by syaffolee

More On That Book Cataloging Site

After my mention of LibraryThing in the previous post, Tim Spaulding, the creator of this online book cataloging app, graciously extended an invitation to me to sign up. So how could I resist? As someone who organizes her bookmarks by Dewey Decimal, I’m not going to turn down an opportunity to check out someone else’s system.

The first thing one would guess a user could do with this is to assign his own call numbers to his own books. But this is painstaking, and if you wanted to be objective, you might as well take your cue from the Library of Congress or even your local library. You can assign numbers if you wanted to, but I think the primary advantage of such an online system is not so much organizing your own personal hoard of texts as it is to peruse other people’s libraries.

LibraryThing utilizes tags. It’s not a new concept as evidenced by Flickr and del.icio.us, but tags seem better suited for books–intuitive even–than links (which could contain any amount of random information) or photographs (which seem too personal to be stuffed into any sort of system aside from chronological). I really like using the tags to see what other people have tagged similarly or who has used that tag the most–which usually indicates a far more specialized library–to get recommendations for other books of similar content. There’s a very fine line–a book tag is like an electronic word of mouth without the biases of reviews and commercial data but also without the cold objectivity of an actual library.

Another thing I like about it is the statistics for “users with your books.” At first glance, this can be quite creepy. Are there really that many people who have at least fifty books in common with you? But at the same time, one can take heart that there are others out there who have the same tastes in reading. Just take a peek at one of their libraries to see if there are any other similar books that you might like. Aside from that, I was really happy to see a rather flexible import/export system. As they always say, there’s no such thing as too many backups.

Of course, with all things beta, there are glitches and incomplete features. But according to LibraryThing’s blog, these problems are recognized fairly quickly by the creator and the users. All in all, a very nifty app for the bibliophile. At any rate, far more useful than that other website which used to keep up with blogged books before it metamorphosed into some sort of media-recommendation-list-thingee.

(For the curious, here are my profile and my book catalog on LibraryThing. It is not the same as my bookrolling page.)