Add to Your Books: cataloging data from friends

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Add to Your Books: cataloging data from friends

Edited: Aug 10, 2022, 4:03 am

Forgive me if this is a newbie question, as I just got started, but isn’t it possible to use someone else’s cataloging data when you add a book from their library to your own? I collect rare catalogs and other ephemera related to typeface design, and so do my friends. I would hope that one of the benefits of using a social site like LibraryThing is that cataloging data is crowdsourced and usable by all. Instead, it seems I can only fill in info from Amazon (often wrong about these publications) or a public library source, or do it all manually, even if my expert friend has done a fine job himself. Is this possible and I’m just doing it wrong?

Aug 10, 2022, 4:10 am

Here’s what happens when I try to add one of these books in my friend’s library to my own library. I end up with a blank form. Am I missing a step?

Aug 10, 2022, 4:33 am

>2 stewf: It isn't possible to copy other member's entry, except by using scripts. If that's an option for you, check Hacking LibraryThing group for member made ones. I believe some are still functional. Alternatively, if you personally know the member whose entries you'd like in your catalogue, it is potentially possible for them to export those, send you the file and for you to import it. For that, check import/export options under 'More' tab at the top of each page

Clicking 'add book' on a work page leads to the page where you normally add books, but the title should be filled, not blank.

Aug 10, 2022, 6:27 am

>1 stewf: well, unfortunately, Librarything is a source, so unless someone has looked up the details from somewhere else, you would need to do that, or add it manually.
There is discussion on how to upgrade the Add Books page, but that's still work being done. (The suggestion in >3 SandraArdnas: has not been implemented yet.)

You could check in Overcat to see if anyone has found your rare pieces in a library source, without having to add manually.
You could also potentially look up the book in Worldcat, then see if we have it as a source to add from.

In most cases, we long time users don't recommend Amazon except as a last resort due to some bad data.

However, in almost every case, you'll still want to check the book to make sure all the details that you want are correct.

Edited: Aug 10, 2022, 11:08 am

From the explanations above I understand that the behavior isn't currently offered, but I would like to strongly second the request to have something implemented that would allow for someone else's entry to at least be used as a starting point for an entry in my own library.

It's sad that it's so easy to copy the horrible data from Amazon, but impossible to copy quality data from friends who have carefully entered it directly on LibraryThing (without resorting to scripts or import-export workarounds).

Edited: Aug 10, 2022, 12:34 pm

I think >4 gilroy: meant to write "LibraryThing is not a source."

This functionality has been requested since the Dawn of the Thing. The closest existing answer is to use Overcat, which will allow you to import data already selected by other LT users for their own catalogs from outside sources. But if the book you see in another user's catalog was manually entered, there's no real recourse for that (outside of the aforementioned scripts). Nor, I suspect, is there likely to be in the future.

Aug 10, 2022, 12:33 pm

>6 paradoxosalpha: Well, crap, you're right

Aug 11, 2022, 6:14 am

Since becoming a member in November 2008, the feature suggested by >1 stewf: is the one I missed and wanted the most. It would have saved me hours of work and hours of reading time.
I never managed to get used to fast typing. And as I get older, I get slower and slower. Copy and paste will always be the quickest way for me.

In the discussions about the introduction of such a function, which are constantly being held, there is the question of the quality of the data. An objection that I take very seriously.

However, I believe that you can never avoid a "manual" final check and the associated change/correction of the imported data. The needs regarding the type and quality of the data stored in their own catalog are too different.

Personally, I would therefore always prefer to import and change existing data from "any" source. than having to laboriously type them in by hand each time.

Another point I would like to make against the critics of such a function is this: Nobody should have to use such a possibility.
One could quote two proverbs: "Live and let live" and "every way that leads to the goal is a good way". One may prefer the shorter, steeper route. The other the longer but more comfortable.

Aug 11, 2022, 8:14 am

>8 birder4106:

Another point I would like to make against the critics of such a function is this: Nobody should have to use such a possibility.

True, but, unfortunately, ratty data infects the site. Too many people taking the "easier" route would not bother to check to make sure the data is correct. After all, they don't now.

Edited: Aug 11, 2022, 10:02 am

>9 lilithcat: This seems to be an odd point for you to make. If a user copies a listing from your site to your site, and it is bad data, well you already had bad data on the site. It is not like you are keeping it from the site. And I find plenty of entries from various libraries that are a mess. Probably worse data than what your members would make. I seldom trust sizes I get from libraries, and dates with them are really just a joke. I have seen 1930's and 1940's books with a date of 1900, because they could not make a closer estimate. I really am not sure what the fuss is all about.

Aug 11, 2022, 12:23 pm

>10 Bernarrd: A couple of examples of what causes worry could be:
A user who has 40000 books, badly catalogued. But convenient for a new user to copy as a batch (because features such as recommendations work better when you have a full library). Now each of those badly catalogued books is on the site twice.

Fast forward some years, and "Harry Potter (complete) by J.K. Rowling" (manual entry) is the largest edition with thousands of copies despite being unclear if it's a book, a DVD, the whole series of books, etc.

Tags: the ethos is for tagging to be personal rather than groupthink, but if 2000 users have copied the same library with the same "good set" of tags on its books, that changes what the site's data means. In itself that needn't be good nor bad, but it's definitely different than now, so bears thinking about.

There's ways to do these things already, but small scale, moderate effort and somewhat limited (eg. sharing an export file). Having a simple option to duplicate could have a profound impact on some bits of the site. There are surely ways and means, but it does merit a bit of consideration to what the effects would be.

Edited: Aug 11, 2022, 6:54 pm

>11 Nevov: I hear you, Novov, but hasn’t LibraryThing already made a call on this question when they present Amazon as a source? It is far less reliable for specialty books than topical experts would be.

Aug 11, 2022, 9:12 pm

>12 stewf: Agree, and sorry for a bit of a sidetrack into worries that apply more to a "copy this whole library" option which isn't under discussion here.

Yes, if speaking in terms of a single book, having "Add a copy of this book" where the site might then autopopulate fields of a Manual Entry form ready to submit (I think people have custom browser scripts already that can do this), feels to me a natural progression.

Aug 11, 2022, 9:20 pm

>12 stewf: Amazon has new books much sooner than most library sources, and those are usually pretty good. The problem is with older books that their marketplace partners are offering.

Any way of copying manual entries can't be implemented at work level because the computer can't know which entry to use if there is more than one.

Aug 12, 2022, 5:57 am

Thank you >10 Bernarrd:, >14 MarthaJeanne: for your support. You were able to formulate my thoughts better than I can.

LT is a little representation of the earth in my opinion: it's beautiful, but far from perfect.
Many users strive for perfection. Others are content with what is.
Some seek this, others that. Don't they both have the same right to have their needs met?
In German we have a saying that sums up my opinion on this matter: "Better the sparrow in the hand than the dove on the roof."

>11 Nevov:: These are perfectly reasonable considerations. But I think that the problem of bulk import could be solved technically. One would only have to limit the copying of a few records per import. There would certainly be a compromise acceptable to most people.

ETA >10 Bernarrd:: And as you said in post >13 Nevov:.

Aug 12, 2022, 1:25 pm

As noted by SandraArdnas above, there is a method of copying most fields from a Detail Listing in an LT catalog to a blank Manual Entry form. This can be edited carefully before adding the data to your catalog.

To use this involves installing a Chrome extension called TamperMonkey and once that is installed add a script called LT Copy Book.

TamperMonkey allows one to run Javascript code on websites with particular URL patterns. This can be used to change the behavior of sites such as LT. (To change the appearance of a website in a similar fashion, look at the Stylus extension).

When the TamperMonkey is active with the LT Copy Book script, the green Copy to your library button will collect data from a book detail page and open a new tab and insert the values into the blank Manual Entry form.

To use this responsibly, if you are going to copy a similar listing but the ISBN is different then correct the ISBN to the book you are working with.

Your topic of typeface design interests me. I am an aspiring letterpress printer and have lately been setting up a print shop in our new house. I also have gathered some print and many PDF books that are type specimen catalogs and the like. Sometimes I go to the effort to identify a typeface used for the titles or text of a book in my collection. I just went through a major project to collect data on the typefaces used for about 1,500 juvenile series books since this is a specialty of mine. My collection, physical and digital, is incomplete but I have made major strides on this project. There were a handful of body typefaces used for these books and 11/2 pt is very common among them.

LT is very unlikely to add this feature. It has been requested dozens of times before. The concerns about "ratty data" are raised after this phrase was used by LT founder Tim in discussions on the topic. Of course, a lot of ratty data comes from a financial partner of LT called Amazon. This is particularly true for out-of-print books. The new book data comes from publishers and is mostly accurate. But the used book data comes from booksellers and individuals/companies who sell books (very different) and it all depends on how careful and consistent they are in entering data about a book.

So with no particular prospect that it will be added to LT's core functions, a workaround is needed for the times when one wants to use LT as a data source.

The next best thing to using LT as a data source for books is to use OverCat which is a catalog of successful imports (mostly) from library catalogs by LT members to their catalogs. When the ultimate source was a library catalog, you often get the features such as subject entries that the catalog had.

Also, note that pre-ISBN books from some U.S. publishers have LCCNs which can be used to look up book data when Library of Congress or OverCat or some other libraries are used as a data source for adding books.

Copying from an LT detail page is a hammer approach. It is very useful sometimes. But simply selecting the best data sources and performing searches that limit the result set often works even better.


Aug 13, 2022, 6:42 am

>16 Keeline:
Overcat may be a good source of high quality data. I was trying to find some of my recently added books to LT in Overcat.
Unfortunately without success.
This will be because the books are in German. It doesn't seem to matter if the books are in English (US, UK etc.) or in some other non-English language.

For reference with the two scripts. I tried them some years ago. But I had problems with the installation and the application. Part of that could be me, but it's also because I use Apple computers.

An idea: How about LT introducing a quality label for good data at source, work, book and/or user level?
LT users could give this label a thumbs-up, thumbs-down, or "flag it" rating. If enough reliable data had accumulated over time, LT might even be able to use it to find, generate, etc. automatically.

Aug 13, 2022, 9:16 am

>17 birder4106: Mac-user here.

I have the script installed and am a regular user of it with Chrome (especially when entering runs of periodicals). What was the problem you encountered?

Aug 13, 2022, 9:52 am

>17 birder4106:

I’ve used Macs since 1985 and the available versions of the script for many years. Perhaps it is worth another try (with Chrome).

When looking for books from another country, it often helps to select a national library for that country.


Aug 13, 2022, 9:55 am

The thing with new books in German, is that very often they have not been entered into LT yet. They may also not yet be in library sources. If they are translations, they usually need to be combined.

Sep 19, 2022, 4:44 pm

For the naysayers whose argument against duplicating content is the fear of an explosion is trash data, I would also point to the Discogs website which allows for that kind of functionality with their "Copy to Draft" feature:

Does it sometimes result in lazy data entry? Probably. But it also makes it 1000% easier for people to contribute meaningful new info to the site without forcing them to slave over unnecessarily repetitive data entry, and the overall quality of data on Discogs benefits in the end. It's certainly MUCH more reliable than sources that LibraryThing currently allows people to copy data from, like Amazon.

This doesn't seem like the kind of functionality that should require third-party browser-specific scripts.

Sep 19, 2022, 4:47 pm

Please realize that there is a major overhaul of Add Books being worked on by the Admin and Developer team (mind you, this totals 3 people). The functionality has been discussed for more than 16 years (I know, I've been part of it) and it's going to be part of this rework. But that is still some time off as they try to rebuild things properly.

Patience is the name of the game here.

Edited: Sep 19, 2022, 5:51 pm

>21 nicksherman: The naysayers include the site owner and main architect of the site. You can disagree as much as you want with his design decision but design decisions are the prerogative of the person making them.

Plus - the site had been here for 15+ years. Some decisions may have made a lot more sense back then than they do now but reversing them will require a major overhaul. LT has a small team of developers.

As already mentioned, an overhaul of the process is in the works and the staff had heard all of these arguments time and time again. So we shall see what we shall get.

Sep 19, 2022, 6:00 pm

>23 AnnieMod: whatever the change, I can almost guarantee that I will hate it before I love it.

Sep 19, 2022, 6:07 pm

>21 nicksherman: I would like to third (or thousandth?) this same thinking. The fact that I cannot easily do *precisely* what the button says and "Add to Your books" which would add that book to my library without sketchy searching and duplication of entries is mind-blowing and will keep me off of LT as a great service.

There are already several people on LT that have spent enormous personal time to add books and data and in general (of course there can be bad actors), I trust these people to do it right and certainly better than Amazon for books without ISBNs, which is my main use-case. Even the half-step of being able to "duplicate an entry" so that the user at least has to scroll down to the bottom of the entry page and confirm the data is correct to them would be a huge improvement.

Please know that I *very much* want LT to be a great solution and I am happy to read that people are working on this as an updated feature. I know how product development takes so much time because being a product design manager is my actual day job. I would be willing to help donate my time and understanding of digital product development to help make this a reality. I'm 100% serious and would love for someone to reach out.

Sep 19, 2022, 6:57 pm

>24 2wonderY: Probably :)

Dec 15, 2022, 10:51 am

(additional thoughts and re-upping this thread three months later)

I am now in the process of unpacking my library out of boxes and onto new shelves. For years I have wanted to catalogue my collection and have it accessible to others (for research purposes "Oh, I see Doug has X book that I need to see page Y in, I'll message him for a photo of it). LT is the best option out there and I want it to succeed.

As I have been unpacking, I've been able to use the iPhone app to quite easily add anything with a barcode (great work, app developers!) or a bit more manually with an ISBN, adding cover images as needed. But again, I am running into the fact that a large percentage of my collection contains books that do not have ISBN's or any global identification.

Several other users that I personally know and trust are on LT and have already added these books into their own libraries with fantastic metadata and cover images, but there is no easy way to duplicate their entry, add it quickly to my library, or add even more detailed information.

Instead, I currently have to spend a large amount of time manually copy and pasting data (with a big chance of making errors) just to add a book. By my estimation, doing this takes 3–5 minutes per entry and I likely have 250+ books. To be honest, this just makes me want to not catalogue them or add them to my LT account, which feels completely counter to the goal of LT in the first place.

I would *love* to see the ability to easily duplicate another user's book entry, be able to edit/update/change anything that I see needs to be changed, and then add it to my library. This would make LT a *much* more viable option for all users. I personally have had multiple people recently ask me about LT because they also have a large collection of books and feel LT is close to the right fit for their needs, but are waiting until this change is made before they commit to the platform. Let's make this change to make the platform better for all users!

Dec 15, 2022, 11:40 am

>27 onpaperwings: You can already edit any of the fields. You can change the cover photo, the ISBN, the publication data, pages, almost every single data field. For some reason the Library of Congress number can't be edited that I've found, even if it's blank, but that's about it.
My personal collection is over 5000 books. I use LT for my bookstore, with over 80000 entries. Yes, I know EXACTLY how annoying the manual entry is. I use this platform every day of my life, and have to manually add frequently. Some of my books are the only samples in LT. I always feel extra special when I add the only specimen, particularly when it's my personal collection. :) Probably I should feel special like the short bus special, but what can I say, I'm a book geek.
This platform is worth it. Your time in entry will get shorter with practice and those 250+ will be done before you know it. And you can tidy up any entries you're not happy with later on.

Dec 15, 2022, 11:52 am

When entering used books for my store, I often have to edit data from the initial download. Particularly for "wal-mart exclusives," whose ISBNs usually aren't in any database. So I just search for the author, title, and format, enter the book into my Library, then modify the data to fit the book I have in stock. It's quicker than a completely manual add. In any given day I add between twenty to several hundred books. I'm pleased to see that way to copy an entry shown above so I don't have to keep adding the same "exclusives" this way. You learn something new every day!

Dec 15, 2022, 1:04 pm

>27 onpaperwings: As a repeat -- Librarything is NOT a source.

Second, you've been told about the ability to create a CSV file and upload details without dealing with copying things from others.

Third, there is an overhaul of the Add Books page coming with the update of Librarything 2.0
The admin will make SOME changes then, but to direct copy from one user to another probably won't be one of them

Dec 15, 2022, 1:26 pm

Well, for one thing, you can't get details from a work. Most new members want popular books, and would be just as frustrated at being told that they have to chose one member's entry to copy. Any change has to work for the person with no idea of cataloging who wants to enter a book with a thousand copies on LT. Those of us with lots of unusual books who want accurate entries, will continue to use manual entry or spend a fair amount of time checking every entry. Searching LT and checking the various entries would not be faster.

Dec 15, 2022, 2:30 pm

>31 MarthaJeanne:

Amen to all that.