Friday, December 30, 2005

Discovering LibraryThing.com, an Internet Library Database for Your Own Books!

Someone on a homeschooling chat list just told me about LibaryThing.com aka Library Thing. I looked at it today for the first time and am blown away. I am so excited!

LibaryThing.com is a website in which people can input information to build a personal database or catalogue of the books that they own. The service is free for the first 200 books. The price for one year if you input more than 200 books is $10 and a lifetime membership is $25.

This company began on August 29, 2005 and has over 1,150,000 books catalogued so far.

I just joined today. My user name is ChristineMM in case you want to look me up. Inputting books is very fast and easy. I started by grabbing books off of the shelf nearest to my computer, which happened to be some history books. The default database that is searched is Amazon’s site, in the United States. You may choose to search other databases such as Amazon UK or the Library of Congress (which usually has to be done for out of print books). I inputted 50 books in just a few minutes. When searching the Amazon database the process is fastest. Tip: If the Amazon search comes up empty, enter the ISBN. Each time I tried that it worked.

Searching on the Library of Congress database takes a little longer. I have had to use that for out of print and old books.

There is also the ability to input a book manually by supplying all the information that you want to enter by yourself. I had to do this with one out of print book.

What you do is input the title and a list of hits displays on the screen, for example you may choose between paperback or hardcover or different years of publication or from other books with the same title. You click on the title of the book and then it is in your database.

Some key information automatically fills in such as ISBN and Dewey Decimal number.

You may edit and enhance your entry by updating the data fields. One important feature is the ‘tag’. This is a free text box in which you can input any descriptive word or phrase of your choosing. For example you may want to assign a history book with descriptive tags such as
America 1700s, Revolutionary War, United States History, Picture book, Children’s, Juvenile Fiction, Sonlight, TruthQuest, Who Shall We Then Read?

All you do is fill in the information in the tag field and separate the phrases with commas.

If data is missing from the entry then you can input it, such as ISBN or year of publication.

You also have the ability to give the book a star rating, a book review, and any other notes that you wish to make about the book.

Your online library may be public or private. The only thing you need to open an account is a username and your email address (which is kept private). I was surprised that the site requires so little personal information from us in order to open an account. You may choose to share your user name with others such as friends (or in my case, with fellow homeschoolers or with my blog readers).

If you have a website or a blog you can create a code which you can put on your site to highlight books from your personal library. If people buy that book from Amazon from your link, if you are an Amazon Associate, you get the commission. If you are not an Amazon Associate, LibraryThing gets the commission (which may be what is funding their website). I placed this link in my sidebar, scroll down to see it. The link I am showing today shows a random five books from my home library. (With over 3300 books here I don't know how fast I will load all the books into my LibraryThing account.)

Using this database is going a lot faster for data entry than when I use my homemade Microsoft Excel book database. I am doing less typing and am able to get more information into the database in the same amount of time.

Other fun things about the database are the ability to look at other people’s libraries. Let’s say you want ideas for books about ponds, you can look that up. If you see that you own the same book as another person and you respect their book choices you can peek at their other books for ideas. This is similar to the function on Amazon where you can see who else bought that book and what else they bought, but this is better because it includes books which were not purchased at Amazon or books that are out of print and not sold by Amazon.

You can view your holdings in a list format or graphically by seeing the cover images of the books. You can see how many other users own that book, then you can link to their accounts to see what else they own. I see this as yet another way to see what like-minded people are reading or using, which is especially interesting to me as a homeschooling mother who uses real books for our curriculum.

This is so much fun. Later today I will be forking over the $10 fee to pay for the annual membership fee!

I hope that more homeschoolers will begin using this website. We could build a real database of information for each other to reference!

1 comment:

ell said...

The Library Thing is very interesting. I take it everything is stored in their database. I like the fact that you can share what's in your library with others.

I've been using Book Collector to catalogue my books. It's a one-time purchase to download the software. There are a lot of similarities to Library Thing, but the main difference I see is that the database stays on my own hard drive and isn't shared online. I guess there are pros and cons to both (keeping it online or on your hard drive).