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Open business: Should we get some European help?

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Edited: May 5, 2007, 11:25am Top

I've wondered aloud before about just how "far" a business can go in being open. Develop features with members? Check. Publish lots of stats? Check. Brutally honest blogging? Check. Ask members to visit the competition and report back? Check.

But can we go farther? How far is too far? Why not publish the accounting? The taxes? (I'll bet if we did, someone would chime in about some deductions we're missing.)

For now, what about hiring and strategy?

We have a change to get a little help on the European side—one day/week from a very energetic, smart and capable fellow in Europe. He knows the European book scene much better than we do, and speaks Italian and German fluently. He isn't a programmer or a web developer, but could do some basic HTML editing. His main strengths are in marketing and communication, and the critical cluster of skills that fall under "not being an idiot."

So, if we had a fellow like that, what could we do with him? LibraryThing has not, historically, needed much marketing. It wouldn't be wrong to say we're hostile to it. We never advertised. (Well, we tried Adsense for a week.) Never written a press release. Our only conference slot, at Computers in Libraries, was composed of me in a t-shirt, a high table for my laptop and a $25 blow-up rhino as an absurdist in-joke—and we were mobbed anyway. We've spread virally, and we're proud of it.

I want to grow the European site. It's not a big part of LT yet—but note, by my analysis, we have more European members than Shelfari has total members! (Money can't buy love.) There's certainly coding ways to do that. But are there non-code ways? How could a little help work for us?

I want your ideas. My list so far is slight:

* Be part of the Italian and German blogosphere
* Be the voice of LT on the non-English Talk
* Target authors for the LibraryThing Author program
* Solicit European bookshops (with computerized data, which is surely rare) involved in our bookstore program.
* PR to European newspapers; maybe some staight PR would work over there.

More generally, what can we do to improve the non-English sites. Please note, I'm asking for a boundary. I DO NOT WANT TO TALK FEATURES! This fellow wouldn't be hired to code new features. I want to focus conversation, not get sucked into another recitation of utf8 problems. Let's talk content, conversations, PR and marketing.

May 5, 2007, 12:48pm Top

I especially like the idea of soliciting European bookshops, newspapers and authors to work with LT. When I tell people here in Germany about LT, they usually don't sound too impressed until I tell them that there are german talk groups and that its not just a site for English speakers. I think some PR would be of great help. It would also be very, very, very nice to have more non-English language authors involoved as well. Another thing he could do is be a presence at some of the larger book fairs (like Frankfurt or Hay-on-Wye), which would be marvellous. I think it is an excellent idea to have someone from Europe working LT. Well done!

May 5, 2007, 5:19pm Top

#2: they usually don't sound too impressed until I tell them that there are german talk groups and that its not just a site for English speakers

But as soon as they discover the utf-8 like and similar problems are not solved, they will be disappointed, turn their backs and never return. The first shot should be right. I for myself currently hesitate to spread the news for this reason.

May 5, 2007, 5:33pm Top

Are there any plans to integrate LibraryThing for Libraries into European libraries anytime soon? If so, having someone on the ground over there would almost certainly help.

(a Starbuck's on every corner and LT in every library)

May 5, 2007, 9:15pm Top

You could certainly have your blog posts in the LT blogs translated and mirrored?

Make a copy of the same thing in livejournal and myspace etc. as well (even in English, too?)

May 6, 2007, 1:37am Top

Tim, too bad you're looking for a fellow, otherwise I'd now the perfect candidate. She's near native in German, speaks a number of other languages fluently, owns like 6000 books, and she's been on LT for some time.

Why does the "fellow" have to speak Italian and German? Wouldn't French and Spanish be more useful?

Edited: May 6, 2007, 7:22am Top

The way I read Tim's post they know the fellow already (and "We have a change" should be "We have a chance").

I completely agree with Kantelier (post 3): in my eyes you risk building a not-so-good reputation for LT that could be hard to correct once the utf-8 problems _are_ solved.

May 6, 2007, 5:25am Top

Hi There,

If I can be of any help, please let me know. I work in a library in the Netherlands and I blog on http://zbdigitaal.blogspot.com. Two weeks ago i started a network for Dutch-speaking librarians on http://bibliotheek20.ning.com. 80 members from all over the countries in two weeks.

I'd wish libraries would use tools like LT far more. If you guys have any messages to spread, don't hesitate to mail me on zbdigitaal@gmail.com.

And I speak German and French too, have basic understanding of HTML, xml etc.

Kind regards,


Edited: May 6, 2007, 7:36am Top

To promote LT in the European Countries shouldn't be to difficult.

* Get a team together for each European country. Every team starts to write to local bookpublishers to tell them about Library Thing and how it could be a good tool for the authors they have a contract with.

* Above mentioned teams should also contact libraries, schools (especially the schools where people study to become informationspecialist/librarian, etc. etc.) I'm studying to become an informationspecialist and would be happy to help Library Thing noticed there.

* Above mentioned team should also contact computer magazines. One in the Netherlands already picked up on it (If you want a scan, let me know), but more promotion in that area couldn't hurt.

* Above mentioned team should also contact popular online bookshops in their country if they could do something with LibraryThing (providing a link at LibraryThing so that people can buy a book easily). As LT is a Web2.0 application, this could be a good thing.

* Maybe doing something with online second hand bookshops?

* Get more librarians in the team, for example a Dutch, a French and a German to keep an eye on data/books in their mothertongue and to help out people from their country. They could help to get more content in their specific language, and content is king.

* Above mentioned team or the librarians should give presentations about LibraryThing in their country at conferences, congresses,..... You and Abby can't keep on going flying over and over. It would be to expensive.

Don't forget the already excisting members:

* Place the language-groups more in the spotlights. For example most Dutch members can't seem to find the Dutch language group for Library Thing.

* I know you didn't want to discuss features here, but this one is really one you should think about as it will be really an improvement (and will knock down criticism, as it one was one of the big points of that above mentioned Dutch computer magazine:

Searching foreign titles: http://www.librarything.com/talktopic.php?topic=10648

I would love to help LibraryThing and spreading the word in the Netherlands and Belgium. I really like this site and I would love to help to make it better and more Web 2.0. Ah no, let me rephrase that: Library 2.0.

May 6, 2007, 1:21pm Top

Word of mouth is an excellent promotional tool IMO. I managed to get most of my real-life friends sign up on Livejournal, and I wanted to do the same with Librarything, but I faced a huge obstacle... namely that while LT has a Hungarian-language version and Hungarian groups (very inactive), there is no Hungarian library search. I managed to get all of two persons to sign up, but they soon lost interest in adding books by hand (a sizable portion of my books are in English or German, so I can add them with ease). The largest Hungarian library has Z39.50 (and an English guide to using it in your app!) and I posted it on Recommend Site Improvements, but in two months I could only get one Hungarian to recommend it alongside me.

I think this is a vicious circle: no Hungarians will sign up because there is no library search, while no library will be added because there is no demand.

I think this is also the reason why the Hungarian translation group is inactive. Early adopters speak enough English to be able to use the English interface, and they feel no willingness to translate it for later adopters because most of them quit after a short while because there is no quick and easy way of adding books. I'd happily start translating (and take the group from you) and I could also promote LT by word-of-mouth... I talk a lot so this means a lot ; But currently I don't see the incentive that would make new users stay, so I'm holding out till a Hungarian library is added; and maybe other Hungarian users feel the same way.

May 6, 2007, 1:22pm Top

Regarding new Library Thing authors, you might want to modify the rules for qualifying. There are lots of European writers who aren't represented in the Library of Congress or English language Amazon.

Edited: May 6, 2007, 4:29pm Top

I agree with prezzey, there's not much incentive until a national library is included. I was all set to recommend to my Lithuanian friends, but realised that nearly all my Lithuanian books (not many) are not included in the Polish or Latvian libraries (as I thought they might be) and so I had to enter them by hand. That's really too hard.

These days there must be some EU Library Association which would sort out 27 countries. I found http://www.eblida.org which claims it does "lobbying for libraries", based in the Netherlands.

I'd really like to help, but I do not have any librarian connections.

May 6, 2007, 7:58pm Top

LT very much needs a relationship with internetbookshop.it (the nearest thing to amazon in italy). For those of us with a lot a Italian books, it sure would save alot of time.. for the more scholarly Italian books, it would be nice to have the link with BNF up and running..

May 6, 2007, 9:11pm Top

For now, what about hiring and strategy?

Hire another developer. I know you said that you don't want to talk about development, but development is what most people want. It seems like you're already devoting more and more of your own time to PR and marketing.

May 6, 2007, 10:51pm Top

>devoting more and more of your own time to PR and marketing.

No, not really. Some talks. Partner relationships are a killer. And LibraryThing for Libraries, which, while not that interesting to most users, is stratospherically interesting to many librarians. I just did two days on caching expensive queries.

>Regarding new Library Thing authors, you might want to modify the rules for qualifying. There are lots of European writers who aren't represented in the Library of Congress or English language Amazon.
Good fricking point. Abby will change.
>LT very much needs a relationship with internetbookshop.it (the nearest thing to amazon in italy).

The problem here is that Amazon is different from other booksellers. They own their data, and they license it. No other bookseller I know does this. InternetBookshop can't give us their data, which they're getting from Libri or Ingram or whomever. Worse, dealing with those data companies is a HUGE pain. They want a lot of money, and a license under which all the data vanishes if we stop paying them.

May 6, 2007, 11:06pm Top

Good fricking point. Abby will change.

Changed! The LibraryThing Author page now says that the qualification is having a book "on one of the world Amazons or on one of the libraries that LibraryThing searches".

May 7, 2007, 12:09am Top

on one of the world Amazons or on one of the libraries that LibraryThing searches

Can we include sites like bol.com, which in some countries are bigger than Amazon?

May 6, 2007, 11:54pm Top


See message #15. Our option is to license data from Libri. I haven't had the same detail conversations with them as I have with other data suppliers, but I'm not sanguine about it. Anyway, it would be very expensive.

Edited: May 6, 2007, 11:55pm Top

Sorry that message 17 is coming before 18. I posted this on the development server, which apparently is behind.

May 7, 2007, 1:53am Top

The messages from the wrong server stay unread.

May 7, 2007, 1:56am Top

. . . until someone else posts . . .

May 7, 2007, 2:18am Top

Yeah. I never anticipated the need to distinguish between last message and most recent... We'll fix the time.

May 7, 2007, 5:52am Top


I would agree with that. I would just make it if that they could become an LT author if they had a book in a LT library source (includes Amazons) OR if they could provide a link to one of their works on a major internet bookshop. I have no idea what the top internet bookshops are in Poland or Russia or even Spain. They probably ain't Amazon.

May 7, 2007, 5:57am Top

Another point which would be helpful would be to get more z39.50 sources.

At one time it was mooted that there could be the possibility of us users entering z39.50 profiles and testing out the access. If this could be revived it might allow a cheap (development time) or getting new library sources. Of course there would still be character set issues and MARC format issues from time to time but at the moment it seems that the library sources seem frozen in time.

May 7, 2007, 6:00am Top

>15 timspalding:

> The LibraryThing Author page now says that the
> qualification is having a book "on one of the world
> Amazons or on one of the libraries that LibraryThing
> searches".

Still, that's rather americanocentric.

>19 timspalding: (adding bol)

That might be a nice idea indeed.

Still, I think a fundamental paradigm switch might be needed.

Why cannot the qualification be, apart from what's mentioned above, having at least one book catalogued with whatever national library, too--no matter whether the latter is providing open & free access through ANSI Z39.50 (ISO 239.50) (*) protocol or not, that is.

The crucial question in this matter might be : is LT about cataloguing books and being able to check whether one is qualified as an LT Author, or is it rather about being able to sell books (i.a. through afiliation programs and their incentives) ?

(*) Mind Z39.50--in full : ANSI Z39.50--is the American National Standard Institute name that equals International Standard Organisation's ISO 239.50.

Though this is a detail indeed, it's rather odd that, whatever the LT edition one is using, date references are given as MMM, DD, YYYY (American only date notation, that is), as non-Americans are used to DD MMM YYYY order.

Because of i.a. all those odd-at-best things, LT is keeping its rather Americans only touch.

AFAIK, during the last six months, LT hasn't been making that many progress vis-à-vis internationalisation. I am sorry indeed.

What use is it to try and promote LT throughout (part of) Europe, if LT's search engine is able to find the most popular American title of a work only?

What use is it to try and promote LT throughout (part of) Europe, if even text snippets as "read" cannot be translated in a proper way, because English language "read" might mean either "continue" (pronounce : /ri:t/), either "has been read" (pronounce : /rEt/)--even though this particular feature has been mentioned more than half a year ago--e.g. : Translating LibraryThing? (General Talk) : read != read (okt 23, 2006)--and repeated--all of this at no avail, it seems, because it hasn't been solved, yet.

Need I even dare to add and mention that, still, new LT feature's text snippets are hard coded in English only ?

Does LT need more international promotion or rather international usability ? Please think about international user's priorities in this matter, too.

Still, I think LT could have both.

Internal promotion for internationalisation--with LT staff, that is--might get higher (read: high) priority--for a start.

May 7, 2007, 7:28am Top

>The crucial question in this matter might be : is LT about cataloguing books and being able to check whether one is qualified as an LT Author, or is it rather about being able to sell books (i.a. through afiliation programs and their incentives) ?

If you really think the point of us asking for your book to be available in Amazon or one of the 78 libraries we search is to generate maximum affiliate revenue, I don't know what to say.

May 7, 2007, 7:43am Top

Bol considers the right Api's:

Poor translation from Dutch to English available through


May 7, 2007, 7:56am Top

>27 zbdigitaal:

That would be very good news indeed, but a little late for me: I entered 1,895 books manually.

BTW, I liked the translation "a beetje at trees".

May 7, 2007, 11:35am Top

>26 timspalding:

Point is that the last half a year has been rather disappointing for so-called "international" Thingamabrarians, Methinks. I cannot help thinking that "internationalisation" was hyped while the Frankfurter Buchmesse was coming up indeed, but has nearly been abandoned since then. I am sorry indeed, but that's the impression I 've got.

I think some of my remarks might be important for LT, for it has one single chance only to make a first impression with every first time visitor. Please do not ruin it.

Long time ago, there was a (repeated) proposal to have a pick your language toolbar. Alas, it was abandoned--until now.

That's why, the zbdigitaal blog article as mentioned in Message 27 reads i.a. (in Dutch) :

En zo klik en surf je wat en zie je tot je verbazing dat
Library Thing opeens ook een Nederlandse domeinnaam
heeft, en voor een groot deel vertaald is in het
Nederlands. Dat was mij helemaal ontgaan zeg! Met een
beetje mazzel vallen de puzzelstukjes binnenkort op hun

Instant translation :
While clicking and surfing around a bit, you discover at
your amazement that suddenly, LibraryThing is having
a Dutch domain name, too, and that the better part of
it has been translated into Dutch. Hey, this slipped my
attention ! Adding some lucky strike, the jig saw puzzle
might match fairly soon.

LT is/was available in quite some different languages, but this feature is hidden ! Why ? I do not get this.

This reminds me of the saying that Ford Model T was available in every colour, as far as that colour was black.

The same way, new visitors at LT's most probably might get the impression at least that LT is available in every language, as far as the latter is American English.

Sure, when trying to use the Search function, one 'd better know the most popular American English title of a work, even if the latter is a translation, or search results will be nada. Try the original title ? Get lost ! Sorry, but I am NOT impressed.

As it turns out, even stupid little nastities as i.a. "read != read" cannot be solved within a delay of more than six months now. Adding the newly added hard coded English only text snippets, how would you want us to read this message ? Might it be loud and clear ?

I am sorry that the affiliation programs slipped out of my pen. This was not the point--on the contrary : it is in our interest, too, that LibraryThing does and remains well, Methinks--and it clouded the point that is. The latter is and remains :

Does LT need more international promotion or rather international usability ?

Therefore, I repeat :

Internal promotion for internationalisation--with LT staff, that is--might get higher (read: high) priority--for a start.

Mind that even big corporations might struggle with hughe problems when they think everyone is American. The Walt Disney Company learned it the hard way, "as park attendance, hotel occupancy and revenues fell below projections" with their Disneyland Resort Paris. Mind that e.g. one couldn't even get a bottle of wine with its meal, because--as the waitresses were told to tell the clients at the restaurants--"because allowing wine"--with the meal !--"would attract drunkards, and the resort of course, neither you didn't want those, did you?" "Have a Coke instead," she proposed. This was adding insult to injury, the staggered French thought, and right so, for one cannot have a decent meal when no bottle of wine is available, can one? They left, angry and hungry, and told their friends that Disneyland Resort Paris was an expensive horror, and insultive, too ! Such a bad experience never again ! Oops ! "Park attendance, hotel occupancy and revenues fell below projections." Wonder ?

Methinks the solution is not (more) promotion, but adaptation instead--i.e. : preparing for internationalisation indeed, and never ever leaving the latter out of mind, thus developing features that work--for "international" Thingamabrarians, too.

Today's Attention Point One : no more hard coding text snippets in English only.

Present "international" Thingamabrarians have been exercising lots of patience during the past six months, Methinks. Will this mantra--Have patience !--keep on forever ? Or will they finally get solutions--soon ?

I have got some experience with multilingual libraries, with multilingual environments and with development for multilingual environments, too. On a weekly basis, I am using six different languages at least, in speaking, listening at and reading. AFAIK, at ours, this is not considered odd, nor quite exceptional.

I am sorry to have touched the affiliate revenue reference. Please forgive me. That was not the point.

The burden is :

Internal promotion for internationalisation--with LT staff, that is--might get higher (read: high) priority--for a start.

May 7, 2007, 12:20pm Top

While I agree with your basic idea, I do think it best to keep in mind that a site started in America by Americans is bound to use American standard English and dates, for example. I don't think that they mean anything discriminatory by it. If the site had been originally made in the Netherlands (or Germany, or France) There would be a European style to things, which is understandable. Other Englishes are not a problem as far my experience tells, and I've found many obscure titles spelled in British English. I like your point about usability, but we need to be working to find solutions (ie answering Tim's question) rather than venting on Americanisms on Library thing. it is an American program, as I mentioned, and the fact that they are considering working with a European to improve things is commendable to say the least. There are things that are too American centered (the bookpile competition in particular) but that will change for the better once they get a European on board who can talk to the different libraries and book sellers abroad. Its great that you use so many languages at your library, but we *do* have to be patient. Every library starts somewhere and it takes time evolve. How long has your library been open? Also keep in mind that (I'm assuming you're Dutch from your post) that the Netherlands is bordered by German and French speaking countries, and if you add English as the Foreign language standard, it isn't surprising that a library based there would expect their staff to be fluent in so many. Dutch is also a relatively small language group so it makes sense that people learn more languages (the same happens in Greece, for example). However, in Germany, the norm is that people speak two *maybe* three languages including their own. In other European countries like Slovakia or Hungary people know two at the most. America isn't the only country in the world that is highly monolingual, and Germans do really *everything * in German down to book translations and film overdubbing...Being monolingual and American are not synonymous. And Tim is talking *right now* about hiring someone who speaks German, Italian and English...that doesn't seem to me like they are saying "be patient" it sounds like they are saying *now*. That they are asking us for ideas at all, when this is essentially a free site, is incredible! Ok, coding is a problem (especially for Chinese and Japanese books, for example) but lets talk about how this new guy can talk with the different libraries in the smaller European countries so that we *can* get more search options going. Germany has a number of participating libraries, and, if you notice, also a great many German speaking LT'ers. Or a presence at book fairs to talk to authors and get them involved. I found out about Librarything from an author's web blog (a European author at that). Lets focus on the "can do" aspect rather than the "you haven't done" aspect of this!

May 7, 2007, 3:29pm Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

May 7, 2007, 3:30pm Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

Edited: May 8, 2007, 1:15pm Top

We are getting off topic.

Tim said: I want to focus conversation, not get sucked into another recitation of utf8 problems.

I hope Tim doesn’t turn his back on Europe because of the pathetic paranoid reactions. Let us contribute positively.

Still off-topic but trying to contribute in a positive/constructive way: moved to here

oops. moved too much
Jenknox >30 jenknox:: look at the profile and the town reveals the nation.

May 8, 2007, 3:17am Top

Not knowing anything about Europe, it seems like the biggest thing LT could do is connect to more bookstores and libraries across Europe. If there are book swap sites in Europe, those would also be good connections.

May 8, 2007, 10:12pm Top

>26 timspalding: "Point is that the last half a year has been rather disappointing for so-called "international" Thingamabrarians..."

It's been disappointing for everyone who wants new features like a wishlist, or a better author system, or being able to review books you don't own. They haven't even been able to do something as simple as move the ratings above the reviews.

May 9, 2007, 12:51am Top

>They haven't even been able to do something as simple as move the ratings above the reviews.

It's not a question of not being able. I don't actually *agree* with this idea.

May 9, 2007, 12:52am Top

If you're interested in the search issue, I've got a beta solution. Your input would be welcome.


May 9, 2007, 9:27am Top

Straying from the topic, but can you explain why you don't agree?

The ratings provide much more information in a shorter time. You can see at a glance what a large number of people thought about the book. If you're going to put in the time to read the reviews, the time that would be involved to scroll/click past the ratings is absolutely negligible. Shouldn't as much information as possible be displayed at the top of the page?

May 9, 2007, 10:11am Top

_Zoe_, just curious do you know the 'End' key will take you to the bottom of a page? and the 'Home' brings you back to the top? Page up and page down work as well but I don't use them myself.

May 9, 2007, 10:13am Top

Yes, I know it's not *that* much more work to move up and down. But I still think that as much information as possible should be visible at first glance.

May 9, 2007, 10:51am Top

I think Tim's not agreeing with them being above has to do with his belief that ratings are 'mostly worthless' or something along those lines. I tend to disagree with him on that, but you can try to convince him otherwise.

May 9, 2007, 11:01am Top

Hehe, I will try to convince him otherwise. At the very least I'd like him to address the fact that the ratings graph does show more data more quickly than the reviews, whether he thinks that data is valuable or not.

Feb 29, 2008, 3:59pm Top

This thread is pretty old, but the repeated comment about getting more libraries in is still valid. My Austrian books are often not in the German sources, or at best in Amazon.de whose data is no better than their English equivalent. I get very tired of having to enter them manually. Has anyone asked the National Bibliothek and/or the BÜCHEREIEN WIEN? Both have on-line catalogs.

For the present I'm happy to recommend Library Thing to Americans, but would hesitate to do so to Austrians.

Feb 29, 2008, 10:00pm Top

We have another 400 or so libraries to add--they're on the back burner while Casey digs himself out from under LibraryThing for Libraries business. But they're mostly NOT European. Some countries just don't go for open library data. I'm sorry to say it, but Germany is a wasteland for this stuff.

Mar 7, 2008, 3:29am Top

I was afraid of that. It may get better. At least recently more and more German books have a 'proper' title page. But there are still a lot where you have to really search for any information. I wouldn't care if there were a different standard, but until recently there hasn't been any standard on what information is in the book, never mind where.

On the other hand, There have been plenty of books (English) I've imported where I would have done better to have just done it manually to begin with.

Quite off-topic. I really wish publishers would decide on ONE title for a book. I've found several where the cover and title page are significantly different. (Never mind what the next edition has.) Again the Anglo-American publishers are just as bad at this.

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