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Adding and importing books

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See also HelpThing:Import

How do I add books to my LibraryThing catalog?

Try the Add books page. In the green search box, enter a title, author, ISBN or Library of Congress number. If you get too many matches, narrow your search by adding additional search terms such as title and author or publisher. The search syntax is determined by the source you are searching. As a rule of thumb, commas between terms help. For example, good: tolkien, "lord of the rings"; bad: rings lord tolkien. Books will appear on the right side of the screen. Click on a book to add it to your LibraryThing catalog. Note that you can select the source for book information by selecting from the Search what? list below the green search box.

To find out more about a title before adding it to your catalog, click on the tiny black triangle to the left of the book title in your results.

You may also add a book manually (handy for a book without an ISBN). Look near the bottom of the add books page under Other ways to add and click on add the book manually. You may now fill out the blank entry form for your book.

If you want other ways to avoid adding a book manually, see "Tips for adding a book without an ISBN" later on this page.


Can I use a barcode scanner to enter my books?

Indeed you can! You can even buy a Cuecat scanner from LibraryThing. For only USD15, this cat will plug into your USB port and read bar codes into your catalog, including those pesky Borders product ids.

See the blog post, and tips for using your CueCat.

A regular webcam can also be used on Linux or Unix-like (POSIX) systems with the zebra barcode reader. The text output by the package's "zebracam" utility can be directly read by the Universal Import function.

Having tried all the below in Windows 7 and not getting a sigle one to work properly I tried, Katanshi Barcode Reader Katanshi Barcode Reader. There is both a freeware and a shareware version. They even have a web page that you can scan from if you have MS Silverlight installed.

A regular webcam can also be used on Windows systems using a free tool in the abandoned program Libra. Download the full program from a mirror, install it and run LibraCam. Select the text field in your browser, put the barcode in front of your webcam and voila!

LibraCam does not work on Microsoft Windows XP Professional Service Pack 3 systems. Instead, try the $9.99 Barcode Monster. It works directly with your webcam and the LibraryThing Add Books page. At current, barcode monster's support team does not seem to be replying to e-mails and your order may not go through completely. Use caution.

ZBAR is an open source webcam barcode reader. It works very well on webcams with decent resolution and is completely free. It outputs to a command prompt window from which you can just cut and paste into the librarything. Versions are available for a variety of operating systems. There's even a free iphone version.

If you have an android phone, you can download this app: http://www.appbrain.com/app/librarythingscanner/com.owlfish It will allow you to scan barcodes directly into your LT account.

If you have Amazon's shopping app installed on your iOS or Android device, you can (ab)use the Amazon WishList feature to import books. Select the "Search" feature in the app, and then use the "Scan it" button to read the ISBN barcode; the app then looks up the book on your local Amazon store. Once it finds it, scroll down the page and press the "Add to WishList" button. Choose the WishList or create a new one. Then when you are done, use the LT import page to grab the resulting list. You are of course subject to the limitations discussed below with the WishList route - basically 25 books at a time.


Can I import my books en masse?

Yes! Check out the Universal Import. The books you are importing are placed in a queue with other users' imports to be processed and you may not see your imports in your library right away. The import queue gives you an estimate of time until your import is processed. You can refresh the import page for updated estimates.


How does the Universal Import work?

LibraryThing picks out all the ISBNs in your file or URL, discards any duplicates and puts everything into your import queue. To ensure the highest quality data, LibraryThing imports ISBN books by fetching new records. You decide the sources--booksellers and libraries--you want to use. In a short time, all your books will come off the queue and be added to your LibraryThing catalog, ready for you to proof for errors (no, Universal Import does not correct errors that come in from the import sources).

Universal Import does not read any data from your file other than valid ISBNs. If you have books without ISBNs, this will not add them. If you have keyed reviews or tags into your desktop program, this will not add them. Universal Import does not read any data from your file other than valid ISBNs.

This works well with:

  • Desktop book applications like Delicious Library and Readerware.
  • Online lists, including Amazon (Wish lists, Listmania, old orders, etc.), Shelfari, Goodreads, BookCrossing Reader2, Listal, and many others.
  • Web applications with an export feature, like Bibliophil.
  • Home-cooked databases and book lists.

Alternately, if you format your file with a precise set of columns, it will import everything in those columns. A sample spreadsheet is included on the Import page indicating the format needed. It includes the following fields: title, author, date, ISBN, publication information, tags, rating, review, entry date.


Why does Universal Import have a queue?

The queue spaces out requests. LibraryThing can't request data on thousands of books at one time.


How do I import from Amazon?

Amazon wish lists. The Universal Import works on Amazon wish lists, but it takes a little tweaking. Wish lists have two URLs, the one you use when you're signed in as the person and the one you use if you're not. LibraryThing has to access Amazon, and it can't do so signed in as you. Therefore you must find the Wish list URL that anyone can use. First sign out of Amazon so you can be sure what's going on. (You can sign out by going to http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/sign-out.) Then go to the home page and click the link "wish lists." (Up at the top near the shopping cart.) There'll be a "Find a Wish List" area for you to type in your name or email address. This will give you a "generalized" URL for your wishlist. Feed it into LibraryThing and voila.

Wishlists often have multiple pages. Unfortunately, you need to submit the URL for each page.

Amazon order history

Again, the trick is getting at the data while not signed into Amazon as you. Here's the work around.

  1. While signed in to Amazon, click the link on the top to go to "your name's Amazon"
  2. Click the "Recommended for you" link (one line down)
  3. You should see "These recommendations are based on items you own and more." Click the "items you own" link.
  4. Select "view page source" (under the View menu on your web browser, or command U on a Mac)
  5. Select all and save as a text file
  6. Import that text file into LibraryThing using the Universal Import

Amazon media library

This is a very hack-ish way of doing this, but is effective at adding all books you've purchased or annotated as "I own this book", commonly done when rating material.

  1. While signed into Amazon, click the link in the top right that reads "Your lists". A drop down menu will follow.
  2. Select "Your Media Library", the fourth item on the list.
  3. You will be taken to a page that reads "yourmedialibrary". Next to your profile picture, it will read "View your Collection".
  4. Next to "View your Collection", there will be an arrow for a drop-down menu. On this menu, there is a heading that reads "View by Type". Select "Books". The page will futz about a bit with JavaScript.
  5. Now that you are at a heading that reads "Viewing number items", look to the left-hand side of that heading. There will be three icons. From left to right (and you can mouse-over to confirm), they are:

    View Thin List
    View Thick List
    View Covers


  6. This is a JavaScript applet and you will not be getting traditional Amazon output here. View source and scroll to where it will read:

    var ratingList = new Object();

  7. A long string of ASINs will follow, and it will then end with:

    for (i in ratingList)

  8. Copy the area between these two lines.
  9. A typical entry may read:

    ratingList['B000ZHUU08'] = '5';

  10. This means that for the book Advice to a Young Wife from an Old Mistress, I rated it 5 stars. Paste this copied area (which should consist solely of these items: ratingList['ASIN'] = '*') into your favoured text editor, save, and upload using Universal Import.

The reason to use this unusual method is simple — it not only takes into account everything you have purchased from any retailer on Amazon, it also removes all non-book matter, and allows you to access the ASINs for hundreds of items in one manœuvre. As ASINs only refer to a single type of an item (just as books have multiple ISBNs based on edition, & c.), LibraryThing handles them extremely well. It is quite likely that by importing in this way, you will manage to import all of your purchases in a text file well under the two-megabyte maximum.

CAUTION: Product ASINs for all recommendations that you've marked as Not Interested are stored in the same string of ASINs and will be imported into LibraryThing.


How do I import my Delicious Library?

The key to importing your file from Delicious Library is to choose "export", which produces a text file that can be fed into the Universal Import. If you use the basic XML file, it includes ISBNs for recommended books, which will also import into your LibraryThing catalog.


What's the "paste" box?

Certainly not for eating (paste, that is). But you can copy and paste blocks of text (i.e., source code for password protected websites) that contain ISBNs, and import that. See this blog post for more details.


Can I import my books from Vox?

Our Vox backup/import generates a list of the ISBNs on your Vox site, which you can then import into LibraryThing using the Universal Import.


Why can't I import my custom...

There are dozens of cataloging programs and they all work a little differently. Designing interfaces for each of them is a major development task, and half of the requests we get are for home-cooked Excel and text files.

If you have a spreadsheet, you can import it to LibraryThing only if you format your file with a precise set of columns. It will import everything in those columns. A sample spreadsheet is included on the Import page indicating the format needed. It includes the following fields: title, author, date, ISBN, publication information, tags, rating, review, entry date.


Tips for adding books without an ISBN

First, if you manually add a book without an ISBN, be careful when typing in the title and author. Without an ISBN, these are the only fields LibraryThing has to identify your book and connect it to other LTers who list that book in their catalog. It is generally best to enter the author (last name, first name) and title as they appear on your book's full title page (the book cover will often abbreviate one or both of these).

So, you don't want to enter all the info into the manual book entry form?

  • Add a book by searching the title and author on the Add Books page (Amazon, Library of Congress, etc). But, be prepared to edit this entry to match your book/edition. The book you find will have an ISBN, so it is likely to be a different edition from your no-ISBN book. Also, data from Amazon and most other sources are not without errors.
  • Use the LibraryThing search function to find your book in someone else's catalog on LibraryThing. When you have found the book and are on the "works" page for that book, there will be a green 'plus' sign to the right. Click on that 'plus' sign, and you'll be brought to the Add Books page, with the search field prefilled.
  • Another way to add books without an ISBN is to use the LCCN (Library of Congress Card Number, or Library of Congress Control Number) which has been in use since 1898. Most American publishers began including the LCCN on the back of their books' title pages in the 1940's or 1950's. Important for LibraryThing users is that professional librarians also included the LCCN in their catalogs years before the ISBN was included. Therefore, searching for the LCCN when adding older books to LibraryThing can make entry faster and easier than typing in the whole author and title. For books published in 2000 and earlier, the LCCN is two digits, a hyphen, and a serial number (for example, 67-15502); in 2001 and after, the 4 digit year of publication comes before the hyphen (for example, 2007-009573).

No way to add a book that's already in the system without searching for it externally again

If you are looking at a book in the system (because other members have it in their libraries), when you click "Add to your library", you are taken to the search screen which searches the book at other websites. If it is not found, you must enter the information manually, or go directly to the other person's library and check what source they added the book from. This is a really unfortunate surprising limitation. See: http://www.librarything.com/topic/50866

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