put Bol/Bruna links on all LibraryThing.nl work pages, not considering which contributed the data.
- KB was a tough addition, requiring us to parse two new formats, SRU and Dublin Core. Unfortunately, I have yet to figure out how to execute an ISBN search. The KB data is high quality, but slow to retrieve.
- KBR required the least attractive sort of data parsing, so-called “screen scraping.” Only titles can be searched, and the result list is very basic. But, when a book is selected, the data is good, and retrieval is fast.
We have also been reaching out to other prominent Dutch-language book sites looking to forge relationships and pick up or link to interesting content. Your suggestions would be most welcome.
Lastly, as those who follow it know, LibraryThing.nl has seen some controversy. A lot of excellent work has gone into the translation, which is farther along than any other. But there have also been uncollegial disagreements. In response I have urged members to respect the collective nature of the endeavor and instituted a Three-Times Rule, similar to Wikipedia’s Three Revert Rule. Except in very special circumstances, members may not translate a given phrase the same way more than three times.
Thanks to all. Comments, questions and criticisms wanted—as always.
*We are waiting for approval to add Proxis.be and implementation and/or approval from a number of other libraries in the Netherlands and Belgium.
**For much of LibraryThing’s existence we were also tying into the Catholic University of Leuven, but their Z39.50 server eventually went black.
***We had hoped to further supplement them with KR or KBR data, but we lack a working ISBN search for both.
Sunday, August 5th, 2007
Everyone say hello to LibraryThing’s newest employee, Giovanni Soltoggio—LibraryThing member Gio. Giovanni will be helping us expand outside the United States, tracking down data sources, talking about LibraryThing to Europeans, making important deals over small cups of coffee and so forth.
Giovanni hails from the Italian Alps—a valley called Valtellina—and now lives in Dusseldorf. He reads Italian, German and English. He speaks some Czech. His favorite authors are Haruki Murakami, Niccolò Ammaniti and Lorenzo Licalzi. He is sharp as a tack, but much nicer.
Strictly speaking, Giovanni is only 20% ours. Four days out of five he’s the European Managing Director for BookFinder.com and its European sites JustBooks.co.uk, JustBooks.fr and JustBooks.de (for which he writes the blog). He helped BookFinder make the jump to Europe. We’re very grateful to Bookfinder’s Charlie and Anirvan for letting him moonlight a little.
In a few hours I’m going to blog one of Giovanni’s first projects, finding us a decent store of Dutch bibliographic data and covers. He is working on an Italian one right now. We expect big things from him.
If you want to wish him well, or know of good stores in other languages, he’d love to hear from you.* Drop a message on his profile, or email him at giovannilibrarything.com.
*Finding good data is strangely hard. There are some commercial providers although they largely overlap with what Amazon provides for free. Smaller languages are hard. A few weeks ago we had an Armenian-reader up for a week of Facebook work. I spent much of the last day with him, trying to get hold of a source—any source—of Armenian book data. We would have been happy to link to one bookseller on every page. From a search engine perspective alone, our links are gold to small sites. No luck, alas.
Thursday, July 26th, 2007
So, it looks like Saturday is going to involve lightning, so the barbeque has morphed into a pizza party.
Everyone is invited. Bring a friend. If you can RSVP, great. If not, that’s fine. We’re probably going to need to order the pizza beforehand. We’re going to double the RSVP list. If you like, you can bring something .
When: Saturday, July 28th, 4pm to whenever.
Parking: The City of Cambridge has declared Saturday LibraryThing day***. You can park anywhere on Gurney Street and between Gurney and Huron on Fayerweather.
Can’t wait to see everyone!
*When Emma’s was at the foot of Gurney Street, when I was young, it was decidedly less upscale. There were no tables—just a counter nobody used—and the ambiance was comprised of Emma berating her meek husband Greg in angry, staccato Armenian all day long. When the current owners bought it they moved it to Kendall Square, avoided marital conflict, added tables and the goat cheese, sun dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts today’s Cambridge requires. Somehow they managed to preserve what was good about it. It’s an amazing pizza.
**Alas, Tim’s trademark sigara börek will not fit with the rest of the meal.
Saturday, June 23rd, 2007
If you’re in Washington, DC going to the American Library Association conference, Abby and I hope to see you around. We don’t have a booth, but I’m on panels today and tomorrow:
And Abby and I are wandering the hall in our LibraryThing t-shirts (Tim: black; Abby: yellow), meeting people, crashing happy hours, etc.
PS: Come to “Participatory Networks: Libraries as Conversation” 10:30-12:00 (WCC Room 143B) today (Saturday). It’s almost blank in the program, but it’s a top and extremely interesting guy at Second Life—memo to self: put cards in wallet, not pants pocket.
UPDATE: I posted my “Hive” introduction on Thingology.
Sunday, June 17th, 2007
LibraryThing has hit fifteen million books.
Now begins the countdown to a major milestone: becoming the second largest “library” in the US, and with or soon after that, the second largest in the world, gulp.
LibraryThing is not of course a “real” library. You can’t take the books out, they do a lot more with them, and we have a lot more duplicates. We have only about 2.5 million distinct “titles.” But the comparison gives a sense of relative scale to the enterprise.*
Anyway, the tally is now as follows**:
- Library of Congress — 30,011,748
- Harvard University — 15,555,533
- Boston Public Library — 15,458,022
- LibraryThing — 15,081,543
- Yale University — 12,025,695
With luck, we’ll settle in behind the Library of Congress in 10-15 days. At 30 million, they’re going to take a while to beat.
When will we hit second in the world? Unfortunately, I can’t find a good list of world libraries by volumes. Everyone concedes that the Library of Congress is the largest library. The rest is foggy. Wikipedia has the British Library at 150 million items, and 22 million volumes. The Bibliothèque nationale and the Berlin State Library are at ten million volumes. (The German National Library is said to have 22 million items, but items aren’t volumes.) The stubby entry for the National Library of China speaks of it as:
“… the largest library of Asia and with a collection of over 22 million volumes (including individually counted periodicals, without these around 10 million), it is the fifth largest in the world.”
Which raises the question, does the ALA Factsheet also count periodical volumes separately?
Surpassing the BPL in any way feels blasphemous; I love the place so much that comparing LibraryThing to the BPL—well, the lions should eat me for thinking it. But Harvard will be sweet. I lived most of my life in Cambridge, MA, but the bastards rejected me twice—undergrad and grad! So, in that spirit, and with Yalies protecting my back, let’s beat that little pile of books over at Widener.
*There are all sorts of problems with these numbers. In fact, libraries don’t really know how many books they have. LibraryThing has a small percentage of items that aren’t books, and a larger number that are “wished for” other otherwise ephemeral. At the same time, many of LibraryThing’s “books” are composed of multiple volumes. So, we’re in the neighborhood of 15 million anyway.
LibraryThing demonstrates something we always knew—that regular people have a lot of books—probably many times what all the world’s libraries hold. I’ve never seen the relative numbers discussed. It never mattered before, but now that regular people can put their catalogs online and engage in tasks, like tagging and work disambiguation, that bear on age-old issues of library science, it’s not entirely pointless to compare the two.
I want to underscore that, in making the comparison, we mean no disrespect to libraries. I think I’ve got some proof that LibraryThing has always been on libraries’ side. Our first hire, Abby, was a librarian. We have always favored library data, where our many recent competitors only care about Amazon’s data. We link to libraries extensively, something no competitor does. And we are grateful that our work has been of interest to the library world—Abby and I have become minor fixtures on the library speaking circuit.***
***My Library of Congress talk will be online soon, as will my recent keynote at the Innovative Users Group meeting in Sligo, Ireland.
Friday, June 15th, 2007
We won SEOmoz’s Web 2.0 Awards, in the Books category.
Not to bite the hand that feeds us, but giving Reader2 honorable mention is very strange. Don’t get me wrong, Reader2 was a worthy opponent. Dmitry and I started the same week, almost two years ago. But Reader2 didn’t get that far, and it hasn’t been actively developed in at least a year. Since then more than two dozen sites have entered the market, many better than Reader2. Odd choice.
Wednesday, June 13th, 2007
We’ve hit 259 comments on the last post. That’s a lot of words. I’m making a new one here to clear the baffles.
Monday, June 11th, 2007
Update: Clearly, we’re down again. John’s working on figuring out why the problem reappeared and how to fix it. Watch for updates on the home page (Abby)
The site is back up, after having being down for a day and a night. An errant script knocked down the “read” database, and when the box crashed, some of the db files were corrupted. This meant the whole db had to be restored from the master db. In addition to the db itself, some of the log files were also affected. Turns our MySQL is a lot more finicky about how log files are handled than I’d ever known, or hoped to know. After a lot of digging around, everything is back the way it belongs, and all that was lost is a night of sleep–no data was lost.
I’d like to apologize profusely to everyone who was inconvenienced. We’ll put more safeguards into place to try to minimize such outages in the future, hopefully.
Monday, June 11th, 2007
We’re really sorry about the downtime, folks. We’re working hard to get the site back up and running, but it’s taking longer than we’d like. We’ll keep you updated as soon as we know more.
In the meantime, here’s something to do while you wait! I want a new and entertaining bookpile to go on the down page. The rules of this impromptu bookpile contest:
Update 5:11 pm Eastern: We lost the main “read slave.” No data was lost. (We have five copies at all times.) But are missing a critical machine, and have to rebuild it. John is working to rebuild the machine. I suspect it will not be up tonight.
More updates on the homepage