Book combining

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

Rules and conventions for combining books into works

Intro, books vs. works.

the concept behind works

Combining Books

You combine books from the Author page or from a specific Work page. From the Author page, click on the "combine/separate works" link in the top section, where it lists all the author's titles. Follow the instructions on that page, placing a checkmark in the box next to the works you wish to combine. You can also go to the Editions section (formerly Debris) for a specific work (Editions is found on the left side of the page at the bottom of the list), where 'potential combinations' will be suggested. If a book is listed in the catalog as by multiple different authors but with the same ISBN, you can combined them via 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.

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.


  • 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.


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