Book combining

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For help, advice, talk and arguments about combining or separating books, go to the Combiners! group

February 2011 - combining under the new system

With a radical restructuring of the author pages, combining and separating have changed dramatically for the better. Combining works remains the same, with the exception that there are now two views available: one at the main author level, and - if the author is disambiguated - one at the individual author level.

Author combining and separating tasks are radically improved, but at the cost of greater complexity.

Rules and conventions for combining books into works

  • Intro, books vs. works.

Combining Books

You combine books from the Author page or from a specific Work page.

  • On the Author page, go to the "Improve this author" box on the bottom right of the page. There is a "combine/separate works" link to a page listing works by that author. Follow the instructions on that page, placing a checkmark in the box next to the works you wish to combine and then clicking the "Combine" button.
  • From the Work page for a specific work, click on "Editions" (formerly "Debris") on the left side of the page on the bottom. The page will show potential combinations. If a book is listed in the catalog as by multiple different authors but with the same ISBN, you can combine them using this method.

If you see an ISBN number listed multiple times on the combine/separate works-page, it's because the list is based on unique triplets of title, author and ISBN. Thus, if an ISBN is listed multiple times, it's because the title or author differs. This system is used because occasionally ISBNs are reused on different books, and occasionally users make mistakes when entering titles/authors.

From PortiaLong: The best places to start to learn combining for yourself are:

1. On the "Editions" page: sometimes it helps to look at the Editions page for EACH copy that you find because they aren't always two-way. If there are copies that LT thinks MAYBE should be combined they will show up under the ones that are already together and there will be a link "Combine/Separate" potentials. Be careful though - not all of LTs suggestions are good ones.

2. On the Author's "Combine/Separate" page: if you go to the Author's page, there is a link above and to the right of the list of works (in the "Books By" title bar). You can then look through the author's books and combine from there. LT won't necessary know that two titles are the same so for instance:

How to Combine (A LT combiners guide) and
How to Combine: An LT combiner's Guide

will show up as two different works (which you may of course combine - once I have gotten around to writing it ;-)


Using "Series" to Help with Combining

I have recently started using "Series" more while feeding my Combining/Separating addiction. Where appropriate, using a series that already exists or creating one, I search out all of the works that belong in the series and add the CK information. I separate out mis-combined volumes as I go – by clicking on the separated work I can add the CK info to the temporarily orphaned work and get back to the original using my browsers back arrow. Then I can work on combining from the series page to get rid of duplicates (this is a lot easier than working from the search page as each work now has a link - the series info - to get back to the list I am working from). NOTE: this does NOT make the individual combinings any easier (i.e. it does not cause LT to generate any more "potentials") - what it DOES do is allow you to do is see the information organized all in one place.

From IreneF: Tricks to get a work to combine

Most of the time, the "author to the top" method works. Add a copy (or more) of the work with an ISBN to your library then edit the work to another author, and it should automatically combine. if not, separate and combine by author. Sometimes, the combine comes up through the editions page. If not, add enough copies with ISBN so that they are in majority and the suggestion comes up.

It is trickier for the no author works, but try it. Add an ISBN edition and remove the author, making sure the title is IDENTICAL to the no author work. They should combine automatically.

It takes a lot of work & patience. Sometimes what will work one time will not work another. Sometimes you have to do the same step repeatedly until it works.

be persistent... and good luck

Combining Books with Different Authors

From AnnieMod in Fix-it Thread #15: http://www.librarything.com/topic/66237#1330544

Step-by-step instruction on how to combine author-less or differently-authored copies.

1. Open both works' editions pages and pick up one. If one of them has no author, you need to start from it.

2. Add a new book in your library (manually) and copy EXACTLY as they are the Title, the ISBN (if any) and the author(if any) of the one you picked (use the editions page to copy from - the name that you see on the whole work might not be the best one. If you have more than one book, choose the one that seems the less common).

3. If you had copied all properly, the stray copies should be auto-combined with your new copy. Now all you need is somehow to get your copy in a combinable position with the other work -- the already combined with it will follow it).

4. Edit your own copy to change the author and change the title slightly (I put an (m) or (c) at the end) -- if you are working on a author-less copy and the thing you need to combine it to have a book with the exactly same name, the author-less copy gets... unhooked).

5. Now all you need is to go to the author page and combine :)

6. Delete your book.

7. If you want, open the work again and click on the number of members a few times until it gets corrected (yours keep being counted even after being deleted -- there is some caching working).

Special notes:

1. Make sure you put the comma in the author name at the proper place - the easiest way is just to check where the name leads to and work out where is the comma.

2. If one of the copy is author-less, the others are under Various, find a real author and do the above twice so you can combine at the end (the Various combine/separate page is almost impossible to use).

That's pretty much it :)

{Edit: Sometimes you might be able to combine from the Editions page at step 5 -- especially for prolific authors, it is easier.}

Separating Books

Separating books is just like combining books, but in reverse. However, while you can combine any number of books in one go it is currently not possible to separate more than one book from a work at a time. This means mistaken combinations can be very time-consuming to undo -- while you can combine Hamlet with Macbeth with a single click, each of the hundreds of books contained in each work must be separated individually.

At least once a week there is a post to Bug Collectors or Combiners! along the lines of:

These two totally unrelated books are combined and I can't separate them! (They don't show up as separable entities in the Debris page or the author page. Books affected by this issue don't share an author and have no relationship to each other.)

There are two main reasons for this:

  1. ISBN re-use (which publishers aren't supposed to do, but which happens anyway)
  2. Bad edition data (ISBN for one book applied to another book that has a different ISBN)

An older reason, hash collision, no longer happens to new books, but old hash collisions can still exist and need to be separated manually.

The two title/author combinations get converted -- hashed -- into some internally-used format, which is shorter than the title/author combinations and easier to deal with. For example, say that Title A: A Book gets turned into, for instance, x134a and Title B gets turned into z231w, and the hashed versions are used internally. Then along comes Title C, and it gets turned into x134a as well; the system says "oho, here's another copy of good old x134a" and puts them together. Presently the only way to resolve this is for the owner of one of the 'tangled' books to make a small change to the title or author. This will separate that book from ALL the tangled books, both Title A and Title C.

Chris has indicated that resolving the hash collision issue is on the radar screen, in message 6 here.

A few months before 9/9/08, LT switched to a different hash system so new hash collisions no longer occur.

PortiaLong method

How Do I Separate Out Two Works that Have Combined Together (from PortiaLong):

To separate you go to the link "editions" on the left of the screen. Next to each of the copies there is a "separate" link. You have to click on each copy that you want to separate out. Then, to get them back together again, you go to the author's page, click the combine/separate works link and combine back together all of the ones that belong together. Or you can re-combine from a "potentials" page if they show up there.

Try to keep track of any of the "authorless" (or variant author) copies you separate so you can track them down later and get them back where they belong - What I do is:

After separating instead of going back to the original work I take the link to the separated work long enough to get the "work number" from the address bar and write that down, then I use the browsers "back" button to get back to the original work page. Then I can go back to those works later and try to get them combined back in.

There is really no easier way to do this (i.e. separate out the wrong ones all at once) which is why combiners often lament that it can take hours to undo a miscombining that takes 2 seconds to commit.


I often have to stop myself from beginning a big combining project if I don't have time to do it in one sitting. Instead I break it into smaller projects and complete them one at a time.

The mental rules I have set for myself:

  1. Don't make a mess you can't clean up before you leave. (such as separating all copies of a work - a manual "explode" and leaving the combining for the next day)
  2. Post disambiguation notices "as-you-go." (i.e. as soon as you have identified the problem rather than when you have sorted-out the problem)
  3. When separating - keep track of "orphans" and make sure you PUT THEM BACK (especially necessary for orphans with odd authors that don't swing back to the author page you are working on)
Expanded explanation to illustrate above

When I am working on a work that has multiple works combined that should be separated - for example an entry where Volumes 1, 2, 3 of a work are all combined with the three volume set (a common scenario).

FIRST I will post a disambiguation notice on the work that "Individual volumes should not be combined with the complete set or different volumes of the same set." (To comply with my Rule 2 above - posting disambiguation notices as a problem is identified)

THEN I will separate out all the Volume ones - generally by going to the editions page and using the Google Toolbar "search this page" function to pick out a word/ISBN that is unique to that volume.

If, when separating, I see that the separated work is likely to fly off into never-land I copy the work number into a temporary word file so I can retrieve it. (To comply with my Rule 3 above).

Then I will combine all the "Volume 1"s (including the orphans) into a new work and post the disambiguation notice

THEN I will move on to volume 2, etc.

That way, if I only get Vol 1 done - I have still left the page better than I found it and not left a bunch of odds and ends for someone else to clean up (to comply with my Rule 1).

Hopefully by posting the disambiguation notices and separating out at least one volume some other combiner can come along and see what I was trying to accomplish and pick up where I left off. (OR, when I come back to it later I can see where I was.)


  • Do combine English and non-English editions. The section on works gives the example of Il codice da Vinci and The DaVinci Code. The reverse is just as true, where the original Italian or Japanese for Umberto Eco or Haruki Murakami should be combined with translations into other languages.
  • Don't combine ancient texts with modern translations. Again, the concepts section gives the example of Homer in the original Greek and any of the translations you can pick up in a bookstore today.


Travel Guides

Travel Guides are different from a pictorial essay of a state with historial text, are they not?

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