Sunday, September 18, 2005
Library Thing is proving to be a wonderful distraction from freshman comp essays and administrative paperwork. The site, active since late August, uses a simple interface: type in some identifying details about your book--e.g., an ISBN, author’s name, or part of the title--and a tag, and lo! the LOC or Amazon catalogs fill in the rest. Click on the appropriate link, and you now have an entry in your very own library catalog. If necessary, you can enter all the information by hand. Moreover, you can generate a printable version of your catalog, search other users’ libraries, and link to external URLs.
It’s a nifty idea. Right now, there are still some glitches: it only “recognizes” editions in LOC or Amazon, which means that the 2000 first ed. of a book only available in a 2005 printing may be nowhere to be seen; the site currently leans towards US editions, although you can access Amazon’s international catalogs (this will change once Tim, the site owner, incorporates the British Library catalog); and, as other users have noted in my own comments section, multivolume editions get inconsistent treatment. Nevertheless, the site is already well worth using.
But are you using citeulike?
Delicious Library does something similar, but uses a webcam to scan in the ISBN barcode data. The database is stored locally. It’s Mac-only, and AFAIK is restricted to Amazon’s database, so it’s probably less useful for academic collections.
The problem with Delicious Library is it does depend on barcodes. How many of your books are barcoded? The dependence on Amazon probably doesn’t matter: I’m sure that all barcoded books can be found in Amazon.
I just entered a bookshelf into LibraryThing. 40 books (from the middle of Carlyle through Terry Castle). Seven had barcodes. As a matter of fact, only 24 had ISBNs. And four of those ISBNs weren’t recognized. So half the sample had to be recognized from search terms. On this sample, none had to be manually entered (though some entries had to have the edition edited). This is the power of LibraryThing. It works with the books you have.
Still no British Library, but I added 31 other libraries—from Yale and Chicago to a number of British ones like National Library of Scotland and a bevy of Danish, Swedish, Turkish and others…