LibraryThing strategy in an age of Amazon/Shelfari

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LibraryThing strategy in an age of Amazon/Shelfari

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Edited: Aug 26, 2008, 9:10 am

The news. Seattle PI is reporting ( that Amazon is buying 100% of Shelfari. As many of you know, Shelfari is a LibraryThing clone. They aim at a slightly different segement of the market—they're "younger," somewhat less intellectual, less featureful, use only Amazon data, and focus on friend-to-friend connections and the aesthetics of the "shelf" rather than book-based connections and cataloging.

Shelfari. As I've said before, I have respect for LibraryThing's 40+ competitors, but withhold it for Shelfari. They were rather famously called out by me and by others in a series of blog posts exposing a program of spamming and of "astroturfing" (paid employees posing as excited users in blog comments). The apologized on both occasions, but I have, quite frankly, the greatest contempt for them, and for what book-based social networking will become if they beat out LibraryThing.

Picture a boot stomping on a human face forever. Well, okay, not that. But picture the book social network wars ending with a site created by music people who probably wouldn't get that allusion, with advertising all over, with "community managers" "managing" conversation between book lovers, and under the shadow of what will sell books and not books' other, greater values. In short, I believe there's something "to" the idea of book-based social networking which they don't get, and to which they are a danger. Yes, I've drunk my own Kool-Aid.

Any any case, once the Amazon/Shelfari deal goes through, we are competing against Amazon.

The second element, as many also know, is that Amazon recently announced its intention to acquire Abebooks, the Canadian used-books aggregator that owns 40% of LibraryThing. The acquisiton will take place a month or two from now, I as undertstand it.

As a minority investor, Abe--and soon Amazon--does not control LibraryThing. I remain the majority investor and the President of the company. They have certain rights, but they don't get our data and they don't run the company. As president, I have traditionally worked very closely with Abe--beyond their rights as investors. I'm hoping that can continue, but I'm certainly going to stop talking about upcoming projects that Shelfari shouldn't know about.

The problem. I myself can't figure out what it all means, and how it will shake out. Some questions:

*Can Amazon own 100% of LibraryThing's main competitor and manage its 40% stake in LibraryThing without implicating itself in fiduciary-responsibility conflict issues?
*Can LibraryThing continue to compete vigorously against Shelfari when Shelfari is owned by one of our investors? (Yes, I say. We wish only the best for Amazon qua investor, but not Amazon qua competitor.)
*What can LibraryThing do to protect itself against the possibility that Amazon uses its enormous financial and technical resources to fund and promote Shelfari?

Some answers: To succeed LibraryThing must run in the opposite direction to Shelfari. Amazon can make Shelfari the choice of casual book-lovers who see a button on and click on it. LibraryThing must define itself as superior, particularly in ways they cannot follow.

Part of the answer is continuing to appeal to the users Shelfari doesn't serve. This includes people who want careful control over their exact data, and who have books Amazon isn't seling right now. Our use of 690 libraries around the world will be key. And I think we should continue to take a somewhat different tack in the social networking game. LibraryThing members tend to see Shelfari as "MySpace-y," with all the member photos everywhere and no alternative to the "friend" system. We have more reason than ever to avoid how Shelfari looks and works.

More importantly, perhaps, where Amazon/Shelfari can't follow is in the values that make LibraryThing different: openness, dynamism and independence.

Openness. I'm having this conversation here, on Talk, because that's the way we do everything around here. We talk with members. We don't lie. We avoid empty corporate euphemisms like "The Amazon family." We never issue press releases. We blog. We don't treat members like children or vassals, and we don't act like timid customer-service reps. If a member talks about a competitor, we let them--threads about LibraryThing tend to disappear off other services! And if a member pisses us off, we say so.

Over and over we've thought about some issue of openness and decided in favor of "to heck with it, let's be open." We discuss issues like this openly. When employees disagree, we often do it in public. We talk about ownership and even finances openly. We make our images and parts of our code open. Big swaths of our data is open and available under loose license or no license at all—including our ISBN disambiguation, Common Knowledge, and all our user-added covers.

Over and over again in technology, openness works--even against vastly larger and better-funded opponents. Wikipedia beats Britannica. Linux beats Windows Servers. MySQL beats Oracle. Can LibraryThing leverage increased openness to succeed in the face of Shelfari's increased heft?

Can we open our data up more? The big problem there are the data licenses, from Amazon. Should we ditch Amazon in favor of free and open library data--and member data? If we did that, coverage could be hurt--at least initially--but we'd be able to share our data in any way we want.

The negative argument is not far to seek either. I care about open data, but do users? Shelfari's terms of use seem to claim actual copyright over users' data, but their users don't seem to mind. The Facebook book apps don't allow users to export their data, to no great outcry.

Can we open up our code? Open-Sourcing LibraryThing has always been in the back of my mind. But it presents problems. Members have shown a lot of interest in helping LibraryThing with data, but coding has never been the same. For example, we released a JSON API to our book data and open-source Javascript that--we know--could be used to create the coolest book widgets the world has ever known. There was some early interest, but it fizzled, so we're just going to do it all ourselves. And open source is hard. Open-source projects can't be changing 24 hours a day the way we do it. They require a much more step-wise development, to make sure everything is safe and works together. Nor am I eager to share our code, which is pretty wiggly and would require a lot of cleanup.

Still Open-Sourcing LibraryThing is enticing. Amazon is not going to open source Shelfari. And it'd be nice if LibraryThing code could do good even in areas we don't touch. (For example, our MARC parsing code is absolutely top-notch now, better than the code most libraries use.)

Dynamism. The good news from the Shelfari deal is that when startups get acquired, they tend to stagnate. This is how went from a truly innovative startup to a company that spent two years readying their second release.

The mechanism is not far to seek. The newly rich founders are required to hang around a while, but nobody can make them care the way they used to, and they eventually leave. The super-hackers that drive a startup, suddenly confronted with four new layers of management or forced to use crappy, locked-down corporate laptops--as Aaron Swartz of Reddit was--leave for the next cool thing. The cool users leave too.

LibraryThing is still run and developed by a small cadre of dedicated hackers--technical and librarian. It's 1am and three of us are still up, working on the site. The Shelfari people are probably out partying. A week from now they'll be at home watching Lost reruns. Advantage LibraryThing.

Independence. We're already pretty independent, but we can, I think, continue to exploit that. We need to hook up with more independent bookstores. We need to hook up with more authors, publishers and libraries--anyone who will make the site more interesting and no one who will bend the site toward monotony intellectual monoculture.

For example, our covers are open, but still somewhat limited by request rate. Maybe we should just hand over all our covers to IndieBound (formerly BookSense, the independent bookstore group). That would shake things up a bit, even if IndieBound didn't return the favor.

Your thoughts?

Anyone have any thoughts? Legal thoughts? Thoughts on business practices and ethics? Thoughts on strategy? I'm all ears.

Edited: Aug 26, 2008, 1:32 am

Over and over we've thought about some issue of openness and decided in favor of "to heck with it, let's be open." We discuss issues like this openly. When employees disagree, we often do it in public. We talk about ownership and even finances openly. We make our images and parts of our code open. Big swaths of our data is open and available under loose license or no license at all—including our ISBN disambiguation, Common Knowledge, and all our user-added covers.

First of all, this is what LT does best. I wrote somewhere on a post that one of the things LibraryThing absolutely excels at is making me forget that I'm a customer. I can jump in and say, "What about this?" Furthermore, you're not just letting us think we're involved, we actually are. Hence "Fleela's" tagwatch on the home page. The fact that, after much protest, you brought back tabs that were sorely missed by some.

That said it took me a while before I became a hardcore LT loyalist. In some ways I'm still not. Because LT lacks even a passable Facebook application, I use iRead (now weRead, I think) on Facebook. I'm not a huge Facebook fan, but because of my age I end up interacting with it a lot and if it's going to be my "social face" I want it to include books. I think not developing an Application for Facebook was actually a bit of a serious misstep. I understand the reasons for it, but I still disagree.

I'm the book person among my friends. And when my friends look at my profile, do they see LibraryThing? No, they see weRead and they would've have to talk to me to know how absolutely crazy I am about LibraryThing.

That said. Keep doing what you're doing. Keep it honest and open. Stay human.

Financially, I still think you should start a "sponsor a member" option that was mentioned once upon a time. It's been said a few times that some of us would happily by gift memberships - we just don't have anyone to buy them for. And, as far as I know, at present that's the only way to "donate" to LT.

Aug 26, 2008, 1:35 am

I must agree that one of LT's biggest draws is the openness with which we approach everything we do. This goes far beyond data and code too, it applies to even the smallest feature changes. We get lots of feedback and some great ideas through this openness. I don't see an Amazonian company having the same dynamics at play.

That, of course, glosses over the large pink mastodon in the room. If Amazon is truly interested in making Shelfari compete with LT I think that they can certainly make our lives much harder. I'd probably have to stay up until 4 in the morning then.....wait....I already do that? Damn.

I've been around startups for a while (this is my 3rd or 4th) and it is certainly true that after the founders are bought out there tends to be a drought of features. Look at Flickr. I think they went a year or more without any new major features after they were Yahoo'd (just made that one up, thank you). You'll notice that the founders of Flickr also just left the company as soon as their F-you money came in. That's the way things go in our business unless the founders are REALLY crazy about their project. I don't know them, but Shelfari's founders don't strike me as being crazy about books. They're business people who went after an idea that they thought they could make some money on. Kudos to them, they have. But that doesn't make Shelfari the place to go for real book lovers. The site is shiny and all 2.0ish looking but once you use it you really get the idea they did JUST enough to get bought out.

We need to keep LibraryThing THE place to go if you are serious about books. Concentrate on the strengths while making steady progress on new features.

Then, if we can pick up more of the casual users too then things get really good.

Oh...and if we can DDOS Mashable so that we don't have to see another PR slobbering of Shelfari then that would be good too.

Aug 26, 2008, 1:47 am

Mounting a denial of service attack on Mashable sounds, as John Hodgeman put it, "'too expensive' and 'too illegal'." Rather, let's emphasize that LibraryThing employees believe Pete Cashmore sure looks a lot like that actor who played Legolas.

Aug 26, 2008, 2:14 am

Edited: Aug 26, 2008, 2:36 am

I find this very worrying! Because I don't believe Amazon will not try to wipe out competition if they can. Can they use all the good stuff here to make their site more competitive; especially as it is so open? I am interpreting all this as that they cannot get control here - yes?

I have to confess I have never been near Shelfari and I am going to have to check it out so I understand it more. I think that this site may attract a very different type of member, perhaps? A true serious book addict - I AM speaking for myself here - more about the books and social aspects FROM the books?

The library aspect has to be a plus???

*still worried*

BOB81 - he DOES!!

ETA: Is there a conflict of interest problem here - or doesn't that matter in the corporate world of on-line book sites?

Edited: Aug 26, 2008, 2:52 am

>6 Lman:

Well, part of openness is that you wrap the code or data in an license that require openness. Wikipedia is open, but if you use the data you have to be open too—you are legally required to do so, in fact. Ditto Linux. I don't think Amazon is going to "infect" its proprietary systems in a way that opens their code or data up in the same way.

Don't worry. As members ought to know by now, I like a challenge. We'll make it through this—and come out better on the other side.

>5 BOB81:,6

I'm glad you guys agree with me. Even more so when he isnt blond, skipping around and shooting arrows.

Aug 26, 2008, 2:41 am

I know nothing about business. I know nothing about legalities (I'm not sure I know how to spell). I know nothing about .coms or mergers or buy-outs and, quite frankly, I'm not sure I understand most of what is being discussed here.

What I do know is that I have an account with LT. I have an account with Shelfari and with GoodReads. I am constantly here, on LT. I'll suddenly remember about once a week or so that I have accounts in the other places and should check in and see if there are any interesting conversations going on. It's rare, and then I forget to go back again because I'm here.

I don't know what exactly is going right with LibraryThing but in certainly works for me.

Good Luck and Thank You(s)

Aug 26, 2008, 2:43 am

I could never live with the Shelfari interface - 10 seconds of it was enough for me for a lifetime. And the introductory material carefully avoids the term 'calalog'.

Maybe Abe (or Amazon once they own it) would be willing to sell some of those shares in LT to LT members? Personally, I want to Tim to continue to own the majority stake in LT. I don't always agree with his decisions, but I do know that he makes them for good reasons.

Aug 26, 2008, 2:49 am

I'm only selling shares to member who agree with me all the time! (Zoe can have some for being a good sport, though.)

Incidentally, I've thought of that. Inasmuch as we don't need the money, it's less attractive. Bringing members "in" wouldn't necessarily change that much, since they'd need to own a lot before they could force anything, and we already listen to them. We're not like a vegetable co-op. You can't work at LibraryThing one day a month and be an owner.

Aug 26, 2008, 2:51 am

That's why I suggested that people might be able to buy the Abe ones. Having Amazon own that much of LT does worry me, particularly if they are going to own 100% of a competitor.

Aug 26, 2008, 3:22 am

The openness and independence are the 2 things a 'corporate' site cannot or will not replicate.

And I think these are two concepts which LT'ers value quite highly. So obviously LT must stick to and emphasise these strengths.

The question ongoing is - is there enough people out there who value this highly enough, and can the message get out to people when they are bombarded by noise from the big guys?

Aug 26, 2008, 3:29 am

The process is, I think, a two-step one. Radical openness appeals to a narrow segment that care about it. But because it allows things closed-ness doesn't, it spreads better. The question is: Can LibraryThing do that, or are we just preaching to the converted?

As an example of giving out our data, we're letting FictionDB use our tags and recommendations:

There are a few more sites like that that may use our data. Maybe if we gave it out--with a link-back requirement--we'd get some more serious data-based traffic.

Aug 26, 2008, 5:01 am

Some general thoughts.

1. It is probably not worth expending much effort on fighting over the users who just want to record a few books and do little else with their account. These aren't generally the people who add extra value - be it LT Local, CK, combining, uploading covers and photos, tagging and posting in groups. Concentrate on those users who add value, and look at areas where LT members can add even more value. That could be new CK items (epigraphs and dedications have both been mentioned), it could be a way of handling contents of anthologies and short stories (ideally as first class objects), it could be some new insane plan no-one has thought up yet. This could also be useful for LTFL - a lot of books with contents (older ones in particular) don't have the contents entered in the library system IME (or at least the MARC field isn't populated on query).

2. Copyright of user contributions. Maybe either the Shelfari crowd are too young, too ignorant (didn't read the T&Cs), will just ignore Shelfari (just as people ignore click through licenses) on that issue. However for me it is important - not that I think you can make any money out of selling my ramblings.

3. Open data is important for the more engaged user.

4. Open APIs. To be honest I am a developer. I like Open APIs. However I don't run a blog and can currently see little need for me to write anything using the APIs. Actually I can think of one thing I might like to try (it will mash together LT data and some other open data - deliberately vague at the moment) but I will need about a week or so to do it (lots of screenscraping) and my day job and busy social life is intruding.

5. Don't bite off more than you can chew. Take lots of small steps. Regular announcements keep the buzz high.


Oh and finally LT has loads of features which have grown in an organic way and which are perfectly understandable by those of us who have been on the journey with you. For people coming at it from a clean state it may not be so. I think far better documentation could help these people - it might encourage more to join and more to stay. Documentation is time-consuming and boring (and often difficult). At some stage I think you are going to have to bite the bullet and get some done either by you, or by community effort, or by hiring in temporary help.

Aug 26, 2008, 5:19 am

LT is not that important to Amazon.

I think Amazon will use Shelfari's core to create an iTunes-like book collection application on the next generation Kindle (possibly adding a small scanner).

Aug 26, 2008, 6:02 am

I think this might actually be good, in that it could remove a potential competitor to Librarything... Right now I use amazon and librarything in a completely different way - I would never take recommendations from the amazon reviews, for example, whereas I frequently browse librarything reviews for recommendations. Amazon is always going to be a site primarily concerned with *buying stuff*, not with *enjoying stuff*.

If (as I suspect will happen) Amazon subsumes Shelfari into their "corporate family", people will see Shelfari as just a branch of a shop, rather than a community. This will be good for amazon (gaining user generated content), and good for the Shelfari founders but I can't see either side really caring very much about maintaining a community.

The best thing to do is to concentrate on making sure Libarything stays very much focused on being a community - only adding new features that help members interact, rather than on (say) adding new revenue streams.* The same with building membership - don't worry too much on adding large numbers of fly by visitors, instead target book clubs, libraries, etc...

(I think it's also worth stealing good features from other sites - something like Listmania! from Amazon, for example... not sure about shelfari or the other competitors...)

* having said that, I'm not sure how much Librarything needs new money / new members - I'm assuming it's pretty much sustainable as it is....

Aug 26, 2008, 6:10 am

Message 8: retropelocin said :

"What I do know is that I have an account with LT. I have an account with Shelfari and with GoodReads. I am constantly here, on LT."

ditto. I have accounts on those sites , but I don't think I ever went beyond signing up.

Sign me up to buy stock from Amazon.

This scares me. My online friends are very important to me, and few online folks are nicer or more like minded ( yes, I hate that phrase too, but it says what I need to say) than my LT friends.

Aug 26, 2008, 6:15 am

"Independence. We're already pretty independent, but we can, I think, continue to exploit that. We need to hook up with more independent bookstores. We need to hook up with more authors, publishers and libraries--anyone who will make the site more interesting "

Absolutely. Get the authors and bookstores.

Plus pretty much all of what Andyl had to say.

Don't add features just because it's been a while since you last added some. And remembre reliability. People are happier with less good features that are consistant than with shiney whistles that are broken some of the time.

Aug 26, 2008, 7:11 am

#1 "Shelfari's terms of use seem to claim actual copyright over users' data, but their users don't seem to mind."

I doubt that most users read the terms of use and may not even be aware of this or understand the implications of it.

I'm not sure if that means they don't care or if it is just a reaction to an overload of legalise.

Aug 26, 2008, 7:56 am

#1 Tim said
The problem. I myself can't figure out what it all means, and how it will shake out. Some questions:

*Can Amazon own 100% of LibraryThing's main competitor and manage its 40% stake in LibraryThing without implicating itself in fiduciary-responsibility conflict issues?
*Can LibraryThing continue to compete vigorously against Shelfari when Shelfari is owned by one of our investors? (Yes, I say.)
*What can LibraryThing do to protect itself against the possibility that Amazon uses its enormous financial and technical resources to fund and promote Shelfari?

I guess I'm still not certain quite what it is you're concerned with.

How do you measure your success, or what is it that rewards you about owning/running the site? If you, Tim, still own majority share and cannot have your hand tipped egarding creative control, then that can't be a concern unless you are obliged to change your share holding.

In post#10 regarding selling shares to members you state, "Incidentally, I've thought of that. Inasmuch as we don't need the money, it's less attractive. " so apparently, you still don't have to worry about relinquishing control. Money seems not to be an issue since the cost of a lifetime membership is bugger all, I'm not sure where you get the funds to survive (none of my business really) considering you don't have any advertising on the site.

The only thing I can imagine as being a concern, and no doubt a lot of LT'ers will be able to point out the obvious that I've overlooked, but the only concern I can imagine is the ongoing growth of membership. Membership comes down to a few issues:
1. Attracting members. How, where and why do you attract members? What type of members are you looking for? How to attract members is advertising, by whatever means available. Word of mouth is good and no doubt LT'ers already tell anyone who will listen about the 'Great new site' they've found. But targeting people/organisations who have an interest in other book people would be a good idea. Getting publishers, bookstores, libraries, bookfairs etc to promote LT would reach a wide segment of their target market. This could be as simple as a flyer in the window, a link on their website, a banner at their bookfair...

2. Keeping members. This is not just a matter of keeping numbers on the books but of keeping members interested and active. Activity is either cataloging or socialising. I've never checked out the competition, hell, until I stumbled on LT, I never imagined a site existed for organizing my library, but I really like the facilities available for cataloging on LT. The Talk pages serve the dual purpose of a social outlet and, unusually, a very open forum for feedback on the site.

Forgive my rambling, but I guess what I'm trying to say is, you already have a great site and you are open and proactive in improving it. You can make efforts to promote the site more effectively. You appear in no great danger of losing control of the site. The only problem is growing the site to the point it becomes unwieldy, unmanageable, a financial burden, or no longer fun for you; is that ever likely to be a possibility???


Aug 26, 2008, 10:07 am

*Can Amazon own 100% of LibraryThing's main competitor and manage its 40% stake in LibraryThing without implicating itself in fiduciary-responsibility conflict issues?
*Can LibraryThing continue to compete vigorously against Shelfari when Shelfari is owned by one of our investors? (Yes, I say. We wish only the best for Amazon qua investor, but not Amazon qua competitor.)
*What can LibraryThing do to protect itself against the possibility that Amazon uses its enormous financial and technical resources to fund and promote Shelfari?

Microsoft bought a piece of RealNetworks early on and has tried diligently to put it out of business ever since.

Microsoft has introducted Silverlight as a Flash killer but has continued to be a Flash licensee and probably uses it on more of their sites than Silverlight to this day.

Microsoft supported third-party manufacturers with initiatives like PlaysForSure and then directly competed with them by introducing the Zune.

The question is, is Amazon going to be a company like Microsoft which is moving in so many directions simultaneously they have absolutely no overall strategy that anyone will ever figure out? Or more like Apple with a driving vision and a gameplan for every move they make?

If the former is true, LibraryThing is perfectly okay. If the latter is true, who knows?

Aug 26, 2008, 10:14 am

So, I guess to a degree you are preaching to the converted here - I would imagine that most of the people that post to these kind of threads are the ones that are well-entrenched in LT from all usage perspectives. Obviously, we like what you do and how you do it. I happened on LT from a recommmendation in a magazine and just never left. I haven't felt the need to find anywhere else to do this kind of thing because you all do it so well.

I like independence - I've rarely come across anywhere in the cyber or the real-world that I have like better once it has been sucked into a larger corporation and I agree that Shelfari is likely to become less novel and more of a vessel for achieve A.N.Other objective for 'family Amazon'.

The question then remains, what can LT do to thrive as an individual entity while Amazon invests in its competitor (of sorts). What can it do better than it already does? I think that you are right that one of the strengths of LT is that it is a community of book lovers who are fairly uncompromising with regards to the seriousness with which we all approach our obsession. So LT is already so much more than a social networking site centred around books - what could it do to better service that community niche?

1. Authors, authors, authors - let's get some biggies on here (in no way detrimentally meant to the authors who are already listed...). OK, Amazon sells books and has a huge market share which publishers love but they don't have the personal contact element that LT offers. How can we get more authors? Ask them and ask their publishers. The way I see it, Abby has plenty of publishing contacts through the ER program and that would be one approach. It's surprising how many authors will take the time to reply to reader contacts too. Put us to work for you - how many LTers go to book signings or have some contact with authors in one way or another? Mobilise us! Wouldn't it be great if we could get as many authors as enthused about LT as there are evangelical members? Think of how this could allow LT to develop further along the lines of author chats and ER programmes but in a much deeper way.

2. Give us a way to promote you - BookMooch has cards (mini-business cards), if you had something similar printed we could do your promotion for you ;) Seriously, I'd love something like that. I could include them in books I send to people and shamelessly fly post authors at the signings I go to...

3. The LT Book Awards - run annual book awards but do it properly, not a non-stop forum debate. Give us a shortlist, have proper categories, ask publishers to submit titles for consideration. Then let this opinionated lot debate it and vote on them. Present them to the authors (in a cyber sense - each one should surely include a 'Lifetime Membership' ;) ). With the number of members on LT, I'm sure you'd attract a good readership for this (and people do take these 'responsibilities' seriously) and it would be great publicity for publishers and authors if there books are shortlisted......

OK, so these are my random suggestions! Everything everyone else suggested sounds good too (and probably more business oriented!)

Aug 26, 2008, 10:18 am

Amazon can make Shelfari the choice of casual book-lovers who see a button on and click on it. LibraryThing must define itself as superior, particularly in ways they cannot follow.

I'm going to go against the grain here--surprise!--and say that you shouldn't give up on the casual book-lovers. There are a lot of them, and they're not as useless as many people seem to think. Lots of my friends are casual book-lovers. LT is great for book-based social connections, but that doesn't mean I'm not interested in what my RL friends are reading too. Also, increasing the number of users is important just for increasing familiarity with the site. Serious book-lovers could find out about LT from casual book-lovers.

As twomoredays said, start with making a Facebook app (you did, after all, say long ago that it just required Collections as a prerequisite, so it should be possible soon). Facebook is good for spreading things. I would personally invite 200 people, at least 10% of whom have already shown interest in book apps.

Then, spend a bit of time making the site more user-friendly and improving on existing features. I don't think adding new features should be the top priority when there are so many existing features that could be vastly improved with a few small changes. Add the links to the wiki help. Add a site-wide title/author search at the top of every page, and let people add books directly from the work page, even if it only adds the title and author and doesn't automatically combine. It really wouldn't take that much to make the site more accessible to new users.

Aug 26, 2008, 10:37 am

This message has been deleted by its author.

Aug 26, 2008, 11:11 am

I agree that the Shelfari deal makes it even more important for LT to distinguish itself from that company. In my mind, the difference between the two is that Shelfari is form, but LT is function. Openness, Dynamicism, and Independence are definitely strong points of LT and contribute to its quality. Which leads to another key difference between Shelfari and LT...Quality. LT cannot be EveryThing to everybody. We can't compete with an Amazon for sheer marketing muscle and publicity. We have to be not about market share, but serving a niche well by offering *Quality.* Shelfari is the key for those who want to enter in just enough books to be exhibitionists on their blogs. LibraryThing should target those in it for the long haul, those interested not just in building a widget, but building a library.

The passion of LT users goes into generating a higher quality of data, something Shelfari can't match. Any populist site can give reviews for best-sellers, but LT has data which can give quality recommendations on the long tail. There's an incredible amount of data to mine which might not be nourished enough right now. For instance, LT has Groups based on specialized interests, and I can't help but wonder the untapped value of that information. My county's public library has included LibraryThing's information on their catalog because this information has value; the public has never really understood Dewey or LC and probably never will, but LT tags help readers find real information. As this feature spreads to more libraries, some of those users will migrate to LT. Sure, Shelfari has tags, too, but Shelfari doesn't have Combiners to aggregate equivalent tags for more powerful data. Common Knowledge has incredible untapped potential, but an operation like Shelfari isn't going to invest in such a project because that's simply not applicable to their user base. There's similar libraries, tag watch....we can not only survive but thrive by being focused on using data to generate actionable information.

Offer value to libraries with quality data: in progress. Offer value to publishers with a quality market base; we're not Friendsters, we're Readers. Expand WikiThing to include author pages and publisher pages. Not all publisher/author information is spammy...give them a place to connect. For reader services, readers who like "Author" might also like "Author2;" what valuable information to mine from not just library holdings but favorite authors and related groups! Hire a new developer not for coding new features, but for combining/displaying existing data in new ways. Above all, keep doing what you're doing with vitality and passion. We'll be fine if we keep innovating and focus on more than sheer numbers.

Aug 26, 2008, 11:11 am

The bottom line for me is that Shelfari is for amateurs who are not really serious about reading or books. This was evident to me the first time I looked at the site and it has persisted. I have the same opinion about all the tagging and efforts to be "sociable" on, especially because of its liberal attitude towards garbage posts and non-opinions. The participants strike me as people who buy most of their reading material as an afterthought at the grocery store.

That said, I am sorely disappointed that amazon bought Shelfari, I distrust its intentions, and I agree with those who predict the death of Shelfari.

Aug 26, 2008, 11:20 am

Since it seems as if the limits on Amazon's 40% investment are clearly defined and not a problem, it would seem that the major priority for LT would be competing against Shelfari/Amazon..

Obviously, Amazon has other competitors - one idea would be to woo those competitors in some way. Whether it's B&N and Borders, just the independents, or both, find the people who compete with Amazon and see how LT can be useful to them. Perhaps offering services like LT for Libraries? Since I'm not familiar with LTFL, I don't know what they are, but I would imagine there would be overlap between them. Plus, I'm only guessing, but I would guess the income from LTFL is a big part of LT's overall income, so increasing "corporate" sales would be good.

The idea of making LT the go-to site for authors is great, too, although this could be infinitely more difficult because each author is like his/her own little company - meaning there are thousands of authors to "touch." Perhaps finding a way to be useful to publishers as a way to get to authors is a way to go.

Perhaps you could use the underlying LT structure and feature set to start DVDThing and/or MusicThing. I would probably recommend separate companies in which LT (or you) is the major (or only) investor, and appointing a President/COO who is absolutely obsessed with movies and/or music so that his/her passion would bring the site(s) to life. This might make LT bigger than you want, though, and put you (Tim) into a purely management role that you may not (or may) like.

Aug 26, 2008, 11:44 am

How many members does Shelfari have now? Their future will depend on what kind of management is chosen to run it. If they get management that is using it for stepping stones into Amazon's upper echelons of corporate culture then the advantage remains with Librarything. If they got a CEO that was determined to make Shelfari one of the best book networking sites on the net then the competition would be fierce. S/he would have damn near unlimited computing/processing power. Running something like Tag Mirror would not be a drain on resources. Whether Shelfari takes advantage of Amazon's computing cloud remains to be seen.

LT's strength comes from the openness and small community feel. I've done all kinds of things on Amazon and never received a response from Jeff on a discussion board or anywhere else. Of course, if LT had 100 million members I probably wouldn't have ever received some from Tim, Abby, and staff either. When I asked a question about LT processing power Chris and Felius gave me a lot to think about.

I think LT is moving in the right direction with mass customization. One hundred users can come up with two hundred ways they want to use the site.

I've got a question/observation about LibraryThing. Lately, I've been entering book terms and book related terms into Google's search engine to see if LT shows up on the first page of returns. For instance, book reviews. LT didn't show up on the first page of results. Should it have? I know Google uses a page/link popularity system with safeguards built in to protect against gaming the rankings. Still. I thought LT would appear on the first page.

I didn't exactly answer your questions, Tim, but I'm going to make an assumption. I don't think looming competition depresses you but energizes you and that fire gives LT a great shot of surviving well into the future. Take care not to burn out on us and LT will do well.

Aug 26, 2008, 12:39 pm

I find my feelings a little bit hurt by all these comments about how Shelfari users aren't "serious". I think I'm a pretty heavy duty reader. I certainly read more than anyone I know personally. But I have accounts on LibraryThing, GoodReads, and Shelfari that are all heavily used. The only thing that prevents me using LibraryThing *more* is that I don't want to pay for something I already have for free. (I built my own book cataloging database for myself before any of these sites were popular)

I just think that from the user perspective, it doesn't have to be an either/or thing. I want to share my reviews with as many people as possible!

Aug 26, 2008, 12:42 pm

I think VisibleGhost has it right about what this news does to us.

At no point were there feelings of depression for me - just the excitement that we are taking a sharpened look at ourselves, what we're about, and what we can do so we DFTBA.

Again and again, I am impressed and amazed by our community here. Thank you!

Edited: Aug 26, 2008, 12:44 pm

>29 miyurose:

How much did you pay yourself per hour? LibraryThing costs as little as $6—and you never get advertising, and your data isn't sold to Amazon...

Edited: Aug 26, 2008, 12:48 pm

I'm not overly worried about it. Shelfari was already a very corporate company, with lots of Senior Vice Presidents, and this only makes them more so. I agree with Tim (and everyone who's echoed it since) that openness has always been to our advantage. And that's not just openness of data, but openness as a business. LibraryThing members know us by name, email individually (I have a hatred for the "contact@ or support@" email addresses, or those contact forms that disappear into the abyss), give feedback and debate us openly on Talk. We're pretty much the opposite of extreme corporate around here.

I think our strength is with serious booklovers, but that it doesn't end there. We're not going to all of a sudden move to the middle of the market (shiny features with no depth) to compete with Shelfari/Amazon. Our strength is in data, oceans of features, and importantly, dedicated members. But that doesn't mean that we can't reach casual booklovers as well. I agree with _Zoe_ (in 23) thatit *is* important to keep growing and reaching out. Many of my own friends aren't as book crazed as I am--but they read. And including them and people like them only makes sense. That means, for example, that work on Collections will continue. And maybe the Facebook app. And I'll keep working with publishers and authors to get them involved.

Abby, Senior Vice President of nothing.

Edited: Aug 26, 2008, 12:47 pm

>29 miyurose:
I think the "serious" vs. "casual" user idea comes from the data on the sites. Shefari members have, on average, significantly fewer books and reviews per member than on LibraryThing. Tim had numbers at one point. So it's not necessarily you in particular, but on average, a different level of engagement.

Aug 26, 2008, 12:48 pm

>33 ablachly:

Yeah, I did a random sample. Their users were much much less engaged. Their whole spam-invite system meant that users actually had more friends on average than books!

Aug 26, 2008, 12:49 pm

32> Abby, Senior Vice President of nothing.

Gee, Abby, I thought you were at least Senior *Executive* Vice President of nothing.

Aug 26, 2008, 12:54 pm

As long as sites like Gutenberg, Wikipedia and LibraryThing can maintain themselves with mostly non-corporate money then I think they will be around. These sites are alive because they will always have a critical mass. They might at some point only cater to a specific audience but that might still be a very large amount of users. I'm not too worried about Shelfari as a competitor to LibraryThing. If I were to have any concerns then it would be about how LibraryThing goes forward without having to resort to obtaining more commercial funding which brings with it a board, and all the other trappings which usually start to restrict the way a venture is run. I would say LT gang, just keep doing what you're doing. There will always be book lovers who appreciate a site specifically designed for them.

Aug 26, 2008, 12:55 pm

I absoultey agree that pushes need to be made to strengthen the data we have in features from Local to CK to combining and so on and so forth. The more robust things are at LT, the more the Shelfaris become a joke. And, even if it may sound self-serving, there should be some rewards (badges & barnstars - remember that idea!) for being a good contributor - and they should continue so that folks have that incentive to continue. It really is the little things.

That being said, become absolute and unashamed publicity whores. Anything you can think of - from the smallest mention in an on-line article to interviews anywhere you can imagine to eventually aiming for seeing us become a "let me check their connections on LibraryThing for clues" as the case-cracker on an episode CSI (why not?!). Because with the Amazon machine, that's the power that Shelfari will have in the market - quick and easy publicity. Name recognition is more than half the battle.

Aug 26, 2008, 12:56 pm

Many good points already stated, so I'll simply say...

Spam received upon or soon after joining:

Shelfari/Anobi - yes
LT - no

Advantage LT

Aug 26, 2008, 1:00 pm

>37 stephmo:
We talked about doing something like Wikipedia's barnraiser awards at one point--I still think it's a good idea.

Aug 26, 2008, 1:00 pm

1> I think it would be a good idea t use less Amazon info. I think eliminating the covers would cause a huge outcry, but I also think we have a dedicated enough userbase that quite a few of those covers would be replaced by user-uploaded images in short order.

For cataloging info, I believe library sources are superior to Amazon anyway, and should always be used if possible. However, Aamzon is the best source for new releases, often months before they are actually published. I wish we could use something like Books In Print to get those rather than having to manually enter them.

I certainly think there should be some relationship with IndieBound, but I don't know what exactly.

More linkbacks from other sites would definitely be good, and possibly bring in more members.

2> I'm not a heavy Facebook user, so i don't really care about having a LibraryThing app there. But if you're concerned that there is no LT connection on your profile, you should become a fan:
At least there will be some presence on your profile then.

Aug 26, 2008, 1:29 pm

Add more features to leverage the data and to market the site.

1) Official facebook + myspace apps with deep integration into the collection and profile data. Favorite books, books read, recent reviews/ratings, books to read, etc... and w/ similar facebook/myspace friends who have similar tastes in books.

2) Lists... let users create lists, their favorites, books about pirates, the best books about pirates written before 1929, etc. This could draw in search traffic and casual users, and enriches the content that Librarything has. Possibly make them social/wiki-esque... maybe some way to vote in the the top books.

3) Add ability to see lists of books that you're reading, have read, or intend to read. (Maybe this exists and I just can't figure it out).

Aug 26, 2008, 1:35 pm

>41 KevinEldon: If you use tags, you can click on the tag to see a list of only the books with that tag (e.g., "intend to read").

Edited: Dec 4, 2008, 4:33 pm

This message has been deleted by its author.

Aug 26, 2008, 2:03 pm

From Publishers Weekly: "Earlier this summer, Amazon bought Abebooks, which holds a 40% stake in Shelfari competitor LibraryThing. It was unclear if Amazon has any plans to join Shelfari and LibraryThing." ?! Has Amazon contacted LT?

Aug 26, 2008, 2:08 pm

>14 andyl: I think far better documentation could help these people - it might encourage more to join and more to stay. Documentation is time-consuming and boring (and often difficult). At some stage I think you are going to have to bite the bullet and get some done either by you, or by community effort, or by hiring in temporary help.

andyl - (and others) - come help with HelpThing on the wiki! We started it in the spring, with the idea being that there's a one-to-one correspondence between every LT page address and a help page - so that a "help" tab at the top would automatically go to page-specific help. It kind of sputtered over the summer, since I got busy and there weren't very many of us working on it in the first place, but more help would be hugely appreciated.

Aug 26, 2008, 2:25 pm

In response to #43

What I do like about LT groups as compared to other sites is the ability to see all the latest postings on one page as opposed to having to go through a hundred or more groups to see what they're about. On the other sites this doesn't appear to be an option, at least not as clearly as it is here. I've infiltrated many groups with one time comments and then been able to go back with the "your posts" option instead of having to try to remember which conversations I was interested in. This is also how I have found the groups I have chosen to join. This may be the reason I do find myself coming back here so often. Yea, I think it is.

Aug 26, 2008, 2:28 pm

This spring I took all my books off their shelves and reorganized them using their Library of Congress call numbers. I couldn't have done it without LT, and certainly couldn't have done it with any other site.

Aug 26, 2008, 2:30 pm

I like the book awards idea. I like voting on things.

Aug 26, 2008, 2:32 pm

I'm amazed at the information LT has that Amazon doesn't.
When I go to BookMooch and look at Related Editions, often there's a line of ISBNs at the bottom that BM found though LT data which the Amazon database did not contain.

Aug 26, 2008, 2:42 pm

>40 timepiece: timepiece - I completely agree with everything you said in your item #1. Less (or no) Amazon is what I prefer. It will be a pain at first, but I hate the idea of being linked into such a corporate monster (sorry - they're not the worst but I still feel that way) and would rather be completely independent.

I love the fact that LT is ad-free and "social-network" free. I personally don't want anything to do with MySpace, Facebook, and never will. I love that LT doesn't have any of the feel that those sites do. I don't have to post anything here, or have groups, or have friends, or whatever. I can simply utilize (or not utilize) everything here as I want.

I think focusing on the features that are here but aren't quite fine-tuned is best and to really fill the niche of the hard-core book lovers will continue to make LT stand out from all the rest. I don't understand how LT is not convenient for the casual book reader. I don't know - I'm not extremely familiar with Shelfari and the other sites described so maybe I'm just missing something obvious.

I don't worry about Amazon's (through Abebooks') 40% interest per se. I don't think there's anything they can do that would hurt LT - UNLESS they have the ability to immediately drop they're interest (or sell it, or whatever) and therefore have that hurt LT. But if that's not something that can happen, I have faith that you guys will keep LT open and indie as much as possible in any kind of business structure. Thanks for all you do.

Aug 26, 2008, 2:44 pm

>43 countrylife: - We are bound by the COPPA act to not allow LibraryThing users who are under 13. Such is the state of the world right now.

This doesn't preclude (most) high schoolers, but it's a sticky wicket.

Aug 26, 2008, 2:48 pm

I'm not worried about LT going under, but I think some of the points are well taken. Links to the Wiki would be a major help to newcomers - I remember how confused I was when I started out. I'm naturally inclined to just sort of click around and try to figure things out, but I know I'm not normal ( . . . in so many ways).

The suggestion in #22 sparked a (probably trivial) thought. I have an association with a literary convention, and I'd be willing to spring for a few hundred bookmarks to hand out. How would you feel, Tim, about creating (or letting one of us create) a bookmark template that users could have printed up to publicize LT among their various constituencies?

I do think LT shouldn't try to change too much too fast. Continuing incremental improvements will do more than anything else. LT doesn't need to be the biggest book site out there - it just needs to be the best a what it does and generate enough money to stay in business. There's nothing wrong with being a niche player. Fill the right niche and you can survive anything.

Aug 26, 2008, 3:00 pm

>52 Helcura:
Bookmarks - we actually have a PDF version of the bookmarks we print up to bring to conference ourselves, available on the site here. And if anyone else wants to create an LT bookmark template and upload it for other people to use, I think that'd be great.

Aug 26, 2008, 3:01 pm

#45 come help with HelpThing on the wiki!

I'm a software developer and like most developers I don't like doing documentation and I am not much cop at it. However I would encourage all those who are so minded to help in this effort.

Aug 26, 2008, 3:01 pm

>52 Helcura:

I would *so* set out and promote LT bookmarks at my library (that is to say, my workplace). Bookmarks would be great!

I love to use LT to find information for patrons (like series info), and to *show* them where I found the info. I don't know if any of them have joined, but I think it's a great resource.

Aug 26, 2008, 3:04 pm

As Tim and others have mentioned, quirky, original companies often flounder under new management. But Shelfari wasn't quirky or original. They've always been way too corporate and 'professional'. I've always felt with regard to Shelfari that we were up against zero ideas and unlimited money. Nothing has changed there. They'll probably get bigger, but they're not going to get any better, any smarter, more agile, or any less impersonal.

What has made LibraryThing successful has been a unique philosophy, a passionate user base and a huge amount of creativity. This deal doesn't hurt us in any of those areas, so I'm not worried as long as we remain true to what's gotten us this far.

Aug 26, 2008, 3:06 pm

To be honest, I'm more concerned about Amazon owning Abe than I am it owning Shelfari. To have them own the company that owns 40 per cent of LT has me now worrying about hostile takeovers. ;)

I love LT and I did look at Shelfari around the same time I signed up for LT. I had to see what it was like, and I didn't like it much.

I do use Amazon, to buy books, dvds, and the occasional cd. I've sometimes looked at their recommendations based on my purchases, mainly for craft books. I don't use the site for anything other than shopping. I don't even review books there. I post reviews on my book blog, then copy them to LT.

I hope LT is around for a very long time and will talk it up whenever possible. After all, I've barely made a dent in loading in my books! :)

Aug 26, 2008, 3:06 pm

This message has been deleted by its author.

Aug 26, 2008, 3:19 pm

> 41 & 42 -- tags are hardly the same thing as lists. lists can include things that are not in your library or in any conceivable collection; they can be bibliographies. lists are enormously popular on with the more read-y group, so i think we really should have it here. without knowing the backend of LT, i think it can't be too much work.

my 2c: to my mind the things that make LT unique and popular among its users are:
(1) openness in development
(2) geekiness
(3) user content

openness generally: it would be fabulous to have code hooks to LT embedded in joomla, drupal, and other CMS; wordpress etc. the more open source the code is the more those things happen. at any rate, it would be interesting to look into the various companies that have gone open source but still maintained themselves as companies.

geekiness is about love of the mission. it shows up in deep attention to detail which is why LT has attracted its core of OCD book enthusiasts. it also shows up in the relatively sober (non-stupid-looking) graphics / UI. however, this can be a drawback in terms of attracting less geeky people. by less geeky, i don't mean less computer-savvy, but less enthusiastic about the mission. a few possible things to consider that might shift this dynamic, but there are significant downsides.
(1) wikipedia has a simplified version. it might be worth considering making a really stripped down, highly graphical interface to the core LT system. by no means would it necessarily be the default, but it could be an alternate interface for people who really want a very very simple social networking application. the downside: attracting a different clientele is going to change the social feel here at LT. Stripped down mobile version might be a model here.
(2) The stripped down versions could slide into easier interfaces for facebook and whatnot. Basic functionality: add a book, add / subtract tags from items, pull up a list of items by tag / currently reading / title / author. Any deeper LT functionality has to go to LT.
(3) create and open source a "skins" interface so that people could develop and use their own brightly-colored, tacky-as-hell, code. Even established and geeky LT folks might pick their own styles.

To do any of these I would hire someone just to work on these interfaces & packaging, or, you can open source the whole thing and rely on user energy.

user content continues to be the core value-add of LT. it's what's marketable to libraries, and frankly it's what keeps the real core of booklovers here: we can contribute to a common pool of book knowledge. build the hell out of common knowledge, open cataloging, and other community data features. TOCs, anthology contents; build in a structure to allow group LCSHing; indexing -- there's a sweet spot that full text doesn't get; lists / bibliographies; ultimately serials & other media support. if you can build out your wisdom-of-crowds library data, that keeps doors open to the library world. it's the strategy already, as far as i can tell, and i think it's a good one.

Aug 26, 2008, 3:24 pm

>57 ShellyS: I don't think you have to worry about a hostile take-over of LT. LT is a private company, not public. Amazon's 40% stake probably really means little until/unless Tim decides to sell, at which point they would probably get 40% of the proceeds. All depending on how the agreement was written, of course.

Aug 26, 2008, 3:25 pm

Here's the kind of thing that LT can do and which Amazon just wouldn't: I recently heard about They have a neat mechanism in place, but a terrible catalog (imprecise, full of dupes, no images, &c., &c.) and a dearth of information about the books. Now, LT could offer PBS a chance to use their data, and then attempt to upsell PBS users to a full LT membership, with little possible downside. Everyone wins, right?

Keep up the good work, LibraryThing. Your users love you and will continue to give you the raw material, encouragement, and feedback to make everyone's dreams come true.

Aug 26, 2008, 3:28 pm

shelfari has always been based on what's currently in publication, just like amazon, with no interest in different editions or of rare and unusual and almost uncategorizable publications. This is what librarything caters for, and which is enjoyed by readers, writers and collectors and we'll continue to support. shelfari is just one of many widget obsessed social networking sites, and (based on what my facebook friends use) not an especially popular one.

Regardless, even given all the friendships and interacting that's clearly taking place amongst librarything users, its ultimately the libraries that use it that are its greatest benefactor, beneficiary and benefit.

Aug 26, 2008, 3:32 pm

it definitely seems to be time to review and reevaluate your agreements (like, lawyers review) with Abe-no-Amazon books.

Too bad there isn't an equivalent FCC to stop Amazon from taking too much control ;)

Aug 26, 2008, 3:36 pm

tags are hardly the same thing as lists. lists can include things that are not in your library or in any conceivable collection

Yes, I'm aware that a specific list functionality would be useful. But in response to Add ability to see lists of books that you're reading, have read, or intend to read. (Maybe this exists and I just can't figure it out), I certainly think tags are worth mentioning. A second account is also a possibility.

New features are great, but getting the most out of the currently existing features is important too.

Aug 26, 2008, 3:40 pm

Get Powell's to buy ABE's stake while ABE still has some independence.

I like LT because it is reader-centered and is not trying to sell me anything (unlike the others). Keep that.

Edited: Aug 26, 2008, 3:43 pm handles lists nicely. You can make a list of basically anything, whether you've cataloged it or not, and make them public or keep them private. You can see how many lists an item appears in as well. I quite like this function even though I don't use it nearly as often as other people do.

Aug 26, 2008, 3:53 pm

>53 ablachly:

I like the back of the bookmark, but I think I'd like to try to design something a bit snazzier for the front. I presume it's cool to do so, and reproduce the logo? I'll put up my final on the Printables page with the others, unless you guys want to vet it first.

Aug 26, 2008, 3:54 pm

> Maybe we should highlight the rarer books folks own on the site once in a while? A little story here or there and it might drive some interesting traffic...even better if a few folks own them.

Aug 26, 2008, 3:55 pm

>67 Helcura:

No problem - consider it up for grabs to mash up. So take what you want, then put yours up for everyone else to use too!

Aug 26, 2008, 4:00 pm

Well, in my mind LibraryThing has the best functionality, but Goodreads is better at encouraging viral adoption. Shelfari is the laggard in both traffic, functionality and UI/UE. So, if anyone could use the help it's them!

Personally, I think LT could do more with widgets and viral distribution. Even without doing those things I'd love to see LT follow Goodreads and allow do-follow from reviews. I think that type of 'open' linking strategy is paying off for Goodreads since bloggers/authors etc. know they can get additional benefit from links at Goodreads.

I dislike the homogenization taking place so it's good to see a stand for independence. But LT needs a GOTV like campaign. And marketing isn't a bad thing in the right hands.

Aug 26, 2008, 4:05 pm

> 61

LT tried to integrate with PBS before, with swapping (in the same way that they currently integrate with Bookmooch). PBS was interested only if they were the sole swapping service linked to, as I recall. At any rate, the interactions didn't seem very promising:

Aug 26, 2008, 4:18 pm

And does integrate with LibraryThing.

Aug 26, 2008, 4:27 pm

A Facebook application would greatly increase your visibility. The first reply sounded as though there has been a discussion and it was decided to not have an application as opposed to just not yet having one and some of the following replies seemed to say "I don't use/like facebook so I don't want there to be an app". If you don't use/like facebook, simply don't use the application - it's existence wouldn't affect you.

I first tried iRead, got seriously irritated after about 100 books or so and it only exists on my profile as I keep not getting around to making sure all the books still on it are over here. It did hook me enough on the idea that I found LibraryThing.

I won't become a "fan" of LibraryThing. I haven't added myself as a fan of anything and don't really see the point so please don't use that as a way of judging interest.

Aug 26, 2008, 4:37 pm

Not much into business, it gives me a headache. But, there were a couple things I just wanted to comment on in passing:

"Shelfari's terms of use seem to claim actual copyright over users' data, but their users don't seem to mind."

I discovered this on a prior LT post and do not post reviews on Shelfari because of this. However, I do lots of reviewing on LT, it is one of my favorite features. I also enjoy the freedom to add and change the data on the book pages.

There are a couple groups on Shelfari that I very much enjoy participating in of a type that LT doesn't have much participation in. If it weren't for that I would never check in on my Shelfari account at all. The cataloging, tagging, data management, interface and everything else is far superior here than there IMHO.

Having had a great deal of experience with both Shelfari and LT, I'd have to say my overall preferences are with LT. I would hate to see this site change and applaud any efforts in maintaining LTs autonomy.

Just my small thoughts on the matter.

Aug 26, 2008, 4:41 pm

GoodReads is good at making its system seem facebook-personalizable.

If I were to make LT more GoodReads-like, I would:
(a) have a module of people's own reviews on their LT "home page", and allow more personalization of their home page -- so people could "brand" their own home pages. More bloggy interface -- a review need not necessarily be attached to a book, but could be an essay or critical review of several books, or a genre, or a style, or a writer. Plus allow commentary & discussion on those reviews. In other words, blog it up a bit.
(b) goodreads almost seems to be heading toward a sort of thing. If LT were to do the same thing but a bit more hightoned, it could provide advanced services for writer groups, workshops, and the like.
(c) quotes & lists are bibliographer / book-nerd friendly. I'd love to see more of that with LT -- so people can do their "favorite quotes" and their lists, as they do in GR. LT can high-tone-it-up and appeal to collectors / scholars / book-nerds by hitting epigraphs & dedications too.
(d) there are a bunch of social-network-y things that GR does that make its interface more facebook-y. i like the wordy text-heavy approach of LT -- i do. but tens of millions of people will have their expectations of UI driven by facebook. LT does not want to become the AskSam of social cataloging.

so, if the PTB deem that LT's UI should become more FB-like (acronyms, ahem), then i would really suggest that such moves toward facebook-iness be interface-level only, and be OPTIONAL -- part of a suite of UI choices. there will always be cranks who like command prompts and text-based interfaces, and that core is vital to LT -- so I wouldn't want to see it (us) lost.

Aug 26, 2008, 4:44 pm

The only feature of Goodreads that I care for is the 'favorite quote' option.

Aug 26, 2008, 4:56 pm

Spot on with the social-network slat of Goodreads. They do the best job (IMO) of encouraging viral adoption. I think LT can do the same without losing its 'cranks' like soul.

The 'Find Friends' link on the far right just isn't enough. I think you need to give people a bit of a nudge. Also - even when I go there. You know the email address I signed up with - so don't make me think and choose the yahoo address book. Pre-fill it for me.

And the text there:

Your friends may already be on LibraryThing! Find people you know who are already on LibraryThing. Invite others to see your books and join LibraryThing.

How about:

LibraryThing is better when you share it with friends. Invite your friends to join and see your books. Thanks for spreading the words!

It needs work lol - but you get my point. It's all a bit dry I think.

Aug 26, 2008, 4:58 pm

> 47


I'm impressed! I'd consider doing that, except I don't know what I'd do with the piles of books on the floor. ;-)

Aug 26, 2008, 4:58 pm

Oh don't get me wrong, iRead irritates me a lot. Their covers are a little annoying, editions are funky, etc. But it had the best visibility on the profile. I wanted to be able to say to my friends "Hey, guys I just read this" and at least at the time I was trying out Facebook book applications, it was the best at that.

Maybe, Goodreads is better now. I do have an account there, but it's all but abandoned. I may revisit it for facebook linking purposes.

I do like the idea of favorite quotes. I suggested it as a possible Common Knowledge field ages ago, a few people seemed interested but that was about it.

I also LOVE the idea of lists. Could you imagine LTers making their own lists like those in Book Lust?

Sure, Amazon has the option, but like Tim has pointed out with tagging on Amazon, it doesn't work nearly as well there as it does here. I think the book love of an average LT member is going to be much more passionate than the average Amazon member. And the lists wouldn't all ring like empty efforts to sell another book.

Plus, I am totally a mixed-tape, playlist type person. What if we could make our own "book mixes"? I suppose that can be done on Amazon, but it's like the difference between a iMix in the iTunes store and a mix at ArtoftheMix or Muxtape. One is about selling stuff and one is about love of music.

Aug 26, 2008, 5:03 pm

>77 ajkohn2001:
The lack of in-your-face forced socialization is one of the reasons I prefer LT. If Tim and Co. were to put reminders everywhere about finding "friends", I"d be disappointed.

>78 lilithcat:
I did it one shelf at a time, but while we had no Power Edit. So, I could walk around fairly safely, but mass tagging was a pain!

Aug 26, 2008, 5:08 pm

>79 twomoredays:, I didn't like quotes as a CK field for a couple of reasons -- first (and most), it has no cross-work traction, and that's what CK is best at. Everything set on Mars? That's a list. Everything containing this exact line? That's pretty much always going to be one book.

And (second) for that one book, it's going to make reading the work page like reading a whole novel...

BUT -- I love the idea of putting them in lists. I love the idea of lists in general: not just current or recent reads, which never really grab me all that much, but books for moods, books for colors, books with secondary characters named "George"...

Aug 26, 2008, 5:32 pm

There's already a pretty clear market niche differentiation between LT on the one hand and Shelfari and Goodreads on the other. In the short term, I think Goodreads needs to worry about Amazon pumping money into Shelfari a lot more than LT does.

That said, if one of those two were really to establish dominance in the market, it would make life tougher for LT, by limiting future growth. I think both price and user interface are potentially problems for LT's growth.

In the real world, the value that you get for $25 at LT is amazingly good. On the Internet, though, you can catalogue all your books (badly) for free, so a very large number of people will never consider LT seriously for that reason. On the whole, they will not tend to be the people that contribute a lot of value in terms of CK information or thoughtful, well-written reviews of low-frequency books, but some of them probably would be. Perhaps in the long run LT might benefit from a fourth membership type - up to 1000 books for free but with ads all over the page?

The other thing that repels people is probably the complexity of the UI. It almost looks like the web book-cataloging equivalent of command-line Unix. Of course, it's easy to have a clean, simple UI when you don't have sophisticated features underneath, as seen on the other sites. What's difficult is to take a very complicated technology, like the cataloging system at LT, and make it seem easy to use. I think in the long run LT would benefit from investment in user-experience design help - in addition to the UI itself, some of the graphic design stuff discussed earlier this year would fall in that category. It won't make the established power users happy, since it will likely mean things like not having 12 tabs across the top any more, but it really is getting a little out of control. As mentioned above, better (and more easily found) documentation is direly needed too.

Aug 26, 2008, 5:42 pm

77> The 'Find Friends' link on the far right just isn't enough. I think you need to give people a bit of a nudge.

I'm with fleela -- I don't want to be harassed. The link was screaming neon yellow for a month or more after it was introduced -- how much more intrusive do you want to be? If LT started doing LiveJournal-style "hey, loser, you don't have enough friends, go make some" "reminders" I'd be seriously annoyed.

And the thing is, people don't need to be members to "see your books", and I like it that way. They'd need to be members to share their books.

If LT wants to seriously grow, it needs new PAYING members, not new twenty-book members. And I think the methods of attracting the two types of members may not be the same.

Aug 26, 2008, 6:05 pm

82: One attraction of Goodreads and Shelfari is the literal price. I know someone who has a small catalog at LibraryThing, but uses Goodreads primarily because "she doesn't like paying for things on the internet".

I think an ad level might be a good idea.

Aug 26, 2008, 6:22 pm

1> Anyone have any thoughts? Legal thoughts? Thoughts on business practices and ethics? Thoughts on strategy? I'm all ears.

First, you should really talk to some competent lawyers who can advice you on the conflict issue. Having your competitor on your board of directors can severely cramp your style! You may also want to talk to founders of startups in a simiar situation.

If I were you I'd seriously look at accepting any offers from Google, Microsoft etc (should they materialize). Of course, as a user I'd hate this! But when you are already working so hard (up at 1am), working any harder *and* be more productive is well nigh impossible. You have to look at all your options. And you have to look at just what you (personally) want to be doing in 5 years' time. Yu have to look at may be raising some real money from the Vulture Capitalists.

I think you have to stop even thinking "Advantage LibraryThing". As Andy Grove said, Only the paranoid survive! And in this case you can safely assume they *are* out to get you!

I like the openness of LT but I don't think open sourcing LT's code is a good idea but anything you can do to make mashups easy would be great!

In terms of strategy I think you have to continually innovate and find new "channels" to customers. You have to keep clamoring for attention, hopefully with stuff people really want.

As an example, selling a few shares each to customers I think is a brilliant idea and something worth looking into. Even if you decide to not do it in the end, you will likely find other useful ideas during your exploration.

How about an iphone or a cellphone app? While at a bookstore I may want to read a review (&more) of a book I am considering buying (IMHO the current mobile page doesn't quite cut it). Conversely I may want to know which of the near bookstore has a book on my wishlist. Or I may want some recommendations on books while I am at a bookstore.

How about opening up LT to cataloging CDs and DVDs? Or cataloging anything with a UPC? (Then you are one step away from Ebay!)

Better integration with real libraries. Imagine clicking once to put a book on hold @ your local library! Similarly better integration with brick&mortar bookstores while they exist. Better integration with book related sites such as or Better integration with

I think there are still tremendous innovation opportunities for LT but you may need some serious money for that!

Aug 26, 2008, 6:26 pm

LibraryThing features defintely exceed those on other sites.

>25 WalkerMedia: LT has Groups based on specialized interests, and I can't help but wonder the untapped value of that information. I agree. The lists generated through Touchstones are excellent resources on their own..if I remember to star the discussion. The usefulness of those might be improved through another method of recording the location of the discussion and more consistent linking in Touchstones.

If I want to use the wiki associated with my account for listing some of the information that I'd like to save, can I add a link to that wiki on my home page?

It seems to me that the growth of LT features is increasing the need for coordinating those within our accounts. Collections will add even more customizing functionality. We have outgrown our profile pages. We have settings on more than one page. Could we perhaps have an improved switchboard' of account options? It would help us track those preferences and show new users possible choices.

With a more effective way to communicate potential features and services to all users, members are likely to increase.

Aug 26, 2008, 6:47 pm


I'm sorry, but look at the growth numbers for LibraryThing. (see Compete or Quantcast). Then compare to Goodreads. Shelfari went too far in the 'in-your-face' direction and drove users away IMO, but I think LT hasn't gone far enough.

The sharing mechanism can be integrated in more ways and be less intrusive. However, I believe it is necessary if LT is going to grow and help serve book bibliophiles.

I understand there's a very anti-marketing, anti-corporate sentiment but some marketing is critical to the continued existence of sites that fight against homogenization.

The site will still be cool even when millions visit it every month.

Edited: Aug 26, 2008, 7:25 pm


I think you misunderstood -- I'm not antimarketing. I'm anti "invite your friends" marketing. I think that particular tactic is a bad one. I'm all in favor of encouraging people to blog about LT, etc. But I hate the nagging that I'm not doing my part if I'm not spamming my mailbox -- I paid for my lifetime membership, I'd happily pay more, but I WILL NOT spam my friends and I would not appreciate being nagged about that.

I also challenged your axiom that raw numbers are the only meaningful metric. Neglecting any second-order effects, adding a few thousand users with ten books each will do less for LT's bottom line than adding ten users with a thousand books each. I think the shallow, friends-based marketing is more likely to attract the sort of users who were attracted to Shelfari -- those with very few books.

Aug 26, 2008, 8:07 pm


Okay, I understand your dislike of the tactic and that you think it doesn't bring the 'right' people to the site.

Here's my pitch for the other side. Current users would be inviting *their* friends. By a not so stretch in logic IMO, you would think this would bring similar users. I'm not advocating sending an invite to your entire address book, I'm advocating the select invitation of friends current users feel are a match for LT.

If that bit of logic holds up, then it would bring qualified traffic that might actually pay the membership.

Visits is also an important metric because of affiliate revenue and other potential revenue streams. Obviously engagement is also important - is LT bringing users back again and again? Are they staying longer? Doing more? If you believe that new people DO sign-up on a monthly basis, then the growth numbers indicate that engagement (as measured by repeat visits) isn't growing substantially if at all.

I want LT to flourish and find more bibliophiles. The social aspect is a lever to pull. Not the only one, but an important one I think. The biggest one would be revamping the widgets iMO. Let me create a favorite books widget. (Yes, I know I could tag it favorite and create one that way, but either tell me that or make it easier.)

What about a top rated books of the month widget? How about a review widget? I write a review, I can grab the code and stick it on my website, or within a post. Oh, the ideas!

Aug 26, 2008, 8:15 pm

Well it leaves me worried, too.

I think LT is one of the two or three social networking sites I’m a member of (others would be RYM and blogspot) that has the potential to outlive the social networking hype. Or, if the hype won’t subside, to outlive the dwindling user bases most of the smaller sites will have to face—active user bases, that is, not visitors who signed up to never come back. With 24-hour-days, you can social-network only up to a point.

But I think this would only be possible if LT doesn’t (Re 87) try to grow beyond what comes in more or less naturally along the way LT operates. I agree with Iorax (Re 88): 10 users with 1000 books each are way more useful in the medium/long term than 1000 users with ten books each. I think maybe Shelfari isn’t so much a competitor, but a site that can shield LT from growing too sudden, too fast with the wrong userbase.

Nevertheless, it’s indeed a situation of some sorts. How about buying back what Abe invested? Maybe LT could develop into a kind of “user-held” community where users don’t “donate” money but, like, buy two or three “shares”? I think that’d be cool.


Aug 26, 2008, 8:25 pm

#43 -- Sounds like Groups need Tags, to help people find the groups they need.

Aug 26, 2008, 8:38 pm

> 9,10,20,85,90
You can't just sell shares in a private company to random people.

Edited: Aug 26, 2008, 8:40 pm

That’s why I put “shares” in quotation marks. Let’s call it “investments.”

Aug 26, 2008, 9:10 pm

My first thought, as it was when it was announced that Amazon was buying Abebooks, is panic. Complete and utter panic. I do not want LibraryThing to go the way of all-too-many others, bowing down to larger less personal sites like Amazon. That is my main fear.

Openness, Dynamics, all of that stuff, I'm not sure how to comment on. I know that *I* personally don't mind my data being used in whatever way will benefit LT, but that's just me. I know that *I* would 100% back anything LT does that helps us stay independant and different from Shelfari, Amazon, etc etc. Beyond that, I don't know, because my brain bursts.

I don't know if it's even a serious thought, or just some sliding comment, but I would certainly buy shares in LT to get them away from Amazon. And I realize how coldhearted the second part of that sentence sounds, but 40% sounds like a lot and it scares the crap outta me. Even if nothing really changed, users having shares in LT and bringing down Amazon's percentage seems like a good idea. But of course, I don't know anything about that kind of stuff.

Ohhhh I love 22's suggestion about cards or something that we could use to help promote LT! (my BookMooch cards always come in handy)
Aug 26, 2008, 9:45 pm

I really enjoy LibraryThing. I've tried Shelfari and GoodReads, and neither of them sat quite right with me. I the VisualBookshelf Facebook application for a while, and while the interface is very easy to use you cannot get your data out of it once it's there, so no more of that for me.

My biggest problem with LibraryThing is the user interface. The information architecture just seems "off." I realize that statements like that need some supporting evidence. I'm planning on doing a top to bottom survey of the site to make notes of what I think could be improved on and what works great (like the "Your library" tab), but in the meantime I'll give you all a couple of things that bother me as examples of what I'm looking at. The first is Touchstones. I saw Touchstone works and Touchstone authors at the top of this thread, but I didn't have any idea what they were or how they got there until I came to write this post. Instructions like the ones that I see here should be used more frequently throughout the site. You could have a simple question mark that, when moused over, displays a little popup with information about that feature. The idea of a help wiki is nice, but it takes you away from the experience on the page and is, in my opinion, irritating. Documentation like that is easier to use when it is printed, so that you can have it on your lap while you're working with a site (or some sort of integrated development environment - I'm a programmer).

Touchstones are just a little thing. Something that could use a lot of work and would make the site much more usable is an overhaul of the search functionality. Why is there a separate page with a ton of different search boxes? Why not do like Firefox and have a single search box in the upper right corner of the page and a drop-down list of search methods next to that? Then you'd have all of the various and sundry search options available on every single page.

Keep up the good work, LibraryThing. I have to admit that I don't participate much in the social aspect of the site, but the cataloging functionality and flexible data presentations are top notch. I fully plan on investing in a lifetime membership just as soon as I find time one of these weekends to start seriously cataloging my books.

Aug 26, 2008, 10:16 pm

Neglecting any second-order effects, adding a few thousand users with ten books each will do less for LT's bottom line than adding ten users with a thousand books each.

The thing is, why are those ten "valuable" members not already using LT? Is it because they've examined it and found that the cataloguing isn't good enough, or is it because they just haven't heard of it? I think the second option is a lot more likely. So the important thing is to increase general awareness of the site. If you add 1000 new users, I'm pretty sure you'll get ten "good" ones among them.

Aug 26, 2008, 10:20 pm

I want to say thanks for all the ideas here. It confirmed some of my feelings, but gave me some excellent advice too.

I've been out of the conversation most of the day--just checking in twice. Unfortunately, this whole thing went down on the same day my sister and her three kids arrived from Minneapolis. So while the blogosphere bubbled with the news that Tim doesn't mince words, I was happily downing hot dogs watching the Sea Dogs beat the New Britain Rock Cats. (We won.)

At 10pm at night with a huge quantity of email, I'll have to leave it at "thanks" for now. More later, if I can dig out by lights-out.

Edited: Aug 26, 2008, 10:25 pm

If it's more, and more serious, users LT needs, perhaps the bookmark thing could work as a "grassroots" effort. Keep in mind, I have simple ideas. What if everyone on this thread printed off bookmarks and took them to your local indies, used bookstores, college quads and libraries. If there is someway to encourage others who have not been eavesdropping here, that would add even more.

I agree with Zoe that many people too many people don't even know about LT. I work at a Borders and from time to time will mention it to customers and have yet to find one that I wasn't giving new information to.

Edited: Aug 26, 2008, 10:31 pm

>96 _Zoe_:

I don't think we have to choose between committed members and more casual ones. Certainly many members move between the two statuses. However, LibraryThing's change at winning by promotion alone is dimmer now, if Amazon puts it weight behind its unit. If LibraryThing offers nothing better or different from Shelfari, while some users will come out way, the vast majority will go to Amazon, one of the most visited sites on the web. We can't survive that way.

Rather, we need to provide something better. That doens't mean LT needs to be elitist or against "casual" use, but we do have to offer something more. If we do that right, Shelfari becomes not a threat, but a "gateway" drug--the place you discover second, but stay in forever.

Aug 26, 2008, 10:44 pm

In my experience designing and building websites two big ways exist to get users to visit and consistently re-visit a site.

1) Have something to 'get'. This used to be primarily downloads but nowadays it's also information, articles, etc. Amazon has the upshot here because the main point of going to Amazon is for the potential to get something. Shelfari in that sense is riding on that benefit but by itself won't have more to offer than LT. Shelfari might add things to get in the form of articles written by staff writers about books. This way users will be able to get something for free even if they don't have an account and/or don't log in. Personally I think LT would be in a much stronger market position if it provided relevant staff written articles about books, writing, etc.

2) Change the very first page of the site frequently. This ensures people that a site is alive. Even dynamically changing the layout and populating it with snippets distilled from the vast amount of existing content helps. In some form this already exists with a user's start page but it would be a big bonus if something like that existed for the front page of LT.

Just my 2 centimeters.

Aug 26, 2008, 11:20 pm

>22 klarusu: >98 retropelocin: and others. I agree that, as well as all the other excellent ideas here, "grassroots" efforts like bookmarks to local libraries, bookshops, schools, etc., would be outstandingly effective. I've noticed over the years that advertising once is not enough - you can tell your friends about LT but they are much more likely to join up if, e.g., every time they open the book they are reading they see "" on their bookmark. I'd happily distribute a few hundred in this small town.

Aug 26, 2008, 11:31 pm

The bookmark idea sounds really good to me: too.

Aug 27, 2008, 12:04 am

Three things I'd like to see LibraryThing do.

1. Increase interactivity. You might either develop new features to get people involved or direct more of them immediately to those features that are fun. By the way, Abby said she'd post the author's picture on each author chat. Have her do that. We want to see to whom we're talking!

2. Increase marketing. Use whatever means you can. Take advantage of your membership by making COLORFUL and more lively bookmarks available for download. Make fliers. Have more meet-ups to make this site come ALIVE. LTers are real people, too. Have LT members do your marketing for free (we're volunteers, remember?) at our own local bookfairs. It would be lovely to have something to hand out rather than just scribble down the name of as I usually do!

3. Develop LibraryThing for Book Groups. I don't have a specific idea for this, but I think these are groups that have untapped potential for membership here. I know there are scattered book groups throughout LT, but if you make it a special feature, it might lead to something huge. Book Groupies are just the type of members we want to have. Most people whom I know who belong to book groups have never heard of LibraryThing. until I talk about it. :(

Aug 27, 2008, 12:42 am


Hmmm. I like the idea of LibraryThing for Book Groups. Maybe a book group could catalog the books they have read and are currently reading. Each book group could have its own library. . .It could end up being a way for people to filter their search for another book to read. Example, say there's a mystery book club. They can have their own library here on LT. And maybe the group as a whole provides a book review of the books they have cataloged. You could have each book group describe what niche they are in: may be the mystery book club only reads Sherlock Holmes mysteries and another reads Mrs. Murphy mysteries (Rita Mae Brown.)

It's really late here right now. Perhaps this doesn't make any sense.

Anyway, I like the fact that LT isn't heavy on social networking. It's casual. And the focus is always on the books which is important. is focused more on profit. LT isn't. And that's a huge difference. I didn't realize that Amazon owned 40% of LT. What about approaching Borders or Barnes and Noble as an investor (if they already are, please excuse my ignorance.) Amazon makes me nervous, probably because they keep taking over companies and their focus isn't on books, but on EVERYTHING.

Borders used to be associated with Amazon, but they no longer are. If you order a book online from Borders, it's from Borders. There has been some serious discontent among the smaller book publishers about how Amazon runs its policies toward handling the selling of their books. And again, Borders has completely split from Amazon.

As for getting new people to join LT, maybe it was already mentioned, but people could ask their local libraries to promote LT. May be send them business cards or some magnets. Something that would get patrons to ask as they're checking out books "Hey, what's this LibraryThing thing?"

On a personal note, I just introduced LT to my grief counselor (my father passed away last October) and she told me that one of her friends would really be interested in LT and has a house full of books. Serious bibliophile. I turned on my computer and called up LT. She wrote down LT's address.

Again, please forgive typos etc. It's 12:30am and I need to go catch some zzzs.

Aug 27, 2008, 1:25 am

When I log into LibraryThing, there are indications that people are using the site. Messages are fresh at any hour and users are enthusiastic. When I log into Shelfari, I see photos, glitz and posted headlines. Where are the people?

This evening, I couldn't remember my password there (haven't visited for some time). The Shelfari password retrieval wasn't working--I received an error message with a form for leaving a message. When I used that to request password info, I received a Server/Application error message! When the form was repaired, there was no note or comment.

LibraryThing is staffed with people who are dedicated to improving the site for its users.

Aug 27, 2008, 3:12 am

#105: "LibraryThing is staffed with people who are dedicated to improving the site for its users."

I think this is the very reason why the JSON thing Tim mentioned in #1 fizzled. I hack our Oracle calendar at work but that's because it lacks some functions that I'm sure I'm not able to talk Oracle into providing. With LT Tim can usually be nudged into fixing things so it is better to wait awhile and get a proper LT solution rather than put something more fragile up yourself.

Aug 27, 2008, 4:38 am

There's a post you may have read over at


"As Benjamin Franklin said during the American Revolution, "Gentlemen, we must all hang together, or we shall assuredly all hang separately." Now is a good time for LibraryThing and Goodreads to start talking about interoperability. "

I can't really see this working, but I've not really looked at Goodreads - can anyone see any potential in a librarything-goodreads hookup?

Aug 27, 2008, 5:13 am

I'm not sure how such an integration would work (at least for me). But that could be because I am one of those who started early on LT (before any social aspect) and am primarily concerned with my catalogue and associated CK data.

However if people can see a good use-case that doesn't dilute the core focus of LT then sure it seems a good idea. Otherwise it could mean that people will continue using GR and getting a lot of the benefits of LT (with LT getting little in return).

I note that Tim O'Reilly, the writer of the piece you linked to, is a GR user. Maybe he is more worried about his side of the pond. I know that Shelfari cannot meet my needs (or those of us who are catalogue/data centric). I know uniques are generally seen as a good measure in the industry but they are less important to LT where we have no advertising to members and I don't think Tim is looking at an IPO or sale either.

Aug 27, 2008, 5:55 am

Would anyone consider making a template for bookmarks to fit A4 paper instead of US letter size? Maybe even mentioning the other language sites?

American PDF files are fairly useless to me because they resize down, and that usually makes things print poorly. Besides many of the people I meet do not have English as their only, or even main language.

Aug 27, 2008, 6:29 am

I strongly agree with #2 (twomoredays) about the helpfulness of a solid Facebook app in spreading the word. I can't believe LT never followed through with their promises on this one.

Having a good app doesn't mean changing anything about how LT itself works (to allay the fears of people like #50), it's just a way of reaching out, interacting with even more people, and spreading the word. I'm reduced to using iRead to share my book interests because most of my *friends* are only casual book-readers, but nearly all of them are on Facebook. And since LT offers no way for me to reach and interact with those friends, I have to go elsewhere. Bad move.

Look, I love LT's features, its "seriousness," and the things that make it different from Shelfari ... but the book-nerd in the corner, too socially-averse to talk to others and claiming "superiority" to justify his aloofness, doesn't tend to make a lot of friends and shouldn't be surprised that no one's talking to him ...

Aug 27, 2008, 6:52 am

Part of the issue is load and scalability.

If a LT Facebook app hits the LT servers it will increase the load on those servers. At times load is already close to its upper limit.

Also I would guess that if your friends are casual readers (or even non-readers) they have very little interest in the books you are currently reading if you are a voracious reader.

Aug 27, 2008, 7:39 am

The load/scalability issue is legit (but should be addressed, not used as an excuse). The second issue, though, is an unjustified assumption that takes us right back to the superiority complex that's keeping LT in the corner.

Aug 27, 2008, 8:31 am

Lq and others are right, lists a la are fun, whether best poets, or books with shortest dog detectives, or whatever.

However, a couple of things you could consider - you have author accounts, why not publisher?

There would appear to be tons of publishers even electronic only, right up to the glacial dinosaurs like your Penguin types. I think Amazon has probably peeved quite a few of these, so they may well be a source of allies and info.

Work out how to load their books in easily - and that can maybe also help you build some catchall obscure title source lookup function. Rss feeds of upcoming books from people's fave indie or bigger publishers would be fun - and could be a homepage widgety device. For sf, places like isfdb etc. do some of this.

Presumably those that are crime on romance fans - lots of those on the net reading a squillion books electronic or otherwise. Perhaps you could give the various writer groups, MWA, RWA, SFWA (and other countries and acronyms) a first year discount for membership.

If you want documentation, or are struggling with it - and want to work closely with libraries - perhaps some Library or Information Science projects at the postgrad academic level could tie-in with LT. I think there is even one here that has an Information Management Project subject - although presumably ones close to you would be more useful.

I've seen articles about you in journals etc., so you clearly have some cred there that your opponents probably do not.

That would mean the whole collections thing perhaps, and the nasty, ugly subwork bibliographic database problem particularly need more attention if you are looking to differentiate at the high-end. Whether some student slaver... err.. project type stuff can help with that, don't know.
Aug 27, 2008, 8:33 am

>112 erichoefler: Thank you for saying that. There has been a lot of talk about openness on this thread, but there has also been a lot of talk about casual readers or users versus hard-core readers. Openness and acceptance means embracing the book people who are not as zealous as we are. Part of the reason that I don't generally partake in the social aspects of LibraryThing is that I just don't have time. It certainly isn't for lack of interest in the conversation. I'd imagine that there are many users out there like me who want to be more active in the community at large and just don't have time for it. Sentiments like "if your friends are casual readers (or even non-readers) they have very little interest in the books you are currently reading" are enormously off-putting.

Now, to address the Facebook issue. A grassroots campaign with bookmarks and fliers and whatnot is all well and good and will no doubt help spread the word about LibraryThing, but I have a very, VERY hard time imagining that any grassroots effort will reach the potential 100 million users that Facebook has.

Aug 27, 2008, 8:42 am

"I have a very, VERY hard time imagining that any grassroots effort will reach the potential 100 million users that Facebook has."

Who says anyone needs to reach ALL of these users? Facebook is THE most viral social network out there right now (and for the near future). If only 1/8th of the people on this site add the Facebook app and share it with friends, you're still talking about huge numbers suddenly having an awareness of LT. Not entering that space seems like such an incredibly and obviously bad move that it's almost like saying: "No thanks ... I don't want lots of people to know about me."

Aug 27, 2008, 8:49 am

However, LibraryThing's change at winning by promotion alone is dimmer now, if Amazon puts it weight behind its unit.

Just because you can't win by promotion alone doesn't mean you can't lose by giving up on promotion almost entirely.

If LibraryThing offers nothing better or different from Shelfari, while some users will come out way, the vast majority will go to Amazon, one of the most visited sites on the web. We can't survive that way.

The thing is, LT is already very much better and different from Shelfari. Most people just don't know it.

Aug 27, 2008, 9:43 am


I think I disagree with your last point about elitism. It isn't about elitism but about different interests and different levels of interest. If I'm interested in books (amongst other things) I want to see what my friends are reading. People interested in music will want to know what records their friends are listening to. People interested in computer games want to know about the latest game their friends have. The casual part of casual interest is almost definitive. The moment they start actively reading your reviews, following your reading list they are no longer have a casual interest (or are stalkers).

I think it goes straight to the why of the social part of the site. Supplying simple widgets to Facebook users is one thing but to fully embrace the Facebook ethos is a move away from the LT ethos (as discussed widely at the time the social features started to appear).

Aug 27, 2008, 10:04 am

As one who was an Independent Bookshop owner for ten years and since then has been a Management Consultant specialising in Small Businesses, I am pretty familiar with the dilemmas that Tim is facing. I suggest that he should not be too concerned in the immediate future.

As many people have already blogged here, the impact of this takeover on Shelfari is likely to be a standstill on innovation - but probably a significant increase in Marketing spend. Which in turn will serve to increase the appeal of all book-related sites and LT quality will rise to the top.

The main point is that Amazon is concerned with selling books while LT is about reading, owning and cataloguing. Shelfari (as I understand it) is about social interaction and books are the vehicle for this.

What does worry me is that LTmight try to fight this imagined threat by developing a bigger and more complicated site, thus needing to employ more people, setting up sub-committees, have a Board and generally become a Corporate. Please don't do it.

In my bookselling days a very succesful UK publisher, by then well into his eighties, was discussing the problems of Organisations. With some sadness he told me that he had spent many many years trying to give up the business. He had appointed a succession of keen, bright young men to groom for taking over the business. Every one of them had failed to last the course. The reason - they had families and life outside the business. They wanted to catch the 5.30 train home. While of course for him, the company was his home, his family and his lfe. On his death, the company was eventually sold to a conglomorate and became just another imprint.

That is my long-term concern for LT, and the reason for my belief that Tim need not worry, but his successors should!

More strength to your arms guys. Thanks from a corner of England.

Aug 27, 2008, 10:04 am

>117 andyl: There are plenty of people who are interested in what their friends are reading but don't own thousands of books or care about cataloguing them all as accurately as possible. In earlier messages, a casual user seemed to be defined as one who would enter 20 books (say, by entering books only as they read them), whereas a "serious" user would enter 1000 books. I think it's definitions like that that led to claims of elitism.

Aug 27, 2008, 10:13 am

What about having a link to/on They have a section on their site called "All Around The Web." They have links to literary organizations, literary blogs, poetry and other writing resources.

If you are talking about exposure, every little bit helps. It's just another way to let people know LT exists.

Edited: Dec 4, 2008, 4:36 pm

This message has been deleted by its author.

Aug 27, 2008, 10:20 am

"Supplying simple widgets to Facebook users is one thing but to fully embrace the Facebook ethos is a move away from the LT ethos."

I guess I just don't get how the Facebook "ethos" vs. LT "ethos" is a problem. I don't see why having the ability to easily share my LT activities (what I'm adding to my library, currently reading, and recently reviewing) with my Facebook friends needs to be an ethos-warping problem. I'd settle for a one-way app: adding news feed items when I add books, add reviews, etc., and displaying what I'm currently reading. Why is that a threat to what LT is all about?

Aug 27, 2008, 10:25 am

Tim, I think you are correct that the openness of LT, and the depth of its data is the foundation that will keep it strong in the face of the ever-devouring Amazon. That said, I think LT could explore ways to make that (book) data more visible. I can't go anywhere book-related on the web these days that doesn't have affiliate links back to Amazon for book data. In a recent book forum, a person posted the entire new IndieBound recommended book list for September, with links for all the titles that went to Amazon, "for research purposes" as she said. I pointed out that she could link to LT instead, and it had just never occurred to her to link elsewhere for book information. In fact, every bookseller I know at some point will secretly look up stuff on Amazon when they need information. And not just publication information, but often precisely the kind of information LT is better suited to offer-- "if you like this then try that," bibliographies that include even obscure works, etc.

And while I can see that Facebook apps would be useful at the consumer level (I'd use it), and a website sysadmin person, I'd like to see some work in creating extensions that would go with other Open Source applications like Joomla or Drupal, and some kind of exchange that would allow even major proprietary book inventory software to use LT data. I can run a script on any of my sites that will take a word and send me to its Wikipedia page. My god I'd love something like that for books and LT.
Aug 27, 2008, 10:46 am

>123 southernbooklady: Why not a search extension that could go into the Firefox or Internet Explorer search bar? There are already Google, Amazon, Delicious, and Wikipedia plugins, along with many others, so why not one for LibraryThing? I would use that instead of the Amazon search for basic book information.

Aug 27, 2008, 10:49 am

Message 53: ablachly

Why don't you sell these bookmarks at the cafepress website where all your bags and t-shirts are?

Aug 27, 2008, 11:04 am

It's fatal to LT to get in an adversary position opposing Amazon and all it stands for.

Amazon has done FAR more to improve my access to books than LT could ever do; serious (and casual) book people are going to rely on Amazon more and more. Amazon's logistics (inventory, shipping, service) are very nearly perfect. Amazon's web services (cloud computing and storage, well-integrated with open tools) are excellent, reflecting their world-class technical savvy. I use Amazon all the time, as a book-buyer and as a developer. I certainly don't want to enlist in some cause whose success is defined as "beating Amazon"; I'm going to be depending on Amazon for the rest of my life.

Think of how to complement Shelfari within a world dominated by Amazon. There's no real competition between a "casual" book-social site for the masses mainly driven by Amazon marketing, and a "serious" book-social site for the cognoscenti mainly driven by scholarship and Amazon technology. One good step would be to host LT in Amazon's cloud (improve performance and reduce costs) immediately. Then use that contact to talk to the right people in Amazon. The right place for LT, very long-term, might well be within Amazon, setting the standards and services needed to work with libraries (public and private) and serious bibliophiles.

Most of the future is going to come from places other than LT. The only strategy is to fit into the future, not to try to build an alternative reality. Look at what happened to independent bookstores. Look at what happened to Common Reader (I used to correspond with James Mustich about similar topics, while he was going out of business), which could have continued to operate successfully by outsourcing fulfillment to Amazon.

It's fatal to LT to get in an adversary position opposing Amazon and all it stands for.

Edited: Aug 27, 2008, 11:08 am

Team up with Penguin and become a dating site like the one mentioned here!


Aug 27, 2008, 11:24 am

114: Sentiments like "if your friends are casual readers (or even non-readers) they have very little interest in the books you are currently reading" are enormously off-putting.

117: I think I disagree with your last point about elitism. It isn't about elitism but about different interests and different levels of interest. If I'm interested in books (amongst other things) I want to see what my friends are reading. People interested in music will want to know what records their friends are listening to.

I don't want to belabor the point or extend the discussion too far from the focus, but I agree with 117, I think it's about different interests. Even my husband isn't interested in what I'm reading. He's one of those "non-readers" - or more specifically, he reads magazines and the local newspaper, and reads sports and other news online, but an actual book? VERY rare.

A lot of good ideas here, I'm glad to see them! I like Blacklin's idea in 120; there are a lot of poetry fans on LT, and some "marketing" to that group could be good.

Edited: Aug 27, 2008, 11:56 am

> 124 Why not a search extension
It already exists for Firefox. See WikiThing, s.v. Search Engine Plugins.
Aug 27, 2008, 12:03 pm

>129 MMcM: Brilliant! See, here's a tool that people could be using that is effective, but it's locked away in some dark corner of LibraryThing. This is something that could be advertised.

Aug 27, 2008, 12:47 pm

On the bookmark subject -

I'm going to work on some designs this weekend. I'll try to do some versions suitable for printing yourself and some color ones that could be done on glossy paper by a printer. I'll also try to put together a few business card size templates as well. I get a lot of offers for free business cards, and was thinking LT would be a good use for those, some of the rest of you may get those offers too.

I'll put up PDF versions, but if you want something different, drop me a comment and I'll see if I can accommodate it. No promises, but I'll do what I can.

I'll also try to create something that you can drop your own graphics into, so people can customize the style a bit - I know, of course, that everyone will respect content creators and only drop in graphics that they own or that are copyright free. ;-)

I have a three day weekend, so I should have something up by Monday evening at the latest.

Aug 27, 2008, 1:43 pm

128: I'm glad you like the idea of the plug on the Poetry Foundation. I emailed them to make sure that it would be okay to put their links on my site and they said "go ahead." I can't imagine that they would say no to having and LT link on their site.

127: A dating site at Penguin? Yes. Sad. Very sad indeed.

Edited: Aug 27, 2008, 1:54 pm

Even without doing those things I'd love to see LT ... allow do-follow from reviews.

(After some profile-comment back and forth on terminology)

Ah. I see. Yes, LT adds the no-follow attribute to links in user-contributed text--or all that uses the newer function anyway.

This is a protection against spammers. Wikipedia does it, as do most blog-commenting engines and other sites that incorporate user links. If a spammer knows that LT uses no-follow, they are relatively dissuaded from taking the time to create fake accounts, add fake books, write fake profiles and post fake reviews. They know Google won't "count" the link in the same way. But real, live human beings are not in any way dissuaded from visiting the site.

Members who post links in order to invite other members to check out their blogs are very welcome to do so. But if someone is posting to LibraryThing in hopes of manipulating their Google PageRank, we don't want them. We want them to go bother our competitors! In theory, we could remove the attribute on reviews from paid accounts, but I think the issue rather minor.

More to read...

Aug 27, 2008, 2:02 pm

>125 kageeh: Cafepress tends to be more expensive than other options. Printing 10 bookmarks on your laser printer is a lot cheaper and without shipping, for a small amount. Printing 1000 bookmarks at Kinkos (or your local independent printer) will be cheaper than Cafepress too, and without shipping as well.

I've printed LTFL bookmarks for library conferences, and I had the bookmarks printed locally. Cardstock + PDF + cropmarks = bookmarks.

Re: LibraryThing stock, even though we can't sell it outright (since we're not publicly traded), the idea that LibraryThing members would be willing to invest (in my head, it's kind of like buying the right to name a star - buying a invisible slice of LT) makes me really, really happy. Thank you, all of you.

Aug 27, 2008, 2:06 pm

I think that if the goal is more visibility in the social networking space, there are a few features that are already present that need to be refined/improved/expanded/redesigned:


The search feature needs massive improvement. There needs to be the ability to search just thread titles as well as full text, and to refine by date. Not to mention search for actual groups, rather than messages. If you don't know a group already exists, it is virtually impossible to find, unless is is one of the standing groups/most members/most active. A few pages of groups-of-groups might be helpful (e.g., "genre fiction groups", "nonfiction topic groups", "geographical groups", "author groups").

Ease of use for Talk could be improved somewhat. We should have buttons for the most common HTML tags used (em, b, link), for those not well versed in HTML, as most sites have.

I think the Touchstones are massively underused. First of all, they obviously need to be fixed. Then, they need to be usable outside the Talk area - a link to print the list of touchstones, or save the list on your computer (or copy the list to your wiki page, or post the list on your blog) would really increase the usefulness of the feature.


As mentioned above, more prominence for available tools - search plugins, widgets, bookmarklets, extensions. A new Add bookmarklet that works. More widgets - I'd love to show my tag cloud on my web page, if it were exportable (and I could limit it to the top 25 or so).

I do think, unimportant as it may seem, that a Facebook app would be valuable, just for the publicity. Maybe widgets usable elsewhere as well - MySpace, iGoogle, NetVibes (even if some of those are not publicly viewable pages).

I would love to be able to make some of the homepage widgets public, either on my LT profile or on other sites. Tagwatch, Local Events, My Zeitgeist, and Hot Reviews would all work without violating anyone's privacy (I don't think Connection News or Members with Your Books would work for those reasons).

Frankly some of those widgets belong on the front page (for un-logged in people) for currency: On This Day, Popular This Month, Hot Reviews, Recently Added, Early Reviewers, and maybe a Hot Talk Topics. All those would make the front page much more interesting.

I also think more RSS feeds for some of those would be great. It's much easier to share or email an item from an RSS feed than something on your LT home page. Feeds for Hot Reviews, Early Reviewers, and Popular This Month would be particularly valuable. Maybe feeds for Tagwatch.

Aug 27, 2008, 2:09 pm

Also, the bookmarks - it would be nice if the back and front were in a single file, so they could easily be printed out on printers capable of printing both sides of the sheet (the two files are not *quite* lining up when I print them separately).

Aug 27, 2008, 2:14 pm

Aug 27, 2008, 2:15 pm

A couple quick points...

Promotion. By no means are we against promotion. It the the cards idea is the sort of promotion LT should do. (Incidentally, I've spoken at length with Buckman about this; we just haven't had time to do it.) There are a number of other "viralities" that LT should exploit more. Our widgets need an update. Facebook--which is much more than virality--is also a necessity, as we know.

That said, I would repeat that LT won't defeat Shelfamazon on superior promotion--particularly paid promotion. It will win on superior features and community, which makes users happy and eager to tell others about it.

Elitism. There's no question that we need all sorts of users. Our collections feature--in development--is in part an effort to combat the idea that LibraryThing is about the books you own, and you should keep your reading lists and wish lists elsewhere.

Nor is it an argument against a user-interface refresh. We need one. (And when we get one, the tags tab better look over its shoulder! Mwahahaha.) But a refresh is different from apeing the values of a site like Shelfari. Shelfari's user interface draws a lot of praise from design blogs, but less from book people and even less from the book people already on LibraryThing. Certainly one of the blog-memes I see about Shelfari is that, although initially impressed by its interface, users eventually become frustrated by the lack of control. After all, if Shelfari's design were so great, they would not have spent three or four times as much money on their site as we ever have, and ended up with fewer users even though ours often have to pay!

It's fatal to LT to get in an adversary position opposing Amazon and all it stands for.

I would not claim to be against all they stand for. Not at all. I'm against what *Shelfari* stands for, not Amazon. Amazon has done some very interesting things with books--starting with the first real system of user reveiws! The fact remains that LibraryThing is now competing against Amazon, not against a separate Shelfari entity.


We'd love to help, particularly if you're a Quark-er. I just shelled out for a full version, so I'll be damned if I'm going to shell out for InDesign!

Aug 27, 2008, 2:41 pm

Maybe I'm just an old bag (or hag or whatever) but I truly hate the idea of an LT app on Facebook or MySpace. I think of those sites as mostly for teenies and pre-formed adults who believe that everyone who knows them is interested in everything they are doing at every moment (twitter anyone?). Arrrggghhh, that makes my skin crawl and probably the skin of most people post-40 (-50 or -60). There are far better ways for "mature" poeple to stay in touch even electronically than those always-in-your-face applications.

I wouldn't want LT to discourage any or all comers (except those ridiculous school kids who crawled all over here creating all manner of stupid groups) but I do think that after initial sign-up, LT over time appeals to the more serious readers and book-crazies than any other book-related site. I like that and believe that aspect should be, quietly, subversively, encouraged.

Aug 27, 2008, 2:42 pm

I can't help but reiterate that strategically distributed LT bookmarks would do more to increase LT membership than anything else, even more than word of mouth, and I fail to understand why it never took off with Tim when it was first brought up over a year ago. It would be SO easy to scatter them around public libraries, coffee shops, bookstores, etc., where our target audience would see them and take them right to a computer to see what we're all about. Are you listening Tim? Abby? It's so easy to do.

Edited: Aug 27, 2008, 2:48 pm

>124, 129
Been done, got no attention.

especially #19

Click on the 'tools' tab and check out number 8 on the left hand side. Hasn't worked since 1975 (I may, possibly, be mistaken about the year).

Aug 27, 2008, 2:48 pm

My ideas:

* get an facebook-application.
* make an iPhone application
* get deals with software-makers like
* get stuff for people to buy, the t-shirts are not enough. Think of book related things.
* as to the site: think usability, usability, usability and then some more usability. Make navigation clear en simple. It might scare visitors who otherwise would be customers
* get a complete new lay-out. No, it doens't have to scream web 2.0 , but a bit more slick and professional wouldn't hurt. Not quite high priority though.
* create more types of membership accounts that have to be paid
* as for the talk part of the site: I know I won't be popular, but the way it is now, it won't work. It's to big. Don't try to solve it with tags, it will only create more mess and certain not usable. Do we need ten Twilight groups? All those fantasy-groups, horror or thriller-groups? Get rid of these groups. And please, please get forum software. I know this is not liked, and that Tim didn't want to restrict users. But face it: you really have to control Talk and create boundaries so that users know where they can post that message. And stick to it. Because of not restricting users, Talk has become a monster and that needs to be fixed. The chaos it is now can be really scaring away people.

*goes in hiding*

Aug 27, 2008, 2:54 pm

>142 royalhistorian: I really don't think there's a huge problem with Talk/Groups. Sure, the full groups list is crazy and overwhelming, but the main Groups page lists 50 popular groups and 30 active groups, plus the various standing groups. People who just want a fantasy group can easily find the most important ones.

Of course, group search is terrible and really needs to be improved, but I don't think it's the structure as a whole that's wrong.

Aug 27, 2008, 2:56 pm

>139 kageeh:

kageeh, I hope you're not implying there couldn't possibly be any serious readers in the Facebook target audience. Just because reading has decreased for younger people does not mean that none of them read. And what better way to notify them of a tool for serious readers than to use the site most of them use regularly?

Aug 27, 2008, 3:02 pm

#126- Another reason Amazon will not be abandoned by many is that it is a corporation that not only can take coin out of one's pocket it can put coin in one's pocket. 1.5 million people have sold at least one item there in the last year. And then there's the affiliate income for some.

I checked out Shelfari again yesterday after many months and came to the conclusion there's nothing there I need. I also ran through the Amazon's book page features and re-realized how much good stuff is there. Like Neil Gaiman's list of fantasy books to read.

Aug 27, 2008, 3:08 pm

139: I agree. I hate the idea of a Facebook app. Why does there always have to be a "social networking" component? LT users naturally develop social networking through sharing books of interests, book reviewing, and just gabbing about what they are currently reading. Why push something like Facebook? Grrr!

Aug 27, 2008, 3:11 pm

Pace 139, 146, Facebook does not give you rickets. :)
Aug 27, 2008, 3:12 pm

>139 kageeh: "Maybe I'm just an old bag (or hag or whatever) but I truly hate the idea of an LT app on Facebook or MySpace. I think of those sites as mostly for teenies and pre-formed adults who believe that everyone who knows them is interested in everything they are doing at every moment (twitter anyone?). Arrrggghhh, that makes my skin crawl and probably the skin of most people post-40 (-50 or -60). There are far better ways for "mature" poeple to stay in touch even electronically than those always-in-your-face applications." Seriously? That's a lot of generalization about both the audience for Facebook and the mentality of people over forty, fifty, or sixty. Have you tried Facebook? It's only in your face as much as you want it to be in your face. You can turn those irritating MobWars invitations off. You can filter out whatever news you don't want to hear about. It's exactly this kind of elitism that makes my skin crawl.

>140 kageeh: "I can't help but reiterate that strategically distributed LT bookmarks would do more to increase LT membership than anything else, even more than word of mouth..." Let's look at some numbers. I live in the Dallas area. Say, for the sake of argument, that there are four million people living in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex area. Suppose that every single one of those people goes to at least one bookstore during the week. If I canvased the entire metroplex with bookmarks and every single person picked one up, was curious about LibraryThing, came to the website and tried it out, I would still be spreading the LibraryThing word to only four percent of the total audience that I could potentially get on Facebook.

Aug 27, 2008, 3:13 pm

>147 timspalding:
Maybe not, but it certainly gives me a case of the stabbity stab stab! ;)

Aug 27, 2008, 3:16 pm

I don't have the time to give an in-depth reply to this news, but I do want to say a few things: Thank you for LibraryThing. It really is unique and it takes into account the needs and wishes of those who genuinely love books.

The catalogue and display options alone set LibraryThing apart in terms of functionality alone. On that note, I would caution against going too far to separate from Amazon. While I prefer Amazon remain one option among many, Amazon's ubiquity and selection make it often a very useful option!

Edited: Dec 4, 2008, 4:30 pm

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Edited: Aug 27, 2008, 3:37 pm

Good grief, people. LT having a Facebook app doesn't force you to join Facebook!

In fact, did you know that an LT Facebook app already exists? Sure, it doesn't work anymore, but {gasp!} it's the End Of The World!

Aug 27, 2008, 3:41 pm

My friends on Facebook, most of whom I know through the universities I have attended, would be most surprised to learn that they have limited reading scopes.

Once again pointing out the obvious: if LT would develop a Facebook app, I could get rid of my Shelfari app. I do hate using it, and would love to axe it.

Aug 27, 2008, 3:51 pm

>151 countrylife:

Hear, Hear. A more fully explained response than my own.

Edited: Aug 27, 2008, 3:53 pm

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Aug 27, 2008, 3:54 pm

I think of those sites as mostly for teenies and pre-formed adults who believe that everyone who knows them is interested in everything they are doing at every moment (twitter anyone?). Arrrggghhh, that makes my skin crawl and probably the skin of most people post-40 (-50 or -60). There are far better ways for "mature" poeple to stay in touch even electronically than those always-in-your-face applications.

Wow. I just have nothing to say...

Was that really necessary? Surely there are far better ways for "mature" people to express their dislike for Facebook.

Aug 27, 2008, 4:04 pm

#155: Ah, understood. Thanks for clarifying. (Seeing all these stereotypes of social networking site users flying around, I'm getting a bit jumpy. :)

Aug 27, 2008, 4:10 pm

I think bookmarks is a grand idea. I must have missed the suggestion the first time around. I love this site, and promote it any way I can. I wear my LT shirt EVERYWHERE. And it's aroused enough interest that I have had strangers ask me if I'm a librarian. I'm not, but I then take the opportunity to rave about LT. Sometimes their eyes glaze over; sometimes they seem truly intrigued. I'm sure at least one of them went home and looked at the site. I push LT in every library and indie bookstore I go to. (I may be getting tiresome, I'm not sure.) Keep the faith, friends. David slew Goliath. Tim is surely a match for any Amazon. (Wait...does that sound wrong?)

Aug 27, 2008, 4:17 pm

This message has been deleted by its author.
Edited: Aug 27, 2008, 4:25 pm

As soon as people are given labels like "teenies" and "mature" they are being treated unfairly. For instance, I like to think that my interest in science fiction and fantasy doesn't mean that I have no taste. And just because I am a mature, intellectual adult does not mean that I am not sometimes immature (usually while playing Halo, which is not merely for kids). To assume that everyone who uses Facebook is a "teeny" or a "pre-formed adult" is one of the grossest things that I've heard in a long time. Period. My wife, who is getting a PhD in English, is an extremely avid Facebook user. Besides, if you want to use "correct" internet stereotypes you would say that the people on MySpace are all teenies and the people on Facebook are all partying college students.

The issue, though, is not really about Facebook. It's about audience. Some people can and will say that LibraryThing should be a place for "grown up" readers with "sophisticated" tastes and large personal libraries to the exclusion of other readers. I personally think that LibraryThing should be a haven for anyone with even a passing interest in books, even if the books are comedic western vampire romance porn. For instance, I have a young nephew. I'll call him Javier. Javier enjoys reading, but he's nowhere near as avid a reader as me. He reads a lot of what could be called crap. Instead of putting him in a "you read crap and aren't good enough" bucket I instead give him "good" books every year for his birthday and Christmas (yes, I'm that uncle). Someday, perhaps, he'll start liking my "good" books and stop reading his "crap." In the meantime, I would like LibraryThing to be a place where he could go to connect with other like-minded crap readers. Maybe he could make friends that last a lifetime. Who knows?

Aug 27, 2008, 4:29 pm

And hey, if Javier digs reading the "good" stuff, but still enjoys his "crap", then I say more power to him.

Good posts, Jeremy.

Edited: Aug 27, 2008, 4:33 pm

On the teenybopper issue - heck I was a teenybopper a few decades ago and part of my growing up process was being welcomed by more mature individuals who I then emulated.

I say bring them on! We'll convert them into more like us (bwahaha, with gleeful evil hand rubbing).

On bookmarks, I've started a thread over on Site Talk for discussion and updates. I took a few minutes and created a duplex version of the existing bookmark for people who have printers that can do two-sided printing. I'll try to get that up later today.

I plan to do some original designs this weekend, but I'll probably put together a few quick and dirty ones with clipart as I have spare time this week.

Aug 27, 2008, 4:45 pm

Not to beat an issue to death but...

I'm a 50+, fully-formed, and fairly well-educated Facebook member who uses the mediocre Visual Bookshelf app (my friend, a Columbia college professor, introduced me to it). Anything LT could offer undoubtedly would be better and if it brought more people to LT, then terrific.

Aug 27, 2008, 5:00 pm

Sure we should welcome all new comers but that doesn't mean we should target everyone.

I can see three possible outcomes to a large scale push in to Facebook.

1) No visible impact - there isn't an upswing in paid users (or even free users)
2) There is a small and steady (but significant to LT increase) in users each month.
3) There is a snowball of new users.

I would suggest that 2) is the most desirable outcome. I also think it is the least likely. I would also suggest that 3) could be catastrophic if the numbers of users snowballed.

What I am suggesting is to concentrate on LT's strengths and its core market segment. Of course quick wins like a simple one-way app shouldn't be ignored. But putting the majority of eggs into the facebook basket as a means of fighting off Shelfari just won't work.

Edited: Aug 27, 2008, 5:08 pm

I think initiation should be easier, and there should be plenty of obvious things here for the weakly attached to do for fun.

I believe I heard of Librarything some time ago as a cataloging site. I have mountains of books all over the house. I looked at Librarything and saw that it meant me to list all of my books. No way! And I left.

A little over a year ago a friend said, "Tell me what you think of this," and gave me the URL. I looked again and had to pay attention because I had told my friend that I would tell him what I think of it. I saw that I could try it for free. I sit among a few hundred books that I could try to put in. So I started it. I got to two hundred books and paid for more. Well, I hit a stone wall when I got back in the house to the kitchen door; it was impossible to tackle the books in the dining room, but I had over a thousand books cataloged already and was pretty much committed to the site. Getting by that first stumbling block is a big deal.

Daily, even on weekends, I go to Arts and Letters Daily. I can find plenty that is book related there, enough to keep me busy for the day, without having to catalog my books or join or whatever. We have things that the "public" could be interested in as much as I am interested in ALDaily. Showing an interesting public face is a big deal. Some of the casual visitors will become contributors.

Accessibility is an issue too. The friend of my third paragraph doesn't have any idea of the power of Librarything. He logs in from internet cafes and never has clicked all the tabs. He has a hard time finding something he has posted. There's stuff that I haven't found, some of it I don't want to, in over a year here. Somehow exploring the site has to be more inviting; a usable search function would be a good start.


Aug 27, 2008, 5:10 pm

I'll just beat that dead horse a little more and add that an LT Facebook application resides on Facebook, NOT on LT. Facebook users install the application in their own Facebook account and it hooks up in the background to get data from LT. So, a Facebook app doesn't do anything to your experience of LT - it just gives Facebook users a way to show off their LT libraries.

Oh, and as several have mentioned, Facebook tends to be for an older crowd than MySpace. Facebook started in colleges and universities. When they opened it up to the general public, it tended to attract more users from an older demographic than the MySpace crowd. I'm 44 and have friends from high school and college who keep in touch via Facebook (and at least half of my friends have advanced degrees). People like my friends are just the kind of people you'd want to have on LT - smart and literate.

Edited: Aug 27, 2008, 5:17 pm

Regarding the spectre of hordes of "the wrong sort" of facebook user swamping our cozy corner of the internet:
(1) There are plenty of booklovers on facebook, and I would humbly submit that those most likely to install an LT facebook app would be bookish sorts, drawn to words like "library". And those who were sucked in enough to put real demands on the system would be the same kinds of people who have already been sucked in by high-quality data, community, and geeky control.
(2) Should we be worried about the LT ecology being polluted by vast numbers of one-time-logins, lowdown no-count accounts -- as many have suggested, more membership levels could help. In particular, an ad-supported service would probably be of interest to many FB users. And I would also suggest that *any* account created and then abandoned could be deemed "inactive", and shuffled off to a storage server and out of calculations. Reactivating could be easy -- just maintain the user table. (Of course, I may be completely off my nut here, depending on LT's innards.)

Aug 27, 2008, 5:12 pm

I'm amazed that the anti-Facebook folks have actually managed to get on a computer - how long did you abhor computers and shun them in favor of typewriter or pen and paper?

I'm 40+ and on Facebook. It was opened up quite a while ago and is NOT myspace.

Aug 27, 2008, 5:23 pm

In all seriousness, do we really need to get into a fight about Facebook--or rather the idea of Facebook?

LibraryThing isn't Facebook. We're not going to shut down and move over to Facebook. But a Facebook app would be a great addition to LibraryThing's stable of features. The lack of it has everything to do with accident and priorities, and nothing to do with anti-Facebook-ism.
Edited: Aug 27, 2008, 6:08 pm

>169 timspalding: "In all seriousness, do we really need to get into a fight about Facebook--or rather the idea of Facebook?" No. I think that I made my opinion on anti-Facebook ludditery (I think that I just made up a word) pretty clear.

>164 andyl: "Sure we should welcome all new comers but that doesn't mean we should target everyone." Targeting everyone is, of course, impossible.

"But putting the majority of eggs into the facebook basket as a means of fighting off Shelfari just won't work." Creating a simple one-way Facebook application would not be putting all of your eggs in one basket. Unless there are only enough eggs to make that one Facebook application, in which case things are going very, very badly.

"Of course quick wins like a simple one-way app shouldn't be ignored." My arguments in this thread (aside from my anti-luddite comments) boil down to some simple cost benefit analysis. I cannot think of any ways to get a larger bang for your buck than the attention and audience that you could get with a simple Facebook application. You could likely use the same technology to create a simple MySpace widget, too. This application wouldn't need to be complex. I would like a Facebook application that could list the books that I've added recently, or the books that I'm currently reading, or the books that I am reviewing. I don't need to change my LibraryThing data from Facebook, since I don't use Facebook all that often. It would be nice, though.

Speaking of Facebook, if any of you LibraryThingers are interested feel free to look me up.

Aug 27, 2008, 5:48 pm

This message has been deleted by its author.

Aug 27, 2008, 6:17 pm

I'm not sure i have anything useful to say but I'm a relativley new member, earlier this summer I started looking into sites like this, hoping to catalogue my own book collection then when I relocate across the country, leaving most of it here, I can know what I've got and where it is. Naturally, before settling on anything I tried a range of sites, including Shelfari, and obviously library thing came out on top for me.

The main reason was, at the end of the day, that I liked the professional feel of the site. I like that librarything feels about the books, because at the end of the day that's what I've come here to do. Shelfari felt like a flash facebook application, not at all designed to help me manage my books in any kind of useful way but rather a mask to show of to the world what I'm reading at the moment. I already have a facebook application to do that, why do I need Shelfari? Library thing, however, from it's layout to it's usability through all it's features, struck me as a serious site about books. I think, at the end of the day, as long as you keep hold of that image you'll keep me coming back. Oh, ease of use might have also helped. I sat down to put a couple of books in to see how I liked it and processed most of my library within a week.

The only other thing I'd say is I think it's really damn amazing how you listen to your users and the community runs the site. Maybe it's just becasue I'm used to livejournal as my primary social networking site and they take every oppertunity to ignore or spite their userbase, but the way things are done around here is reall great, it gives it a feel of community and of belonging to the users that I don't think a company like Amazon can ever accomplish, just becasue it IS a company like Amazon.

Aug 27, 2008, 6:22 pm

Sigh. . .I apologize. When I was agreeing with >139 kageeh: I apparently stuck my foot in it. I stand corrected. I just like it that LT focuses on the books and not people. I should take a closer look at Facebook.

But let me also say, that my intention was not to alienate anyone from LT. Anyone who wants to join should join. I'm just not partial to social networking groups, that's all. I just don't want LT to become a place where the main focus strays from books and related material to "let's find friends" type of thing.

Apologies. . .
Aug 27, 2008, 7:08 pm

>173 Blacklin: It's one thing to not like Facebook, and it's something else entirely to unfairly stereotype the users of Facebook. Comments like yours are an understandable defense of the status quo. At least they weren't downright insulting.

Aug 27, 2008, 8:18 pm

De gustibus non est disputandum—about taste there can be no dispute.

Aug 27, 2008, 8:49 pm

A part of me can't help but wonder if Amazon's purpose in buying Shelfari mightn't be to dismantle it -- in their early years, Amazon pretty much invented the whole idea of connections between internet users. "People who bought this also like..." recommendations were a radical thing at the time, which is easy to forget now. But over the years, the fact that their network connections* aren't actually all that useful has gotten more and more apparent. Everyone who uses the site is familiar with the failures of their fully automated algorithms, where following a funny link leaves you looking at recommendations for books about BDSM uses for Marshmallow Fluff for the next 6 months. And Tim has been one of the main people to point out how poorly they do with things like tagging and reviews once you get over the fact that they're there at all.

So what if Amazon is trying to leverage Shelfari for what they can do to fill the gaps in Amazon's site, not Shelfari's? They could very easily make it so that whatever you buy there is automatically added to Shelfari lists and so on -- but why wouldn't they use Shelfari to make their anemic discussions and biased reviews seem more real?

This is obviously nothing but speculation. But I wouldn't assume that anyone knows what they have in mind with this acquisition -- including Shelfari, or most people at Amazon.

But if there's anything to it, the focus shifts from "what can LT do to batten down the hatches against the new, richer Shelfari" to "how can LT improve what LT does best while leaving what Amazon is really good at to Amazon". I'm not sure LT loses anything from Amazon improving the things they currently suck at. Because people don't come to LT for the same reasons they go to Amazon.

It's absolutely a good opportunity for LT to do a hard look in the mirror. But I don't think it's any reason to panic, so much as a direction shift in the online book world.

(actual ideas in a later post. I'm getting way too pretentious already.)

* in the diagram sense, not the Facebook sense, just to be sure there's no confusion.

Aug 27, 2008, 9:25 pm

I think Amazon's reasoning is pretty clear—Shelfari had run out of money and was looking for a second round of financing. Anyway, I saw somewhere that they were looking for a second round a few months ago, and companies don't do that unless they need it—since every round dilutes value, and with an initial investor like Amazon you don't go into a second round in order to get powerful investors on board. It amuses me that Shelfari managed to burn through 1m in less time than we burned through a fraction of that—and while we've leveled off and even make money now, they needed more. Next company I start I'm going to go for the millions, since apparently losing money hand-over-fist gets you bought by the big guys.

Aug 27, 2008, 9:32 pm

Next company I start I'm going to go for the millions, since apparently losing money hand-over-fist gets you bought by the big guys.

Where were you in the 90s -- humanities grad school? I thought everyone knew that...

Aug 27, 2008, 9:45 pm

Where were you in the 90s -- humanities grad school?

No fair. :)

Aug 27, 2008, 9:52 pm

Yeah the interesting thing for corporate buyers seems to be that “millions” of dollars are involved somehow. How exactly they’re involved doesn’t seem to matter.

Aug 27, 2008, 10:03 pm

I was under the impression that Amazon already had a feature for social networking, reviewing and cataloging. I remember using it, and very quickly deleting everything that I put in to stop the spam (it hasn't completely stopped, but it slowed way down).

I also, briefly (like 10 minutes) had a Facebook account. I forgot to read the very fine print or neglected to actually understand the ramifications of what I was reading before I hit the Accept button. Do the users there realize that by using Facebook, their names, pictures, links, text, visited pages and information gathered and placed on home pages belong to Facebook? And people want this as a feature on LT? Any widget that linked back to LT would endanger the privacy of anyone linked, via LT's non-invasive social networking, to a Facebook user. The users are not the problem, Facebook is.

Amazon has always claimed to own the copyright to the cover pictures. They don't, really, the publishers do. Amazon usually has exclusive rights to use the cover art. If LT was to secure equal rights to use publisher owned cover art, we would no longer be beholden to them for that portion of the information they provide. The publishers would also have detailed information on ISBN information for any book published by them. Heck, why not partner with Ingram for ISBN information?

Let's just boil this down, shall we? Shelfari compares to LT like a Yugo (admittedly now with a Porche engine) and a Bentley. Different people use them in different ways. The LT information lasts longer and is more reliable than Shelfari information. Admittedly, LT information is dependent on Amazon and LiCon data, but the strides that Tim and crew have taken, and will take in the future, to maximize the potential of volunteer librarianism will eventually make LT the source of online book data.

Short list of possible things-to-do:

Lists - check (use the series feature to fudge it)
Library partnering - check (they have their own side of LT, don't they?)
Author partnering - check (I think)
Book awards (possibly connected with Early Reviewers books) - thinking
Non-chain Bookstore partnering - thinking
Publisher contacts turned into data source - thinking
Ingram as a possible data source - thinking

Anything I'm forgetting?

Aug 27, 2008, 10:21 pm

So my name belongs to Facebook, eh? Information gathered by Facebook is theirs to freely distribute, etc., but they do not "own" it. Try telling that to the many corporations that have Facebook pages. I don't see how an LT app will "endanger" the privacy of everyone on LT, when Facebook's privacy policy explicity says they are not responsible for the content of any links. (Heck, I've linked to LibraryThing from Facebook. Facebook could own all of us already!)

Aug 27, 2008, 11:57 pm

Meh. The whole Facebook etc stuff.... I don't see the problem. Big picture, we want more LT members, right? If widgets, apps, etc etc on some more-social sites means that LT gets more coverage, more potential members, what's the big deal?
I'm 21 years old, and I *hate* most of those sites. However, I have a MySpace, for keeping track of my friends. I put it to good use by linking to LibraryThing, talking constantly about how awesome it is, etc. Everyone who looks at my page knows I love LT. I figure, why not?

As soon as I figure out how to fix my dang printer, I'm printing out LT bookmarks. I've already thought of like a million places to put them and/or hand them out.

Aug 28, 2008, 12:15 am

Shall we draw the line at Adult Friend Finder?

Aug 28, 2008, 12:24 am

Kinda creepy ;P

Aug 28, 2008, 12:31 am

Well, the BookFinder report ( listed Madonna's Sex number one again this year—the used book with the greatest demand.

Aug 28, 2008, 12:58 am

Back on topic, I'll second or third the suggestion for prominent "help" links and/or icons on every page, and clear and easy to find documentation. The UI is a bit complicated for new users - judging from the questions that come up in the FAQ, Site Talk, and Recommended Site Improvement groups - and there should be an easy way for users to find instructions on every aspect of the site. The wiki help pages aren't bad, but most people wouldn't know where to look to find them. (I don't know about others, but there's so much content on most pages, that I rarely even see the bottom bar of links or scroll down to it.)

Similarly, and following on from someone's comment above about the user-designed firefox extension being hidden in some dark corner: it would be really useful to have a complete list of all the things you can do on or with LT (all the features {e.g. series, common knowledge, wiki, connections}, member-led projects {e.g. Legacy Libraries}, and all the extensions, including links to non-official user-created extensions like the firefox search plug-in or user-created facebook apps). Such a list should be prominently linked from the non-signed-in homepage, from the getting started and quick tour pages, and from the Tools page, at the least. But to repeat, a list itself - like documentation - is useless unless it is linked in prominent places and easy to find.

Aug 28, 2008, 12:58 am

PSA to LTers. If you find some of the books in the above bookfinder link on your shelves, don't BookMooch them. There's some serious money involved.

Aug 28, 2008, 6:44 am

Holy cow! There is so much meat here that I don't know if I can respond to it all.

At first I thought "what would Amazon want with LT if they have Shelfari?" but after a long chat with a friend, I have to admit I'm among the people here who have expressed fear at this new development.

I'm going to focus on the one area of Tim's post that I understand (since I know nothing of business) - open sourcing LT.

I think this is the only way to make it so that Amazon cannot take over LT. That said, I'd want to see a license that made it so that Tim was still (and always) the manager of and had the final say in all code that was applied to This might mean that we'll see more spin-offs of LT, but based on what I see here, LT will still remain the favorite. Also, as some have said, it would allow for people to develop plugins to other open source products - spreading LT more than Amazon will be able to spread Shelfari.

Ideally, I'd like to see Amazon's shares taken away from them - and although it's not something we can do now - I'd recommend a clause in all future contracts stating that if the company is bought out the shares are first offered back to LT for purchase before a possible competitor ends up getting pieces of LT.

Whatever happens, I'm behind you Tim!! I'll spread the gospel of LT even more than I am now and make it so that no one even thinks of using another service :)

Aug 28, 2008, 7:15 am

A small point about the bookmarks:

I was able to "mooch" an interesting book for a friend recently & had it sent to his house. The person who graciously sent the book included a BookMooch card.

After "ooh"ing & "ahh"ing over the book, he immediately went to BookMooch to look over the site. His wife & I "share" a membership, but they were now talking about a membership of their own.

LibraryThing bookmarks, regular & business card sized, will help in a small way to "spread the word".

I've got some cardstock & heavier paper that I'm going to use to print some up. (Although, I'm going to have to wait until the dust settles after rearranging the books.)

Edited: Aug 28, 2008, 9:39 pm

--> 190

A low-cost idea for business cards: allows you to print 200 business cards for free, as long as you pay the postage. My friends and I have had some very nice-looking and useful business cards printed up to spread the word about Bookcrossing. Perhaps we can also use this idea for LibraryThing. The only thing that would be missing would be the actual LibraryThing logo. Any thoughts about this?

ETA: There are no free business cards available with uploaded logos though. :(

Aug 28, 2008, 11:08 am

You can find the LibraryThing logos here.

Aug 28, 2008, 11:23 am

Sonya, can we have a life-sized cardboard Tim to display too? ;)

I just wanted to add support to the idea of having publisher accounts - I, and I'm sure others, would love the opportunity to browse publisher accounts to get ideas for reading material (as if the TBR pile doesn't take up a room for itself already!) and it would be great if they had some upcoming release on there. I don't think it would be an intrusive facet because, if you weren't interested, then you wouldn't have to visit their libraries, but just like the ER program, those of us that are could mark it as a watched library and keep tabs. Surely they'd pay super-publisher rates for that kind of marketing opportunity.

Also love the idea of branching out into some kind of literary magazine/blog - why not involve guest contributors as well as Tim and crew. Get some of us to submit articles if there's something interesting to be reported/discussed. But hold everyone to a professional journalistic standard so that it becomes more than one of our personal blogs. Good place for author interviews too.

Aug 28, 2008, 12:09 pm

>189 ncbaratta:

Nicole. Thanks for your thoughts. I'd love to talk to you about it more. Can't you, me and Karen Schneider rent a cabin somewhere, toast marshmellows, get drunk and talk about Open Source?

Aug 28, 2008, 3:31 pm

>191 SqueakyChu:

Re: I've heard some pretty sketchy things about that company over at Etsy. I would recommend anyone thinking about doing that looking in-depth into reviews of their service.

Some people seem to use them no problem, others have run into some pretty bad experiences.

Aug 28, 2008, 3:50 pm

# 168, mwade. I have been a computer user and programmer for over 50 years and I still think facebook, et al, are a waste of time for any serious intelligent person.

Edited: Aug 28, 2008, 4:11 pm

Wow, a lot to think about. I came to LibraryThing, just about a year ago through a mention in an online article (can't remember where). Never heard of anything like it. Loved the idea of it immediately. I'm what you would have called, a casual user. Up till then I was keeping an excel spreadsheet of books I'd read, date read and category and rating. I didn't know anything online even existed. So all the talk of not wanting to attract the casual user was a little upsetting.

I know I don't utilize the site to the fullest. I don't use wiki (don't know how), CK - interesting but I don't add to it, combining - ya right. Things I do use and love - series, reviews and yes, the chaotic talk. ETA - also Abby's ER program - do other sites have this type of wonderful program? I'm over 40 but have a FB account (and a university degree) and was using visual library, I think, but I always forgot to update it. I think anyone who takes the time to add an application for their books, might actually be a "reader".
Am I still a casual user? Maybe? I know I have a way bigger wishlist, and have been exposed to much more than I ever would have. I know my 11 yr can't wait to finish a book so she can add her book to my account. When she is old enough, she will definitely want her own account. I don't think we should be picky about who we market to, everyone uses the site their own way anyway. Who cares how they use it as long as they do.
I don't usually pay for internet stuff either, but this was the best money ever spent. What ever you decide to do, I will still be here,

so thank you Tim and gang!!

Aug 28, 2008, 4:01 pm

>196 rbott:

I'm not fond of the networking sites myself (why must I use your messaging system? haven't you people heard of email?), but they *are* a good source of potential users, and there's really no downside. A LibraryThing Facebook widget would be completely invisible to someone who does not use Facebook. I really can't see an objection.

Really, Facebook widgets are just the newest version of linking to a site on your personal home page. Facebook users seem to view their profiles as the current equivalent of a home page - one they don't have to learn HTML to set up, and which can do much fancier things with very little effort. And if people want to be able to list their favorite/currently reading/recently purchased books on Facebook, I think having that happen via LibraryThing, rather than via any other service, is desirable.

Aug 28, 2008, 4:03 pm

why must I use your messaging system? haven't you people heard of email?

The main benefit of Facebook is that you don't have to keep track of changing email addresses.

Aug 28, 2008, 4:04 pm

196 - So nice that you enjoy dismissing so many posters in this thread. Exactly how much time have you spent on Facebook? I use my account to market myself and connect with the folks I shoot (photograph). Knowing that I'll put shots up on facebook later for them (since they just copied them prior to my going online thus not providing any link back to me for anyone else looking at the photos), helps get me more access and more relaxed access away from the actual games.

But then a serious intelligent person probably wouldn't bother with sports photography.

Edited: Aug 28, 2008, 4:10 pm

198 - people can include their email address in the "Info" section of their profile and they can limit who sees that email address so it is possible to include it.

The Facebook email though allows communication when "real" email addresses haven't (and perhaps one side of the communication doesn't want to) been exchanged already.

Aug 28, 2008, 4:14 pm

My "168" post was bit bitchy, but 196 and others - if you read the thread, no Facebook user is asking YOU to use Facebook while many of you are negatively stereotyping us and some of you are going so far as to say that you don't want "our kind" here.

You don't like Facebook - don't use it.

Edited: Aug 28, 2008, 4:24 pm

>199 _Zoe_: The main benefit of Facebook is that you don't have to keep track of changing email addresses.

Heck, I'd go so far as to say that the benefit of Facebook is that you don't have to deal with email, period. If you want to announce something, you don't have to send it to 50 different email address, you just post it on your page. If you want to leave someone a more personal message, you just click on their face. And the best part is, it's all public (if you want it to be), so your friends can jump in on discussions you're having with other friends, etc. It's basically like having your own website-cum-blog that's fully integrated with all of your friends' and relatives' site/blogs.

I'm not a big social guy, myself, but being able to track down what friends from high school and college that I haven't seen in 10 years are up to is pretty nice. And the commitment level is only as high as you want it to be.

Aug 28, 2008, 4:24 pm


I would not call someone who was keeping a excel spreadsheet of their reading list (with category and rating) a 'casual' user. That seems to be a very engaged user to me.

Aug 28, 2008, 4:24 pm

Sounds to me like Facebook's a tool - it's useful for some people and not for others. Lots of people would like to be able to use it more easily in conjunction with LT.

So why not let them? I don't see any reason LT can't make it a bit easier for Facebook users without adopting a Facebook philosphy. I truly doubt that having more LT members who use Facebook will be any more of a problem than having more LT members who use fishing reels. Personally, I don't use either, but I don't care what tools other people use - indeed, I wish them happiness with their tools.

People tend to congregate in subgroups that match their interests. Other than getting a big initial rush that overwhelms the servers, I don't see any significant downside to giving Facebook users a hand in utilizing LT in a way that suits them.

Aug 28, 2008, 4:26 pm

>202 mwade: I was not offended about the Facebook comments, I mean once you've reconnected with that person you once knew in grade 3, I'm not sure what to do, play scrabble?- but maybe that person from grade 3 has not heard of LT, well now they have.
My 'hurt' feelings were more as the casual user than the FB user. I feel that although I'm not an elite user, the site is worthwhile to me and hopefully I am worthy of the site. I have been exposed to new authors I would never have read. And to me each book I read because of this site is a huge bonus in my life.
Aug 28, 2008, 4:27 pm

I really am surprised at how hung up people are on the whole Facebook widget thing. If you have been a programmer and computer user for a long time or if Facebook makes your skin crawl or if you're generally too high-brow for Facebook, then follow mwade's advice and don't use it. I have full confidence that Tim and his team could construct a Facebook widget in such a way as to make it completely invisible to you. And consider Facebook a euphemism for any and all social networks that could potentially get a LibraryThing widget. That includes MySpace, Friendster, Ning, iGoogle (that's right, you can put widgets on your Google home page, too. But you might not want to, because then Google might become like the dreaded Facebook), Netvibes, Pageflakes, and any number of other sites. The development of such a widget would not affect you in the least.

Okay, that last statement is a complete and total lie. The development *could* affect you. My assumption all along, and this may very well be incorrect (you know what they say about assumptions...), is that one of the primary goals of LibraryThing is to increase the number of users on the service and the amount of attention that the site gets in general. The more eyeballs coming to LibraryThing the more chances there are of attracting those paying customers that are ever so important for, you know, revenue. However, that might NOT be the goal of LibraryThing today. Another goal is to make the site better for the people already here. This sort of work is not directly geared towards raising awareness or attracting members and includes work like making the user interface more friendly and intuitive, adding cool new non-Facebook-like features, etc.

What this boils down to (I'm afraid that I'm no longer making any sense) is the fact that time spent building a widget to promote the site on is time that isn't being spent improving the site for current users. It's a matter of resource allocation and cost benefit analysis for Tim, and I'd be interested in hearing how he sees distributing his development resources (man hours) in the near future.

Aug 28, 2008, 4:31 pm


Agreed in full. Facebook isn't contagious. (Nor is it for dolts and idiots, but you are free to think it is.) For us, Facebook is ultimately about extensibility in general, not just to Facebook. Doing Facebook the right way opens the door to the iPhone and on and on.

On man-hours:

1. As any good programmer should know, man-hours don't exist.
2. Collections is priority number one.
3. Facebook is priority number two. It's likely that it will be completed mostly by Mike, who is part time. So it's separate, but important priority not affecting others except insofar as Mike is not helping others.

Aug 28, 2008, 4:36 pm


I agree with andyl -- if you had any record of your books, you aren't a casual user.

I don't think anybody is suggesting that LT should be actively hostile to anyone (well, other than spammers!). But there are limited resources for both what directions to go with the site and how to market it, and the question is about which user base to pursue more actively.

If LT wants to promote the social aspects of LT more so than the book-related aspects, then promotion on social sites would be a good course of action -- develop the Facebook app, push the "find friends" feature, etc. This will attract users who make heavy use of the social features, and who perhaps don't catalog very many books. However, this appears to be the core user base of Shelfari -- and competing with your opponent on their home turf is perhaps not the brightest course of action, not when they're backed by the 800-pound gorilla.

If LT wants to promote the book-related aspects more, then the logical course of action would be to focus efforts on attracting users in book-related ways -- get those bookmarks out to public libraries and used bookstores. Keep improving LT For Libraries. Promote the ER program -- suggest that book-bloggers who post reviews of books they got through ER mention LT in their reviews on their own blogs. Users can make an effort to link to the LT pages, rather than to Amazon, when mentioning books elsewhere -- this helps both with the direct rank and with boosting LT's rank in searches on book titles. Etc. This approach plays to LT's strengths, and I think it might be a smarter short-term strategy, at least while they see what happens next with Shelfari.

These aren't mutually exclusive, of course; it's a case of priorities, more so than fundamental philosophy. Some users brought in through Facebook will be meticulous catalogers of thousands of books, and some people who pick up a bookmark at their public library will just use their account to keep track of friends and of what they currently have checked out, but while the two userbases will overlap I suspect there's a big difference in the means.
Aug 28, 2008, 4:38 pm

>208 timspalding: See, straight from the horse's mouth. That's one reason I like this site. The founder/CEO/President/stay-up-'till-four-in-the-morning-programmer answers questions publicly.

Now, what is the collections feature (or module or functionality or whatever terminology you care to use)?

Aug 28, 2008, 4:40 pm

I think FB is--short term--less about outreach and more about denying users a reason to leave or to avoid LibraryThing. Many many LT users are maintaining iRead accounts, or whatever, because LT doesn't have a viable option. It's frustrating for them. We want to eliminate that.

Aug 28, 2008, 4:47 pm

I was curious, from reading the posts here, as to where exactly everyone found out about LT. I don't want to hijack the thread, so I set up a Thread Here if anyone feels like sharing.....

Aug 28, 2008, 4:48 pm


That makes sense.

Aug 28, 2008, 4:58 pm

>199 _Zoe_:, 201

But if people don't use email (which was designed to free people from only being able to communicate with people in their own network!), if I want to refer back to a message now I not only need to remember who sent it, but which service they used. Very inconvenient. And Mypace at least will not include the entire message when they notify you that there is a new one, no, you must log into their service and read it there. Inconvenient.

Aug 28, 2008, 5:00 pm

>214 timepiece:

Yeah, you'll notice LibraryThing sends the message by email if you ask. It doesn't say "you have a message, now give me your 'eyeballs'!"
Aug 28, 2008, 5:06 pm

>215 timspalding:

Even though we all know that LibraryThing secretly covets eyeballs. I don't doubt that there's a jar full of them somewhere.

Aug 28, 2008, 5:12 pm

Edited: Aug 28, 2008, 5:20 pm

I was thinking about Touchstones just now. You might be able to automatically generate them if you ran each post through Reuters's Open Calais.

Aug 28, 2008, 5:36 pm

Yeah, hey can we back up to all my suggestions in 135? I think the thread derailed shortly after that and there wasn't much response. More use of touchstones? Savable, printable, exportable? Easier interface for talk, more prominence for both onsite and offsite tools?

Aug 28, 2008, 5:55 pm

I notice there's a lot of talk about Facebook, which probably makes sense. I'm a livejournal user, however. Fortunately, LJ doesn't allow flash, unfortunately it means I can't use the existing widget. There's a note that LT is aware of the problem and an LJ widget will be forthcoming but I'm pretty sure it's said that since the first time I visited the site over two years ago.

Anyway, I really commend Tim & Co. for being so open with their user base. They actually *listen* to what people say and if they can't do something or it's not high on the priority list there's usually an explanation provided for why that is so. I only wish more sites had that kind of rapport between management and users.

Edited: Aug 28, 2008, 6:16 pm

220: You can still use the HTML widget, just not the Flash one.

Edit: That link's from the tools page.

Aug 28, 2008, 6:29 pm


Excuse me! Did you actually read what I posted before responding with a knee jerk response? If you read carefully, you will notice that I state in my apology that I was agreeing with comment #139. Comment #139 was made by somebody else. I didn't actually make the comment. I did apologize and clarify what I really meant by my agreement with #139. Apparently, you didn't read my entire entry on #173.

I wasn't defending anything. I was stating what I liked about LT. Get off your high horse.
Edited: Aug 28, 2008, 6:47 pm

>222 Blacklin:

My apologies. I did read your comments, I fully comprehended your comments, but I was not clear enough in my response. Your comments were perfectly, one hundred percent acceptable.

As for my statement about defense, that is my (probably flawed) interpretation of your position. There's certainly nothing wrong with the status quo. It's there because that's what people in the community want and have agreed on and I certainly don't want to change it.

I don't generally mind stepping on toes, so long as they are the toes that I am intending to step on. Yours were not the toes that I intended to step on. I'm sorry for any offense given.

Aug 28, 2008, 7:11 pm


Sorry back. Apologies too. Handshake.
As for the status quo position. Well, yeah I like it. I guess I'm concerned that the overall musty book atmosphere of LT will change and that's one of the things that I like about it. When I get on to LT, I feel like I'm entering a library with lots of dark wood shelves, tables and chairs. Complete with stacks that you can get lost in. I know. It's online. But that's the feeling and picture that I get when I browse around LT. And I don't want that aspect to change.

Sorry about coming at you with claws drawn and fangs bared. (I have two cats. The analogy seemed to fit.)

Olive branch extended. . .

Aug 28, 2008, 7:52 pm

# 168, mwade. I have been a computer user and programmer for over 50 years and I still think facebook, et al, are a waste of time for any serious intelligent person.

Sorry, sir. I'll get off of your lawn now.

Aug 28, 2008, 8:28 pm

Not fast enough! He's gone for the hose!

Aug 28, 2008, 8:32 pm

-225,226: Ha, what a perfect response. Is it so hard for people to say that they find certain pursuits meaningless without insulting all the people that do enjoy them?

Aug 28, 2008, 8:36 pm

All I can say is:

Shelfari did the deal. They should be where all the discussion is.

Shelfari's discussion post on this has six messages (
We're at 227...

Aug 28, 2008, 8:44 pm

Wow, they seem very pleased. Interesting perspective. I have to say that I found the Shelfari navigation system to be very unwieldy (though attractive), so I only used it briefly.

Aug 28, 2008, 8:57 pm

> 228 Tim

Yeah, you're not kidding. Their Admin closes with "Thanks for your interest in Shelfari and" Seems a bit formal/reserved way to talk to members! Tim, do you appreciate our "interest" in LibraryThing?


Edited: Aug 28, 2008, 9:13 pm

Yeah. Bite me. (See, I can learn to moderate myself.)

Aug 28, 2008, 9:13 pm

Mom? Is that you, Mom? It's not nice to hack people's accounts, Ma. Give the nice man his login back.

Aug 28, 2008, 9:15 pm

230> We appreciate some of your interest in LibraryThing. For other things, we're flattered and all, but we're not that kind of site.

Aug 28, 2008, 9:17 pm

It's really amazing to me. I need to start tracking posts over there. They probably have some feed, or some ID number that can be tracked. If their post on Shelfari was 6 posts long, and ours is 233 messages, I mean, am I crazy? Are they?

Aug 28, 2008, 9:25 pm

234> They recently had a "16,000 posts raffle":

We're at 750,000+.

Aug 28, 2008, 9:29 pm

Pardon my French, but Holy Fucking Shit!

I would have never guessed that. Talk is actually not a large percentage of our page hits—the center of the site is still the catalog, the work page and the profile. But I would have NEVER expected we were doing so much better there. What the flying, frying, futtering...

Aug 28, 2008, 9:31 pm

NEVER expected

You don't spend a lot of time in The Green Dragon or Hogwart's do you? ;)

Aug 28, 2008, 9:32 pm

flying, frying, futtering...

...fricking frick frick? :D

Aug 28, 2008, 9:35 pm

>237 DaynaRT:

Yeah, I know. Not if I can avoid it. :)

Aug 28, 2008, 9:38 pm

Casey adds in private email, "but do we have a poem about us?" (

The answer, of course, is yes, dozens.

Edited: Aug 28, 2008, 9:40 pm

#234 do we have to pick one?

sounds to me like they drank the kool-aid over there.
"Greetings and thanks to our Masters at Amazon. We hail you."

Aug 28, 2008, 9:40 pm

For the most part, I agree with the posters that feel Shelfari will become an Amazon shop, and thus not really a threat to LT. However I also like this

Give us a way to promote you - BookMooch has cards (mini-business cards), if you had something similar printed we could do your promotion for you ;) Seriously, I'd love something like that. I could include them in books I send to people and shamelessly fly post authors at the signings I go to...

As an addendum to the cards...

If we each had an rss of our talk comments, we could pipe them into our blogs, friendfeeds, etc. This would attract people to the conversations here, which is one of our finest features.

Aug 28, 2008, 9:45 pm

--> 195

Thanks for the heads up about, twomoredays. I've used it once, and its been fine. Two friends have used it with no problem. I'll use it warily from now on. We only have used it for the free business cards so I'm not sure what the problem with them might be.

By the way, I wasn't pushing this service - but rather the idea of using multiple sources of low cost advertising for LibraryThing. I know how frustrated I get when I want to recommend LT and all I can do is write down "". I don't think that is quite strong enough.

Edited: Aug 28, 2008, 9:48 pm

Cards will happen!

>241 caitemaire: — Praise to the wise ones, our robot masters...

Aug 28, 2008, 9:52 pm

One year membership - $10
Going lifetime - $25
adopting a cuecat - $15
knowing that I share How to Win at Nintendo Games with eighteen other people: priceless

Aug 28, 2008, 10:19 pm

245: LOL So, so true!

Aug 28, 2008, 10:57 pm

> 235 They recently had a "16,000 posts raffle":

not to rain on the parade but i just checked this out and it was 16,000 posts in one particular group -- the "play book tag" group. and give other groups

why does shelfari flash a grey screen at me every time i click on something? that's really annoying.

Aug 28, 2008, 11:01 pm

Ha. Whoops. Well, does anyone have an id we can fasten onto?

Aug 28, 2008, 11:07 pm

Looks like around 570,000, if that's a unique id, so somewhat less than us, day-by-day--groups coming in rather late in LT history--although their format tend to favor short messages.

Aug 28, 2008, 11:09 pm

Given a more reasonable post count, it's interesting their users are so disengaged from the site as site. Not that unexpected.

Aug 28, 2008, 11:20 pm

Anybody interested in starting a LibraryThing group on Shelfari ? :)

Aug 28, 2008, 11:26 pm

No, but a "give us an export" group on iRead and etc. would be nice.

Aug 28, 2008, 11:32 pm

Just wanted to add my two cents:

There are two major features of LibraryThing that got me here, and will keep from Shelfari-like places.

First is the quality of the cataloging. LT is not perfect, but it's flexible. I can add any books. I have lots of fields to work with with, and I can search on them. And, I can export my library. (and hopefully we'll have collections soon). LT is far better than any other cataloguing software available at $25 and under or close to that.

Second is the community which it's active enough to give my cataloging some value and to allow me to benefit form the cataloging of others. When I make a contributions the LT database (ratings, reviews, Common Knowledge entries, work combinations, tags, etc.) I feel I'm adding to valuable data pool. Also someone may actually look at my catalogue occasionally and even appreciate it.

All that other stuff, all the interesting people I've met here, the great conversations I've had, the free Early Reviewer books I've gotten, etc. came later as a pleasant surprise.

Edited: Aug 28, 2008, 11:49 pm

>252 timspalding:

You want us to wade into the jungles of iRead/weRead? (God, if there's anything more cloying than the "my" it's got to be "weRead.")

Look, man, I just post the books, give them a quick star rating, and get the hell back to LT as fast as I can.

But, for the sake of LT! ::straps on combat gear::

Edited: Aug 29, 2008, 12:01 am

Okay, I did it. For all of you Facebook users using iRead/weRead, waiting patiently for the awesome Facebook App. of the future, here's a group to petition for an export option.

If anyone wants to join and maybe actually write up some good reasons in support of an export option, there's a chance this link might get you there:

we need an export on weRead

Aug 29, 2008, 12:38 am

Oh, iRead is becoming weRead? Cute. We need a theyRead.

Aug 29, 2008, 12:40 am

Can theyRead?

Aug 29, 2008, 12:42 am

If they don't provide one, I'll make one hell of a Javascript...

Aug 29, 2008, 12:49 am

Man, do you ever sleep? I'm in Los Angeles and I'm starting to doze off. Good going though!

Aug 29, 2008, 12:51 am

It's only 1am!

Aug 29, 2008, 12:52 am

Hahahaha :) Ok I'll admit wuss status.

Aug 29, 2008, 4:52 am

This was just another thought.

If you are differentiating at the high end, that is.

The periodical thing. If that is intractable because there is no source for such, perhaps become such a source. For fiction magazines for example there is some existing stuff to work from, but others?

Some comic databases and I think CD databases started like this, too - and rateyourmusic?

Just a thought, but if the common knowledge and series and that sort of stuff has been popular, can this be done so there is a 'LT magazines/periodicals' database as a source to add works from?

I'd imagine your only interested in selling stuff competitors would have close to no interest here.

Aug 29, 2008, 4:57 am

To those that don't like facebook, that is fine. I don't much either, just look at it occasionally as it is horrendously slow and annoying to use.

However, bunches or authors, publishers, etc., on there. Same goes for Myspace.

No reason not to use freely available PR tools, as opposed to indulging in virtual mob wars or flower sending.

Aug 29, 2008, 8:16 am

>251 TheCriticalTimes:
There is/was an LT group there already.
Aug 29, 2008, 8:20 am

>224 Blacklin:

Olive branch accepted. Pleasure doing business with you.

If I have a large-scale series of user interface comments and suggestions, where would be the best place to post them?

Also, what is this collections functionality that I keep hearing about?

Aug 29, 2008, 8:44 am

The insults about Facebook aren't only one way (against Facebook.) There are plenty enough insults about people who don't like* Facebook (we hate computers, are Luddites.) So it's no wonder that there are posts like #196.

*A mild statement to how I feel about Facebook and such.
Aug 29, 2008, 9:18 am

Thanks HeathMochaFrost for sorting out my questions about comments and collections.

Edited: Aug 29, 2008, 9:53 am

Okay, my brain hurts after reading all of this. I’m sorry to say that I have no new ideas at this time to help LT, but I will keep reading and thinking.

However, I must say that if I knew that by buying and adding more books to my library I could help LT, I would have been working harder at finding all those books I really want but haven’t gotten. (Now I have an excuse when my wife asks me why I even need another book… “Honey, I’m not doing it for me. It’s for LibraryThing.”)

Also, I just want to second (or third or forth…) some of the earlier ideas. First, as I feel I’ve gotten more than my money’s worth out of LT, I would be more than happy to “invest” further in LT’s future. I love the idea of a way for those of us who wish to invest in LT. (I would like to add that the only return I would be looking for in this investment would be a long and healthy life for LT.) Maybe you could have a higher membership level or levels. Not that those members get extra features just maybe a button on their profile or home page… i.e. regular paid membership, silver, gold platinum… and so on. Museum and other not-for-profits do this kind of thing all the time for donors.

Second, I have said it before in some thread here, but I would love to have a lists function. (I even started one on my wiki page, but it was so labor intensive to do it right that I lost steam.) I really do think this would help to draw others to this site… by searches for lists of books and such.


Third, I would also be happy to leave some bookmarks and cards around in reading type places. I’m fairly shy and very much not the socially pushy type, so I make no promises how much of this I will feel comfortable doing… but I will certainly be able to leave them in library books, books I sell to used stores, and post them at public bulletin boards.

ETA: I could even slip them (bookmarks) into books at stores that I browse through.

Aug 29, 2008, 10:16 am

>262 bluetyson: I agree with bluetyson's suggestion about periodicals. Having been a graduate student at one time (in the deep, dark past), I know that even then I would've loved LT to help organize my research but would've needed a way to deal with articles and periodicals.

Plus, it would seem to me that some sort of periodical function would be extremely valuable for LT for Libraries, especially for attracting college and university libraries.
Aug 29, 2008, 10:24 am

>262 bluetyson:, 269

Having the ability to add periodicals could be extremely useful (not for me personally, but for the grad student types). It would also help if you could break out short stories and associate them with specific periodicals or anthologies. But if you do either of these you would also really need some way to get a complete bibliography from a given collection, in one of several formats, such as MLA.

Aug 29, 2008, 10:33 am

Well, I don't much like facebook. As for being a Luddite, err., no. I've been using the internet even for well over 20 years. ;-)

Aug 29, 2008, 10:41 am

Well, I read Tim's original message, and scrolled through some of the responses. I agree with those who say, lets not worry until we need to worry. This site is far superior in two categories:
* The serious book lover, w/ its depth of collections, common knowledge, and talk/groups/games
* The more geeky among us, who like to sort and search our own way, maintain control over our data, etc. Just try to use Shelfari to display a list of all books with a given tag you created. Its not easy.

The only risk I see is losing access to Amazon's vast database of books. For contemporary literature, they really have a vast collection, and it would be a shame to lose that.

In any case, isn't there room for more than one book cataloging site?

Aug 29, 2008, 10:45 am

Periodical section. That sounds good. Or how about literary small presses? You know the small literary magazines like Blackbird? Would go well with the addition of a poetry section, etc.

As for organizing research--there are now many other sites or software apps that provide bibliography services (for free.) And there's Zotero which works with Firefox (at least.)
Aug 29, 2008, 11:15 am

>273 Blacklin:

Yeah, there are apparently a ton of bibliography services out there. I actually stumbled on Citeline just the other day. It's great that these resources are out there, but why go to them if I can have them directly from LibraryThing. LibraryThing already has the best cataloging functionality that I've found online. A bibliography is really just a different view of the standard title/author/tag/work information that we have right now.

Edited: Aug 29, 2008, 1:15 pm

I checked out Citeline. At least for this one I think you are right. You would have to re-enter all your stuff. While cataloging is fun, it takes time. What I was really thinking about with bibliographic software are the ones where you enter just the sources you are using as you research a particular project. Then you tell it what style citations you want (MLA, APA) and then it makes a list from the sources you've used for that particular project. A different animal from LT and Citeline. I found Citeline kind of confusing, but maybe I didn't explore it enough.

It would be easier to have bibliographic capability here on LT. I think it would just be a matter of categorizing and filtering. Each member could have a separate section or sub-library for bibliographies. You could have a listing of resources that you found useful while doing research on a particular project. The researcher would still have to write his or her own bibliography for the paper. That should not be LT's job. Besides, as I wrote before, there are other online software products that will do that.

Say I did a paper on Richard III. I could list the sources I found most helpful and why. I could even list everything I used and add a note or a review of the resource--why it was good or not, if it led me to other resources, etc. Another person researching Richard III could look at my list and the info and when they go to the library they wouldn't need to spend a whole lot of time searching for the resources themselves, they could just type in the title and get the call number and bingo! go check it out.

You know, something like that could be helpful to university students at all levels. And it would still be a great resource for all types of readers. And we could all still get our cataloging fix and expand our libraries at the same time:)

Somehow, I don't see Shelfari as going in that direction.

Note: the suggestion above is not "proposed" with the idea of excluding any reader type. Whatever that means. It's an idea for additional functionality of LT and a way for LT to provide a service to others. At the same time, the people who would visit LT for bibiographic resource, would most likely get sucked into looking at LT as a whole and realize that the book world is a very large place (if they didn't know that already.)

Edited: Aug 29, 2008, 1:55 pm

#275 What I was really thinking about with bibliographic software are the ones where you enter just the sources you are using as you research a particular project. Then you tell it what style citations you want (MLA, APA) and then it makes a list from the sources you've used for that particular project.

If you go to the details page for a book in LT, down at the bottom are links to get the citation formatted for MLA, APA, Chicago/Turabian, and Wikipedia style. Is that what you were wanting? It won't cough up a list, but once you've identified your group of books (with tags, perhaps), it would be fairly easy to construct the list yourself.

Aug 29, 2008, 1:58 pm

275> I've often wanted a bibliographic feature and right now I go in manually and extract all the APA citations manually for all the books used in a paper. Would be great if I could get a reference list based on a tag search in my catalog.

Aug 29, 2008, 2:44 pm

another vote here for having a list feature. I use amazon listomania to create reading lists linked to my blog to show people some of the sources I've used in writing my historical novels. I'd love to be able to do this with librarything instead, especially since listomania won't let you add titles that aren't available through amazon.
Aug 29, 2008, 2:59 pm

Here are a couple of list use cases off the top of my head.

1. Create a wishlist price reference. Once you have a list you could do something like the Book Burro plug-in for Firefox and find prices for the items on the list at various bookstores online.

2. Create a works cited page. You've done your research and added all of your sources to your list. Let LibraryThing automatically create a properly formatted works cited page for you. You could also use it to create a parenthetical notation outline where you just fill in page numbers or lines.

3. Post lists on your blog or social network profile using a LibraryThing widget. Just plug in the name of a list that you've created and let it do the rest.

Aug 29, 2008, 3:30 pm

Another use for a list function would be for all those folks who keep entering publisher series; it obviously has value for them, but doesn't fit into the parameters of series as presently structured.

I'm not talking about Dummies books, but things like Barnes & Noble Classics series, where everything in the series is a reprint of a work originally from another publisher.
Aug 29, 2008, 3:42 pm

4. Export a list to a CSV (or XML, JSON, XLS, etc.) file or import a list from a CSV file.

Edited: Aug 29, 2008, 3:48 pm

>276 staffordcastle:

I'll check that out. There's all kinds of good stuff hidden away at LT.



I think you can already export/import lists in LT. I just can't remember where that feature is.

Aug 29, 2008, 6:36 pm

Some new bookmarks are up on the Printables page.

Aug 29, 2008, 7:04 pm

Nice, Helcura! Thanks!

Aug 30, 2008, 12:06 am

"If you go to the details page for a book in LT, down at the bottom are links to get the citation formatted for MLA, APA, Chicago/Turabian, and Wikipedia style. Is that what you were wanting?"

I'm probably being really unobservant... but I don't see these links. Is it perhaps a feature only for paid accounts?

Aug 30, 2008, 12:14 am

Hey. Try

It only works when there's a "book" involved. LibraryThing distinguishes between "work"—an all encompassing concept that can embrace, for example, every edition of Jane Eyre ever published—and "book." When you click on one your books, you see a "book." When you, say, follow a recommendation link, you are on a work page. I know, it can be confusing, but the point is that there's no citation format for a "work," but only for a book.

Aug 30, 2008, 12:15 am

As a quibble with myself, some works do have citation formats—established conventions on how to cite them, like Greek and Latin works or the Bible. But most don't. And LibraryThing doesn't support either...

Edited: Aug 30, 2008, 6:24 am

I have fiddled with accounts at GoodReads and Shelfari and Amazon's Library (did you know they had such a program?) and have to say that Shelfari is by far the worst site.

LT absolutely blows it (and everybody else) out of the water in terms of usability, openness, and flexibility.

That said, one of the interesting things that I have noticed is that both GR and Shelfari are now harboring publisher-reps who have identities and 'friends' there. I'm not sure what that is about, but it's a bit creepy. Especially when they spam groups with their ads.

Aug 30, 2008, 8:07 am

> 283 Helcura - I almost spat out my coffee reading the Groucho quote. I am definitely printing out that one. Thanks

Aug 30, 2008, 10:29 am

Attracting new users. Much of the discussion on how to attract new users seems to have taken the most relevant (if controversial) distinction to be that between book-lovers and casual readers. But there is another, entirely independent distinction that I think is more important: that between internet people and non-internet people. (After the strangely recurrent spat over Facebook, I'm trying to keep the terms as neutral as possible.)

Let me explain. I have tried evangelizing about LibraryThing to a number of very bookish friends – including my brother – but to almost no avail. (I did manage to persuade one person to join, but he added only a fraction of his extensive collection before letting his account become dormant.) Now, I think the reason for this is that these people just don't use the internet in the way that I do. They don't blog. They don't have websites. They don't contribute to online forums of any kind. If you Google them, you will find almost nothing. Sure, they're on Facebook, but then again almost all university-educated 20-somethings are.

To quote from one of them on the subject of LibraryThing: "I haven't thought of cataloguing our books ... Although I am no technophobe and regard my computer as a boon second only to my washing machine, I have never understood the appeal of corresponding with total strangers over the internet. I think my time would be better spent putting more effort into the friendships I already have."

That's a pretty big hurdle to get over, and, from my admittedly limited experience, I think it's a more common one than has been acknowledged in the above discussion. (This may be a result of self-selection: we participants are ipso facto in the other category.) My guess is that LibraryThing has already attracted most of the custom it's going to get from book-loving internet people, in which case the challenge now is to attract book-loving non-internet people. Obviously, given my own failures in this area, I've no idea how to do that; but I do think it should be given some serious thought.

Aug 30, 2008, 1:31 pm

It sounds like your friend isn't interested in the social aspects but did you try to sell him on the advantages of cataloging his books on-line? Such as, being able to find the book you're looking for (if you tag by location), being able to tell if you already have a book before you buy another (using the mobile site), getting recommendations for new books based on your existing books, to name just a few.

Aug 30, 2008, 1:40 pm

> 290

Actually, before becoming an LT member, I was so non-internet that I didn't even send email. Of course my son is a software developer and my husband has used computers for decades and I had always wanted a good way to catalog our books, so I'm not really typical either.

Aug 30, 2008, 2:14 pm

>290 brunellus:

I'm not sure this is the case. I'm pretty sure most LibraryThing members never enter Talk. I didn't for a very long time and I still paid for and used a lifetime membership.

I think part of what drew me to it is the fact that half my physical library resides in another state. With LibraryThing, it's easy for me to look up a book and see that it is Denver and know that I haven't lost or misplaced it.

Now, since becoming involved in Talk it has become my favorite part of the site. Because I can talk about books all day and there are people who want to do the same! My friends all read but not to the same degree as I do so talking about books with them is a rare treat.

Aug 30, 2008, 3:06 pm

> 291

Yes, I have tried to promote LT's non-social-networking aspects. As it happens, the social side of LT is almost entirely unimportant to me. But if a site advertises itself as "the world's largest book club", it wouldn't be surprising to find a non-internet newcomer put off by that side of things.

> 292

I'm pleased to hear that LT does manage attract some non-internet people. I suspect you're exceptional, though. (This is just speculation at my end.)

> 293

Surely what matters is not how many members actually use LT's social networking features, but rather the perceptions that non-members might have of the site. (Witness the ignorant rants about Facebook above.)

Aug 30, 2008, 3:16 pm


In the early days LT was a bit further away from the usual social networking crowd (well in the very early days there was no social aspect to LT). hailelib, like myself, was one of the original users who joined in the first few weeks of LT sneaking into public view.

Although I see myself as a computer person, I have been programming them professionally for over 20 years, I don't have a website, don't have a blog, don't go in for social networking sites. The focus on subject matter is what draws me to a site. Sometimes that site has a social aspect to it but in nearly all cases that is a secondary concern.

Aug 30, 2008, 5:18 pm

I have to agree. I have accounts at LT and Goodreads, but I use the Goodreads account more because the number of books I can catalog for free is not capped. Otherwise, I would probably use LT more. I don't think I would mind ads if it meant it was free.

Aug 30, 2008, 7:27 pm

I just visited the Shalfari website and it's ANNOYING from the get-go. The idea that it could compete with LT in the mind of anyone who's familiar with both just seems ludicrous. What can Amazon do? All the advertising in the world can't coronate a sucky application.

The openness, the passion, the sheer involvement that you (Tim) and Abby, etc., have is very clear to the rest of us, believe me. The way that we can holler back at y'all any time, and that you'll pop up on a Talk thread just like any other user is incredible.

But it's not just that; the actual website captured me before I had any idea that the site creator was so accessible and involved. Yeah, this is an LT love letter (And I promised myself I wouldn't cry! Sniff).

Edited: Aug 30, 2008, 7:56 pm

Try, just try, to imagine a corporate website allowing the free-wheeling, bare-fisted back-and-forth that goes on some of the politically-oriented Talk groups here. As if!

The difference between LT and Shelfari is the difference between a living being and a re-animated corpse.

(Yes that was harsh, but it's really what I feel.)

Aug 30, 2008, 8:49 pm

>298 Carnophile:

Which is ironic, considering the "Lovecraftian" flavor of LibraryThing's name :)

Aug 31, 2008, 2:30 am

>298 Carnophile:, 299

Not to mention LibraryThing's desire for braaaaaaiiinsss and only braaaaaaains...

Aug 31, 2008, 3:02 am

I think Amazon is looking long-term here, and has realized that the future is ebooks. Much more than with treebooks, ebooks will involve connectivity. But also, people desire ownership. Sites like LT and Shelfari allow readers to virtually "own" a book, even if it's ephemeral on their machines.

Reading machines, one assumes, will in the future become more multi-media, able to present text, video, and music with equal dexterity. I think LT (whose name is, happily, broad enough to cover all sorts of libraries) should expand into cataloging music and video. LT should also develop more options for showing off one's ebooks, and perhaps even storing them.

Though I love LT dearly, and agree that it handily defeats Goodreads and Shelfari on most counts, I have a couple quibbles. A: It's ugly. The used-bandaid color and dreadful cut-off tail of the 'y' in the logo (this is the design equivalent of having a fluorescent letter on your shop sign go out) make me sad. A complete rethink is in order, something that will promote clarity, and allow the beautiful covers to shine out. B: There is much that is hidden or obscure. While 'zeitgeist' is a cool word, it might be off-putting to the average drop-in. I think you want your interface, both text and design, to be as "invisible" as possible.

Just my two cents. It's a fantastic site, Tim, and feels alive in a way many others don't, in part because of your spirit!

Aug 31, 2008, 6:26 am


I don't mind the colour, I certainly would mind a more vibrant colour. I don't even mind the cut off letters - who looks at the logo when they are using the site?

As for allow the beautiful covers to shine out I couldn't care less. I use cover view extremely rarely. Most of my catalogue views don't show the covers.

As for Zeitgeist - People put off by an English (albeit adopted from another language) word? I wouldn't have thought so. It has been used for a TV film, a popular music album, by Google, and even by a major UK newspaper (The Guardian). It is thoroughly mainstream.

Most of the charm of LT is individuality. Change it so that it has a more homogeneous design and you lose a lot of the charm.

Aug 31, 2008, 6:38 am

Agree with andyl.

Edited: Aug 31, 2008, 6:57 am

To me the huge advantage of LT over Shelfari - and the main reason why I left there - was the fact that I couldn't manually enter any books there. With my library that meant I couldn't enter about 50% of my collection. I have no idea if they have solved this by now - haven't been back, not likely to do so.

As for Shelfari being free: yeah, that will probably have some effect on popularity. But come on: US$ 25.- for a life membership...

p.s.: Correction - in view of all of the above I have visited Shelfari again and deleted my account there.

Aug 31, 2008, 8:48 am

>299 timspalding:, 300

But the scariest thing about The Thing is its eerie power of addictivity, by which it pulls you in when you try to "Run! Don't walk!" away from it.

New slogan:

LibraryThing: Powered by Satanic Necromancy.

Aug 31, 2008, 10:14 am

>80 DaynaRT: The lack of in-your-face forced socialization is one of the reasons I prefer LT. If Tim and Co. were to put reminders everywhere about finding "friends", I"d be disappointed.

I second this sentiment.

Aug 31, 2008, 10:32 am

#290, 292

Before joining LT, I had never joined any kind of social networking site. I was a big internet user for e-mail, research, and book-buying, but I just didn't have any interest in joining a site. Nor had I any interest in cataloging my books.

But something just clicked the minute I discovered LT and I joined instantly and started cataloging. Some months later, when Groups came along, I stuck my toe in the waters and eased my way in.

So I wouldn't be so sure that "non-internet" folks might not get into LT.

All that said, I wouldn't feel comfortable with socializing on LT if it didn't have such a deep reservoir of book lovers and serious book information. And like many others, I am in awe of the personal involvement of Tim, et al. -- for me, this is definitely one of these things that make the site different.

So, since this is a thread for "how to respond to Amazon/Shelfari" (and since I confess I haven't read all the preceding posts carefully), I would just say that LT should stick to what it does best (providing serious cataloging, a good venue for book discussions, unbelievable interest in and response to member wishes), build on that in an organic and consistent way, and publicize it more.

Aug 31, 2008, 11:40 am

on 301> What ever happened to the Redesign LibraryThing project? Wasn't there a plan to allow users to change their color scheme, etc.?

Aug 31, 2008, 11:51 am

>308 rsterling:

Yeah, nothing came up that I thought was a big leap forward. There was some forward movement, but it didn't strike me as the right answer that should determine our design for a few years.

Aug 31, 2008, 12:01 pm

re: #301 Silverfish:

FWIW: I like the subdued colors of LT... don't want/like bright colors & would probably turn off graphics if LT went "wild"

When I joined LT, I had been looking for a way to "catalog" my books & an excel spreadsheet or access database wasn't doing it for me.

I tried Readerware & had started entering books into that program. What turned me off was that upgrades weren't included... and at that point, they were near an upgrade.... a very needed upgrade.

A couple of friends had pointed me to LT. Within a day or so, I had mailed a check to Abby.... the rest is history. (One friend just has a few books cataloged, the other has many many more books than I do, but doesn't use tags or talk & just seems to use LT as a list)

I don't use facebook or my space, so those "extras" don't affect me.

I like being able to check book availability at abebooks, B&N, Amazon & the others.... but I don't like having data brought in from Amazon, no matter how large their (error-filled) database is.

I use BookMooch & PBS, but can check availability there via an ISBN search. (btw, those are two very different communities of bookswapers... very different attitudes & selections)

Obviously, I truly enjoy LibraryThing & participate in Talk... but more for the great book discussions & the ability to participate in making LT better.

Aug 31, 2008, 12:02 pm

#307 - agree completely. I am another who never had any inclination to join a social networking site prior to joining LT.

On here I find it second nature. I think this is because LT users tend to be serious about books, and have a wide range of interests. I can ask a question on an appropriate group, and almost guarantee a quick and (usually) erudite and polite response.

This is a key plus for LT in my view and a definite USP that I doubt many other sites could match.

Edited: Dec 4, 2008, 4:26 pm

This message has been deleted by its author.

Aug 31, 2008, 2:05 pm

312: New employees, new servers, lots of cost.

Aug 31, 2008, 2:19 pm

I'm sure there are a few people on Facebook who take reading and books as seriously as most of the LTers but, let's face it (pun intended), just about everyone I know with an active Facebook account is too busy following up on what everyone else on Facebook is doing to have much time left for the kind of reading LT attracts. And my Facebook-loving adult children are the first to agree. They don't use Facebook when they want to become involved in serious discussions and neither do their friends.

Aug 31, 2008, 2:28 pm

There are lots of features people are requesting. There are also lots of people who appear not to care about those same features. Maybe a survey would work where people can indicate what they find most important? You can use sites like to quickly make one. That way we find find out what the majority of LT users care about.

Aug 31, 2008, 2:42 pm

Tim has frequently expressed the opinion that those who participate in these Talk discussions are the powerusers and their opinion is only the view of at most 5% of LT users. And while the views of the powerusers are useful he is more interested in what will please/attract the other 95%. So I don't think Tim will find a survey very useful.

Aug 31, 2008, 3:00 pm

>316 jjwilson61:

No, I think it depends on the thread. Some very detailed conversation about collections can end up being the 5%. A general thread—like the 10-ways thread—where users are invited to leave basically one opinion reaches deeper.

On other media, that's a tough one. I don't think it's a coincidence that none of the LT competitors have gone that way, or that the all-media sites (there are a few) have not taken off. I am interested in the idea, but there are real risks of mixing everything together.

Aug 31, 2008, 3:09 pm

On other media and the dangers of mixing stuff together isn't that already happening?

Look at the works for Steven Spielberg most of them aren't written works. Some of the suggested combines are quite interesting as well.
# Harrison Ford
# Tom Hanks
# 2 hours 26 minutes
# VHS - Movie

Aug 31, 2008, 3:21 pm

>318 andyl:

Yes, it happens. It's not the same as telling people to do it. And nobody is starting threads for Tropic Thunder, or whatever.

Edited: Aug 31, 2008, 3:25 pm

There's lots of non-books on LT. For example, some of the stuff on the J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkien pages are in fact the movies.

Funny, the JKR touchstone doesn't seem to work.

Aug 31, 2008, 3:32 pm


Oh I agree, in fact I would prefer it if you were a bit more strict about things. It isn't so much that I particularly mind non-written works however when you get the duration as the author; or one of the principal actors it is a bit of a farce. Personally I would prefer it if people put some kind of designation (like Film, DVD or VHS) in square brackets after the title so it is immediately obvious but maybe that's just me.

Aug 31, 2008, 3:35 pm

>319 timspalding: I couldn't agree more - where I spot them I try to fix this with a canonical title in CK.

Aug 31, 2008, 3:42 pm

I would love a movie/music Thing, but I am of the VERY strong opinion that IF it was ever to be fully implimented here, it should be seperate from the books.

Aug 31, 2008, 4:01 pm

>323 Heather19:

At the moment, I think it would split the community. That would be good, if LibraryThing was an amoeba.

Edited: Aug 31, 2008, 5:46 pm

>324 timspalding:

I honestly think diversification of media would ruin LibraryThing or at least the social aspect.

I think at the very least you would need a completely separate Talk structure for each.

And I don't really see the point. I think most people of my generation at least aren't going to have physical music collections much longer and we already have LastFM. That leaves movies and while I'm not sure there's anything good for cataloging a DVD collection, IMDB would smash LibraryThing to pieces when it comes to data. So what exactly would be the point?

Edit: I know this isn't likely to happen, but I've been holding this in. I feel like I'm pretty laid back about most changes here. I did kind of start a fight over putting the profile tab back, but that was mostly idealogical. I may have strong opinions, but in the end everything seems to work for me or is easy to ignore.

However, the one think that really annoys me is coming across DVDs in recommendations or searches. It kind of feels like walking through the book part of a library or bookstore and finding that someone has shoved a copy of Pirates of the Carribean in between two books. I recognize we're all for letting people put whatever they want in their catalog but I wish there was a "not a book" flag so I would never have to see it ever again.

Aug 31, 2008, 5:44 pm

I've thought about basically opening up the system to personal cataloging of other media--it would take a lot of work, but the work would be "hidden" from users--but not doing as much "global" work there, and very pointedly not shifting the focus of the thing.

Aug 31, 2008, 5:48 pm

326 - You're too fast, Tim! Too fast!

So, uh, what I said in my edit up there in 325.

Also, I have no idea what any of 326 means. But I suspect I don't like it.

Aug 31, 2008, 5:58 pm

Let me put it another way.

LibraryThing does four main things:

1. Catalog your personal books
2. Allow you to see "global" information about books, including implicit and explicit social information
3. Connect you to other users who have your books
4. Encouraging talking between people generally about books

The idea would be to do 1 and maybe the basics of 2, but not 3 or 4.

Aug 31, 2008, 6:41 pm

So people who are entering other media already, wouldn't have to use kludgey work arounds and it would be easier to differentiate books from other media in the catalogue, but you won't be launching DVDthing etc? Sounds good.

Aug 31, 2008, 6:54 pm

I'd vote for 1 but not 2.

Aug 31, 2008, 7:07 pm

I'm not interested in cataloging music, but when collections makes reading lists possible, it would be nice to include Benjamin Bagby's Beowulf performance in the anglo-saxon one...

Aug 31, 2008, 7:32 pm

Sounds AWESOME Tim! I don't care all that much about making my own dvd/cd collection, but I would love to see it made easier for others, and see them seperated so that movies wouldn't mix with books on author pages and stuff.

Aug 31, 2008, 8:24 pm

As I said, I'm interested, but I think I'd go for short stories, articles and essays first.

Aug 31, 2008, 8:44 pm

#188 -- woowee! -- I have first editions of a couple of those books, including Raven. One never knows what can become valuable.

Aug 31, 2008, 8:48 pm

I would not like it if the best book site on the net turned into a media site with no real focus.

Book people may also be movie people, but I do not think that they can co-exist peacefully on a site like this. If it ain't broke, etc.

Isn't there a movie site? what about a sister site? FilmThing or? Once LT is in good working order, of course.

Aug 31, 2008, 9:15 pm

#283 -- Love the dog one! I may have to pay a visit to my local Kinkos and then surreptitiously insert a card into every library book I borrow.

Aug 31, 2008, 9:56 pm

Our local library (Blue Mountains City Library, New South Wales, Australia) has a link to LT on their Reader Assistance page. If this is not a common practice around the world perhaps LTers could encourage their own local libraries to follow suit.

Sep 1, 2008, 11:11 am


It happens now at a low, annoying but mostly ignorable level.

That's far from the deluge we'd get if it were officially sanctioned. Imagine -- people without a single book entering hundreds of DVDs. Clamoring for automatic imports of Netflix queues and histories. Recommendations and "people with your books" becoming utterly useless. Author pages meaningless, with hundreds of copies of the movies of ANY book that has them (not just Harry Potter). "Author" pages for directors.

I have too much time invested in my catalog to leave LT over something like this, especially since there really isn't a viable alternative, but I'd lock down (go private and focus only on my catalog, ignoring the then-useless social features like Recommendations and People With Your Books).

Sep 1, 2008, 11:14 am


I would not like it if the best book site on the net turned into a media site with no real focus.

Yes. This.

Short stories and essays would be great. They're still the written word. DVDS? There are too many here already. :(

Edited: Sep 1, 2008, 11:22 am

#338-339. Yep, I agree. I admit to opening a free account to float the idea of entering my large DVD collection (a 'Private' one). It didn't occur to me until I started thinking about the open shelves classification debate and thinking of all media as part of a library. I quickly shelved (if you'll excuse the unintentional pun) the idea because of all the reasons you've listed (among others). LT is brilliant because it's a book site. Obviously, if DVDThing ever raised its head, I'd be lifetime with bells on but only as a separate entity.

Isn't the idea of going down the 'alternative media' route going against the grain of what is LT's unique selling point (oh God! I sound like someone who works in advertising - *smacks self round the head*) of being the serious booklover's site....

Edited to add - I meant a 'Private' account so it didn't monkey around with stats etc. not that I have a large collection of Private DVDs! ;)

Sep 1, 2008, 11:27 am

Totally agree with #340 - yes I would subscribe to a CinemaThing in a flash, I might even like it if there were some way to link the two collections, but nothing too close.

Sep 1, 2008, 11:27 am

#340: RE: your edit

yeah, we believe you!!!


Sep 1, 2008, 12:41 pm

338> What are you talking about? Recommendations and People With Your Books would become *more* useful. If LT was aware of what was a book and what was a DVD then it could exclude all DVDs from your Recommendations and PWYB if that is what you want, something it cannot do now. And I'd certainly be interested in what movies that LT would recommend to me based on my books. I draw the line at movies, however. Books and Movies share plots, characters, settings, etc., music doesn't have nearly as much in common with books.

Sep 1, 2008, 1:34 pm

It's safe to say, it's not on the horizon—or even on the horizon of the horizon—and if we did it, we'd be very careful not to screw up things. As I said, I could see it being part of your personal experience, but I have no desire to see movies mixed up with books everywhere on the global or social levels.

Edited: Sep 1, 2008, 2:33 pm

I don't care who owns what. LT does it for me.

I have had two Pulitzer prize winners of fiction, ALL those who have read my books, tell me I am anywhere from good to excellent in my storytelling prose, but I sell maybe two books a month.

Why? Because I don't MARKET my stuff. Despite the fact I have sold everything from newspaper advertising to 30-ton farm tractors, and have been the top producer in the companies I worked for, when it comes to selling my books, it is like pimping out my kids.

So, Tom . . . do you think I spend one minute of the year thinking how Steve King is so successful when I write equally well as he? Heck, no. I compete only against my self. If I put out a book that is the best I can do, I am content. And when I have a reader say they "couldn't put it down" or "I love the story," I am downright Happy (maybe Joyous is a better word).

If I can do this when I've only sold about 5,000 of the 10,000 books I've published over a period of almost 30 years, why are you spending any time WORRYING about something most of us have never heard of????????????

That's what boggles my mind, Tim. Really! Don't you know LibraryThing is the state of the art of catalouging, PLUS it is a social venue for those of us nerds who still read books daily.

Stay focussed to international memberships, not just english speaking or north american people. Whoever survies these first 50 years of the computer age is who has the world's market. I'd sure like to see what China and India have to offer in their libraries, especially China. The limited stuff I've seen come out of there ranges from good to exquisite.

Tim: Don't worry. Be Happy. (And make that the top 5,000 libraries on Zeitgheist, please).

Post Script: Also, raise lifetime memberships to $50 and yearly memberships to $15, then find something to put the money in that will make competition's testicles concupescent!

Sep 2, 2008, 1:59 am

I am unquestionably loyal to LT. So much so I don't think I can even ponder the question clearly. As far as my family is concerned, "LT" is the moniker for a close personal friend that I'm always gabbing about. (LT said "this"; and LT said "that".) Consequently, I'm not sure what all the fuss is about.

When I look at the Shelfari interface, it makes me feel very, very weary; much like the updated Borders website does. (I never go there.) It's predominately graphics, using as few words as possible. (As in: Look at the pretty colors!) As a reader, e.g. someone who likes words, its kinda annoying.

And if you think I'm EVER going to re-enter the 5,000+ books I lovingly and painstakingly 10-keyed into my LT library - FORGET IT. Life is too short. Even to read all the books I already own. So, LT owns me.

But the number one thing that does strike me as I skimmed through the previous 345 posts: all of this conversation is being done directly with and by Tim, owner and founder. That alone tells me everything I need to know (as if I needed to know, or wanted to know, or questioned what I know..... )

(And, as much as I want to catalogue and organize my movie collection, please don't do it on LT.)

Sep 2, 2008, 1:30 pm


If LT was aware of what was a book and what was a DVD then it could exclude all DVDs from your Recommendations and PWYB if that is what you want, something it cannot do now.

True, but that's a mighty big "if".

Sep 2, 2008, 1:41 pm

>347 lorax:
Not as big as this one!

Sep 2, 2008, 5:43 pm

>221 infiniteletters:

Thanks, I appreciate it!

Sep 2, 2008, 6:48 pm

343> Maybe, but it's more likely users will check the media type box then add the unofficial DVD to the title. Perhaps there is some way that LT can tell from the library cataloging info that a title is a DVD and automatically set the media type.

Sep 2, 2008, 7:02 pm

I note, from my home page, that "author" Warren Zevon died on this day in 2003.

Edited: Sep 5, 2008, 6:39 pm

348> OUCH! I bet there's no way to separate that.

350> Are you poking the subject a little, jj? Interesting touchstone considering the context.

back to topic

346> Last paragraph. I wholeheartedly agree. It is always those that listen to their clients, customers, or users in detail during the early stages that build the better product. Yes, we are still in the early stages here.

Sep 3, 2008, 3:53 am

I love LT, and wouldn't want to see anything stand in the way of innovation. But as an Amazon customer, I'd really like it if they would integrate with LT.

Amazon suggests books to me that I already own all the time. Books I've already LibraryThinged. If they looked up my catalog and suggested new books to me I would probably buy more from them. If I could automatically add Amazon purchases to LibraryThing that would be cool too.

Sep 3, 2008, 3:58 am

I checked out some of the 40+ competitors of LT today. If you need a place to catalog your salt and pepper shakers, your velvet Elvis paintings, and your 1970s roach clip collection along with your books try

Well, the way this thread was going with requests to un-book LT somebody was bound to ask for the above categories. ;)

Sep 3, 2008, 4:26 am


Amazon is dumb. It recommends books to me which I have already bought from them in a different edition. It has no concept of a 'work' like LT does.

Sep 3, 2008, 9:46 am

#351 - Warren died on the 7th, actually. I still cry about it to this day.

Sep 3, 2008, 10:41 am

I'm amazed Amazon is suggesting other editions. Although *some* other editions should be suggested—someone who has the last two editions of the O'Reilly CSS book may well want to get the third when it comes out—it should try to figure that stuff out. After all, Amazon has hard sales data in enormous quantities. And they do have a concept of work now, albeit a rather simple one, without a lot of data in it.

Sep 3, 2008, 10:44 am

355, 357: It does try to figure that stuff out, and it mostly succeeds. I hardly ever get suggested a paperback when I have a hardcover, for example. But once in a while they get an edition that somehow doesn't make it into their version of a "work"—I find this happens a lot when they list UK editions in addition to US ones.

Sep 3, 2008, 11:47 am

350> Heh. I just meant adding DVD with square brackets around it to the title. I didn't mean to make a touchstone.

Edited: Sep 3, 2008, 4:04 pm

I'd like to buy a Library Thing shirt or mug or something, but the one's I've seen here are - ahem - boring. Sorry, but that's how I see them. Why not have a contest to design a picture for t-shirts and sweatshirts or even for mugs. I'm not particularly artistic, but I bet somebody would come up with something that would be very attractive. You could put the LT logo on the back or on a pocket or something. Maybe you could also offer a few more color options. And speaking of mugs, I don't see any at CafePress, but maybe you could get from somewhere some of those nice luxurious looking big rounded mugs. I don't know if they have a particular name for that kind, but I like them much better than mugs with straight sides. Again you could put the LT logo on one side and a contest picture on the other side.

ETA: Or on the back of the shirt instead of just the logo have the logo with the same text that goes on the back of the book marks to tell some of the main things to do at LT.

Sep 3, 2008, 6:04 pm

>360 lilypadma: I'd like to buy a Library Thing shirt or mug or something, but the one's I've seen here are - ahem - boring. Sorry, but that's how I see them.

How about

I’m more well-read than you, beeyatch

Kicking Shelfari’s ass from here to Timbuktu

Reading books and kicking ass

A thing pertaining to libraries

You must be at least this nerdly to join

Wonks, geeks, nerds, and grinds welcome

Tomes, books, treatises and tracts

Join and we’ll give you Abby’s phone number
(or Tim’s, whatever)

And my favorite...

If you add another Harry Potter book we’ll kill you

Sep 3, 2008, 6:14 pm

361: LOL! I love those!
I'd definitely be more inclined to by a mug/etc if there was something like that on there!

Sep 3, 2008, 9:38 pm

:D I like those! And I still like the idea of some sort of colorful picture for at least some of the merchandise. There could still be products with just the logo, but there should be options.

Sep 3, 2008, 11:45 pm

I really like the idea of a "design a LibraryThing t-shirt" contest. I'd happily buy some LT swag if it weren't so boring.

Edited: Sep 4, 2008, 6:38 am

REgarding Amazon's "suggestion engine".

As someone who hangs around Amazon too much, I can tell you that their Suggester sux big time. They use it for the Vine program for "targeting" newsletters. People who first selected toothbrushes, can count on seeing them in every subsequent newsletter "targeted" for them if any are available.

Like Brand A sonic toothbrush. Well, what about Brands B, C, and D?

LT's is MUCH, MUCH, better.

Sep 4, 2008, 8:37 am

The reason the t-shirts are plain is simply that we're all so gosh-darned attractive. No point gilding the lily!

Sep 4, 2008, 8:38 am

Indeed, John is so attractive, he doesn't even wear shirts.

Sep 4, 2008, 8:40 am

Don't tell me I forgot to turn the camera off again?!??

Sep 4, 2008, 8:47 am

>366 felius:

We're too hot to need interesting T-shirts.

All this and well-read, too.

Sep 4, 2008, 8:57 am

He's so attractive that he doesn't even need hair. He shaved it all off in an attempt at looking like all of those normal people. It did not succeed. He is still mauled by adoring fans when venturing forth into public spaces. It's hard for him.

Sep 4, 2008, 9:38 am

John, did you belong to Right Said Fred back in the eighties? cD sort of gave it away in 370.

Sep 4, 2008, 9:58 am

>371 tcgardner:
From looking at his Twitter avatar, I believe he did!

Edited: Sep 4, 2008, 12:20 pm

>362 Heather19:, 363 Thanks!
I also agree w/360 that the current tag lines are a bit...tepid. Catalog your books online is good in that it's descriptive, but it does lack marketing sexiness.
I like >360 lilypadma:, 364's idea of a contest to design something new.

Sep 4, 2008, 12:21 pm

We need a shirt with a chicken standing next to a stack of 3 books, and the chicken's saying "Book, book, book!"
Sep 4, 2008, 12:58 pm


Sep 4, 2008, 1:02 pm

Tim & Co., please forgive this question:

LTers: what is preventing you from designing YOUR OWN LibraryThing shirt/mug/bag/sign with YOUR OWN tagline?

Tim has allowed the LT graphics/logo to be used... within reason, of course.

Yes, I know that the iron-on transfer sheets are pitiful, but you can make the shirts look "aged" so the iron-ons don't look 'that bad'

or you could get one of the cafepress shirts without a tagline & then carefully add one of your own. (or have someone with good handwriting/printing do it for you)

Excuse me, but there is enough creativity & enough of a rebellious (non-conformist) attitude here that should be moving this forward.... a little bit faster than I'm seeing here...

(goes off to design my own LT shirt... but what tagline do I want on it?)

Sep 4, 2008, 1:16 pm

>376 skittles:

The whole point of a design contest is that whoever has the ability to make the best design is likely to win it.

I could throw together some sort of LT design, but my artistic skills are pretty limited. I'd much rather have a t-shirt designed by someone who can, well, design a t-shirt.

Sep 4, 2008, 1:20 pm

#374 - LOL - I couldn't help it!!

Sep 4, 2008, 1:24 pm

378> HA! Awesome. :D

Sep 4, 2008, 1:44 pm

>378 angelikat:
That's a great graphic! Why not put that on a tote bag, too?

Sep 4, 2008, 2:14 pm

>376 skittles:
LTers: what is preventing you from designing YOUR OWN LibraryThing shirt/mug/bag/sign with YOUR OWN tagline?

Tim has allowed the LT graphics/logo to be used... within reason, of course.

Cool, I didn't realize we could do this! So am I understanding this correctly? I could make a shirt that says, e.g.,

You must be at least this nerdly to join

or whatever?
Sep 4, 2008, 4:38 pm

>378 angelikat:, 381

You might have a look at Zazzle as a place to design and print your shirt. Then you wouldn't have to deal with crappy iron-on technology.

Sep 4, 2008, 5:14 pm

OK, but do I have to include McCain/Palin in the logo? Seems to be a requirement at the moment.

Sep 4, 2008, 6:54 pm

376: I get your point, and certainly agree in general. However, for me, I simply can't afford to do it myself. This might sound bad, but if it's something LT is offering, I know I can beg it out of a friend or relative as a present. I, however, have absolutely no money to try it with.... And then there is the lack of even an artistic SPECK in my body (artistic meaning design/etc, not writing-wise)

Sep 4, 2008, 10:32 pm

>373 Carnophile:

Let's change it to

LibraryThing: Catalogue your books online ... sexily!

Sep 4, 2008, 10:45 pm

I haven't read all the posts here, but wouldn't it be a good idea to incorporate the .com in any logo? For people who know nothing about LT simply seeing LibraryThing will mean nothing; seeing the .com at least lets the uninitiated know it's an internet thing, and maybe they'll go home and try it.

Sep 5, 2008, 1:50 am

I am speechless with humility to watch true democracy in action. My heart is full to overflowing. Tim Spalding for President; (Abby for Vice)!

Sep 5, 2008, 1:52 am


For VP, I'm choosing an Alaskan! :)

Sep 5, 2008, 1:53 am

Ohmigod. I'M AN ALASKAN! Lights, camera.... read.

Sep 5, 2008, 3:34 am

I'll pick Abby for Vice. What vice do you like, Abby?

Sep 5, 2008, 8:20 am

Sloth or gluttony?

Sep 5, 2008, 8:25 am

Ooooo .... Tim's going to get in trouble! Is this because she said she'd flag your review ;)

Sep 5, 2008, 9:20 am

>391 timspalding: says a lot; not only about how Tim is so going to get slapped about by Abby, but also for the fact the the Lord High Pooh Bah of LT didn't even try to use touchstones for Sloth or Gluttony! Or maybe he did and they weren't working at that moment.

Besides, they're sins, I was offering vice. Not a lot of difference, I know, since the 'Seven Deadly Sins' are also known as the 'Capital Vices', but I like to think that vice offers more variety.
Sep 5, 2008, 10:48 am


Sep 5, 2008, 10:59 am
Sep 5, 2008, 11:12 am

>395 justjim:

Sorry, I just couldn't resist. Apparently I'm in a punny mood this morning.

Sep 5, 2008, 11:47 am

I know some folks who love to use those kinds of vices when practicing their favorite vice.

Sep 5, 2008, 11:48 am

Relinquish and allow users to add directly from the catalog again. I was check for a possible series today and noticed something interesting on a Random House website:

Notice the "add to shelf:" option and Goodreads, LibraryThing and Shelfari there? It's disappointing to see Goodreads have a "add to my books" button and we really just have information available.

I know, I know, I know - data, data, data - but I think ease of entry is 100% more important. And, let's face it, the Amazon import has transferred over a lot of useless junk that folks never clean up (myself included - although I've been trying to take the time to do it here and there). Maybe we could have a way to show that a book has been reviewed for data accuracy (or not?)? But, we need to allow folks to add again - especially since wishlists are coming with collections - that one click is going to make wishlists very powerful.

I didn't even know we offered this on publisher websites - and I'll say that we have the best looking book page out there - but we have to make it seem like adding a book is the easiest thing in the world, not something terribly complicated where we'll give you the stink eye if you do something very wrong to the community data.

Sep 5, 2008, 11:52 am

And I thought I was feeling punny for wanting to pair plying with pliers.

Sep 5, 2008, 12:35 pm

>398 stephmo: I absolutely agree.

Sep 5, 2008, 1:07 pm

398: At the very least, there should be a button to quickly add books that were only from manual sources.

Sep 5, 2008, 1:16 pm

> 398 Relinquish and allow users to add directly from the catalog again.

I have to agree. One of the strengths of LT is the user libraries.

Bad data exists, and edited edition records exist, and we want edition-collectors to be able to count on that data, at least to some extent.

But the latter goal is already significantly compromised by people like me who add from ources willy-nilly, heedless of proper edition. (I do it b/c much of my data entry has been based on brief title/author box indexes of material in storage 2500 miles away. Don't hate me.)

I think this could be resolved by returning the ADD THIS from the screen, but including a confirmation: "add this particular edition? or just add this work? {use setting as permanent default?}"

Yes this would mean there has to be an "edition" that is basically not a real edition. But actually that would be good. People who don't care about editions & just pick random ones would have a home, and everyone else's stats wouldn't get screwed up.

Sep 5, 2008, 1:28 pm

Or maybe having a "add title and author" button for the work, but that still wouldn't fix the manual entry problem.

Sep 5, 2008, 1:28 pm

I prefer my vices slightly less punny.

Edited: Sep 5, 2008, 1:33 pm

>I like the "add title and author" button idea. That would get the basics in for those who just want a quick add, but wouldn't affect things that the detail oriented care about.

ETA: I can be a member of either group, depending on the day and the book.

Sep 5, 2008, 1:42 pm

I agree that "add title and author" would be extremely useful. I think I've said so before, but a bit of repetition doesn't hurt :)

Sep 5, 2008, 2:16 pm

I miss it too; as it is now, I just don't use it.

Sep 5, 2008, 5:56 pm

Discipline those naughty little books

Sep 5, 2008, 6:51 pm

>402 lquilter:-406

Can I repeat my earlier suggestion:

add the entire record - EXCEPT the ISBN

Sep 6, 2008, 1:32 pm

Any website allow the use of capital letters in their tags can not be taken seriously. Because I want to keep track of the books I have read vs. the books I own, I have been using Shelfari. Given all that is going on, I think I will have to stop.

Edited: Sep 7, 2008, 4:47 pm

If anyone's interested this, in more detail than I can write on a comment, is why LT beats the pants of sites like Shelfari ....

Sep 6, 2008, 2:25 pm

>411 klarusu: Great post!

Sep 6, 2008, 2:36 pm


I don't understand the first two sentences.

Any website allow the use of capital letters in their tags can not be taken seriously.

Any particular reason. As far as I see it you can do a number of things with case.
a) not allow upper case (or lower case)
b) convert case to the site's anointed case
c) ignore case when searching but preserve what has been entered
d) require exact match when searching (including case)

For me, c) is the right choice - it works in exactly the same way for tag searches as it does for author searching and title searching.

Because I want to keep track of the books I have read vs. the books I own, I have been using Shelfari.

What makes you think you cannot (or should not) use LibraryThing for keeping a list of books read? I (and some others) prefer not to in our own libraries but are not prescriptive in asking you to do the same. In fact Tim sees nothing amiss in using LT to keep a list of books read and even encourages it.

Sep 6, 2008, 3:48 pm

>412 _Zoe_: Thanks _Zoe_!

Sep 7, 2008, 4:17 pm

Yeah, I'm confused about the upper-case tags issue too. I'm wondering if the member grew familiar with tags over at Delicious (nee—where lower-case tags predominate.

Sep 12, 2008, 4:56 pm

This message has been flagged by multiple users and is no longer displayed (show)
+ fucking 1, timspalding.

Sep 13, 2008, 8:40 am

>416 joeclark: flaggers: is this post really abusive? I interpreted it is as praise, with "fucking" adding emphasis.

Sep 13, 2008, 9:03 am

It didn't seem to pertain to the conversation and it contained an obscenity, so I interpreted it as trolling. If I'm wrong, maybe the poster would like to explain what he meant?

Sep 13, 2008, 9:32 am

Even if it is trolling (though I personally don't think so), that's not a personal attack, commercial solicitation, or spam. Irrelevant obscenities aren't actually forbidden.

Edited: Sep 13, 2008, 9:44 am

The post was as _Zoe_ interpreted it in 417: Praise for Tim's comments, with "fucking" for emphasis.

For those who aren't familiar with it (and it's admittedly not a native idiom here), "+1" is very commonly used -- it's a textual representation of a positive vote in the kind of thumbs up/thumbs down system that allows readers to give feedback points for specific points. Not verbose, but it does the trick nicely.

No word is, in itself, a TOS violation on these forums.

joeclark, I appreciated your fucking post, and I'm sorry to see you caught heat for it.

Sep 14, 2008, 2:20 am

Well, I wasn't the only one who flagged it. (shrug) I'll shut up, then.

Sep 14, 2008, 4:29 am

I was curious and looked at it after it had been hidden. It appeared to me to be an unprovoked and offensive insult directed at Tim, and I would have flagged it if I could. (Obviously, now, I was wrong -- but perhaps the poster may in future want to consider how other people will read what he has written.)

Sep 14, 2008, 5:06 pm

Maybe we need a flag for "What the f—?"

Sep 15, 2008, 1:04 pm

They say this cat timspalding is a bad mother-
Shut your mouth!
I'm just talkin' bout timspalding
Then we can dig it!

Sep 15, 2008, 5:57 pm

This message is not momentous, because I haven't looked into all of it. But I checked out Shelfari and all I can say is yuch. I didn't know LT was affiliated with Abebooks! After an awful experience with Amazon marketplace, I tried Abebooks and was amazed.
LT is addicting, in a wonderful way. I can catalog my books, find new books, see what others are reading. It is intellectual in a way I've never seen a social site be. Shelfari might be all the rage, but people who are truly interested in BOOKS and not being seen, will use LT. Regardless of the size of Amazon, there will always be a place for LT, just as there will always be a place for bookstores other than Amazon.
Open source can be a challenge -- I work for a Georgia Public Library and have been part of the Evergreen experiment (as a user) from the start. But GPLS and Evergreen think what they are doing is worth all that they have to do to work the bugs out.
I think, from what I've seen in the short while I've been a member that LT will only get stronger. That the community will work together to help keep the wolves at the door.

Sep 15, 2008, 10:56 pm


A shelf above the rest


A step above the rest (Have a picture of a ladder like they use in bookstores)

Oct 3, 2008, 3:11 pm

I'm very very late to this party. Sorry, real life has been interfering. I've not read through the whole thread, but here are the few thoughts that jumped into my head. Apologies if they're repeated.

Link up with someone like Book Depository. Even if it was only a small info share with maybe a graphic, and with more independent booksellers. Their customers are your potential users.

I would look closely at how much information is pulled from Amazon. I don't have a problem with Amazon, but too much dependency there, especially now, could be a problem if they decide LT is a Bad Thing. If, for example, they pulled the rights to their information, where would you be? Would you be OK?

The UI is complicated. (I know, you know this already!) It took me ages to figure it out, and even now I get lost. It might scare off new users, especially those who are not librarian / info sciences etc. type people. I'm not saying get rid of that side, the powerful features are probably the most useful part of LT for the serious users, but maybe it needs rearranging a bit? Look at it from an average reader's POV, rather than a librarian for example, and you might see where I'm coming from.

"Social" sites linking / virals / widgets whatevers. Do more. I found LT through Ravelry - a community for knitters and crocheters. OK you can stop laughing now. There's nearly 200,000 members, and most of them have a LOT of knitting books for starters. People who have a passion about something will often have a lot of books on the subject. That's an audience right there. There must be similar sites for other user interests.

Keep doing what you're doing.

Edited: Oct 3, 2008, 4:21 pm


A shelf above the rest


A step above the rest (Have a picture of a ladder like they use in bookstores)"

I like "shelf," but I suggest that the letters of LIBRARYTHING be designed to look like the spines of books on a shelf except for the H in "THING" which should form the top rung of the ladder mentioned in the original suggestion. Maybe there could be lower shelves beneath LIBRARYTHING with a different caption question on each row in less prominent letters.

ETA: And add some color to the pic. Maybe a faint color wash on each book or a color outline to each book or make a nice pale yellow gold background for the whole feature with the LIBRARYTHING books featured in a in a darker color like navy, maroon, or dark green with the ladder in brown or something. Anything to add a little bit of color.

Oct 3, 2008, 5:12 pm

>427 midnightblues:
I'm not a librarian, and I find the UI pretty intuitive. The exception is - and I say this in a loving way - the Help/FAQ feature sux. I can almost never find what I need.

I think that there are lots of features that one doesn't know about until one goes exploring, but that's okay. It is inevitable that a feature-rich website is going to have to push most of the stuff into the background (e.g., those little tabs at the top of the screen) because otherwise it would be information overload. You can't have both a feature-rich app and an exquisitely simple UI in which every feature is at the forefront.

Oct 7, 2008, 12:19 am

I've been coming back and reading this thread periodically...

I'm still obsessed with the idea of "buying out" whatever part of LT that Amazon now owns. The way I understand in is: Amazon bought AbeBooks, AbeBooks owns a (minority) share in LT AND Amazon owns Shelfari.

I would love for LT to get it's Amazonian (via AbeBooks) shares back so LT is beholden to Amazon only in a shared-information sense and not a financial-ownership sense (which is what it had before Amazon bought AbeBooks).

How about a fund-raiser? LT gets firm (20% down) bid from various LT'ers willing to commit at least (pick a number - $250 $500, $1000) a certain amount to a buy-out of Amazon's shares of LT. When enough LT'r have "committed" Tim offers Amazon a lump-sum buy-out of their shares of LT (I suggest 60% or some substantial but not 100% of committed funds) - excess funds to be used toward purchase of NEXT SERVER (hopefully, the one that is going to get me an "anthologies/subworks/periodicals" functionality).

Not to put Tim on the spot, but how much is Amazon's stake in LT REALLY worth? (to Amazon and to LT - I have to imagine that Amazon bought Abe for ABE's value not LT's). Perhaps another tier of membership would do the trick - offer those of us that have a certain number of works listed (again, pick a number 1000, 1500, 2000) the "opportunity" to purchase a (1%, 0.1%, 0.01%) nonvoting share in LT. Maybe in 10-20 years we can be rich, rich, RICH!

Oct 10, 2008, 10:20 am

The tricky thing with the member-backed buy-out is that since we're not a publicly traded company, members wouldn't actually be able to buy stock. Were you suggesting that these are donations?

Oct 10, 2008, 12:45 pm

You can buy stock in a non-publically traded company. Indeed, by definition someone has to own stock. The rules change when you have lots of owners (more than 500, I think).

Oct 10, 2008, 2:23 pm

We should go public. Now is a great time to be in the stock market. (sarcasm intended)

Oct 10, 2008, 2:46 pm

So far, although Wall Street's troubles are spilling over to Main Street, Atlantic Street's okay...

Oct 10, 2008, 3:44 pm

Actually this is a great buying time.

Edited: Oct 10, 2008, 3:49 pm

>434 timspalding:
Atlantic Street? I've heard of Atlantic Avenue, but not Atlantic Street.

Edited to prevent confusion with intervening post.

Oct 10, 2008, 3:53 pm

Let's all move on down to Electric Avenue.

Oct 10, 2008, 3:56 pm

Oct 10, 2008, 4:26 pm

Late response to Message 361:

I suggest

Tomes, treatises, tracts and trash

Oct 10, 2008, 4:35 pm

For the record, "What's on your bookshelf?" has been out motto for a year or so. It's on the current home page.

Oct 10, 2008, 5:22 pm

>440 NeverStopTrying:

Tomes, books, treatises and tracts
(monographs and volumes also welcome, if accompanied by a responsible tome)

Seriously, why trash?

>441 timspalding:
"What's on your bookshelf?" has been our motto for a year or so.

So you admit it's time for a change.

Oct 10, 2008, 5:56 pm

>442 Carnophile:

Seriously, why trash?

All those one-star reviews.

Oct 10, 2008, 7:39 pm

Oct 11, 2008, 12:50 pm

Answering why trash. Because of the Harry Potter factor. And don't get huffy. I have a significant collection of worthwhile, high content, world-changing, beautifully written books that are waiting for me to retire and read. (OK, I exaggerate for emphasis, somewhat). In the meantime, my job eats me alive and spits me out on occasion. At which point I read fantasy, mysteries, science fiction and cookbooks, in pretty much that order and in considerable quantity. Including Harry Potter. So I was making fun of myself and also wanting to offset the heavy tone of tomes, etc. Because I am not alone. Does that help?

Edited: Oct 12, 2008, 5:29 pm

Dear Lord! I wasn't getting huffy; I was just curious as to what you meant.

Sit down.

Crack open that beer; take a draught.


You must maintain calm, or you will never be allowed to advance beyond padawan rank.

By the way, I read the first Harry Potter book and enjoyed it, although not enough to feel compelled to read the others. The Harry Potter thing was a joking reference to the fact that those books dominate the "most reviewed" list, etc.

Edit: If you don't know what I mean by the "most reviewed" list etc., check out the Zeitgeist page.

Oct 15, 2008, 11:22 pm

429> You can't have both a feature-rich app and an exquisitely simple UI in which every feature is at the forefront.

Ahh, how I love a challenge! (:

Oct 15, 2008, 11:27 pm

447: Lots and lots of card-sorting? And moaning and groaning about pet features too. :)

Oct 15, 2008, 11:32 pm

Regarding UI design: I will probably look like Nero as I fiddle away on my MacBook whilst the tenuous bridges of my newfound LT socializing blaze away.

Oct 16, 2008, 7:26 am

Go for it! If you succeed, consider sending your resume to Tim.

Oct 16, 2008, 10:37 pm

Wait a minute. I just realized I suggested "sending your resume to Tim" to someone who is already doing work for LT! Snort.

Oct 16, 2008, 10:41 pm

I got the feeling Tim isn't a resume kind of guy, anyway (:

Edited: Oct 25, 2008, 10:09 am

Regarding an adversarial stance toward Amazon:
I think it’s safe to say that anyone on this thread likes bookstores, online or physical. After all, without them how would we acquire books?!
There’s nothing bad about Amazon, but we need other book-related sites with other purposes. We don’t have to choose one or the other. A toolbox needn’t have either a hammer or a screwdriver; it can have both. In fact, it should have both. It’s great to have a web site where you can easily order books, and it’s great to have one where no one is trying to sell you anything. (Amazon can be a bit pushy about that.)

Bookmooch is another example, and so is Bookcrossing. (Bookmooch is a book swapping site and Bookcrossing is a leave-books-around-for-other-people-to find site, it’s sort of guerrilla charity.) I see all four web sites as complementary with each other, not competitive with each other.

Edited: Oct 25, 2008, 10:22 am

The adversarial stance is mostly about their ownership of our competitor, not themselves. So long as there continue to exist book sites that aren't about selling books, I'm very happy to have Amazon around. I buy from them a lot, of course. And as someone who built a book-related website, I must recognize they "figured it out" for the rest of us in so many ways. Without Amazon, we might still think it was a bad idea to let regular people review books...

I'm think that that--for now anyway--Amazon is happy to have LibraryThing around and flourishing as a minority investment. Without getting too deep into confidential discussions, I get the message that they see the sites as as much complementary as competitive. We appeal to largely different groups.

So far, my worries about Shelfari have not panned out. Amazon hasn't put a Shelfari button on every page and, at least according to Compete, they fell in traffic last month. Getting bought out very often reduces innovation and even execution. People leave. People stop working hard. Energy is spent on new levels of management and other sorts of integration. I hope the Shelfari people are all sitting on the beach, sipping fancy drinks this weekend.

I'm coding... :)

Edited: Oct 25, 2008, 12:01 pm

Ditto that. (But when do you sleep?!)

LT coders work
Shelfari "workers" just chill
No problem for Tim

Oct 25, 2008, 1:05 pm

My big problem is doing BOTH the coding and the other stuff. This weekend, for example, I am setting aside a big hunk of time to code. But I also have a long, complex legal document to read and annotate, and lots of resumes to go through. Not to mention emails...

Oct 26, 2008, 8:27 am

Being a biologist, I could try and clone you .... ;)

Oct 26, 2008, 8:46 am

But which one would be the evil one?

Brains! Braaaaiins!

Oct 26, 2008, 10:08 am

Some random thoughts.

1. As long as people come to Amazon to buy books, Amazon benefits. LT helps Amazon, and serves a very different market than Shelfari. I don't see them as a threat, unless Shelfari changes significantly.

2. One "hit" on LT is that you charge after a certain number of books. I'd recommend you raise that threshold, so that this is not a reason for anyone to go to Shelfari over LT.

3. You don't have a Facebook application, and that does hurt you.

4. You could stand a bit of a facelift on your sight to make it more appealing. It looks a bit stale and old-fashioned. (Perhaps deliberately so.) It doesn't offend die-hards like me, but it probably doesn't entice new users.

5. A connection with PaperBackSwap would be awesome.

6. A "Recommend this book to a friend" button, with space for a message, would also be a great way to expose others to LT. This is not spam.

7. This one might hurt. But consider another name. "LibraryThing" just doesn't grab folks. It's a great beta name. It's not a great product name.

Oct 26, 2008, 1:08 pm

>5 BOB81:. A connection with PaperBackSwap would be awesome.

LT has links to 15 book swapping sites, including PaperBackSwap. Go to the work page and click "swap," or add the "swap" column to your library view.

Oct 26, 2008, 4:28 pm


Are you nuts? Change the name, after spending years building up name recognition? That's suicide.

I'm a bit mystified by #2, as well. Say they raise the threshold to 250 -- fine, someone stays, but they're still not a paying customer. How exactly does this help?