This thing called LibraryThing

February 26, 2006 | 3

Back at the beginning of September I mentioned a new book cataloging site called LibraryThing. It had only just gotten underway and I was busy so I didn’t try it out at the time. It looked like the sort of thing that, if it ever reached a critical mass, could be phenomenal, but it seemed to me like it would take a while.

Well, it didn’t. I was reminded of the site by an AskMe thread today, so I went to check it out and was astonished to find that in about six months, people have catalogued almost two million books using LibraryThing. This much data allows for some really cool features. For starters, check out the zeitgeist page, where the aggregate numbers are used to generate lists of the “most owned books” and the “most contentious books” along with several other lists. Also very nifty is the “social information” page for each book. Here’s the page for East of Eden. By crunching all the aggregate data about users who have this book, LibraryThing can generate a number of lists of related books. On top of that, the whole site is very slick and easy to use and understand.

I entered about a dozen books just to try it out today, and I’ll probably work my way through my library at some point – I’m just waiting for some free time since I’m in danger of getting sucked in.

created The Millions and is its publisher. He and his family live in New Jersey.


  1. The zeitgeist page is FASCINATING, I've just taken a quick look. Skews very heavily fantasy/sci-fi, no? I love Pratchett and Gaiman as much as the next person, but surely they and LOTR/Hobbit are not the most-owned books in the general population?!? (In the US, anyway; Pratchett's UK readership is surely much more saturated…) Actually it wouldn't really surprise me if these were among the most-owned, it's the Anne McCaffrey/Mercedes Lackey one step further down the list that seems to me the giveaway–I love those books, but most readers I know will not admit to ever having read such things…

  2. It was the zeitgeist page that really grabbed my attention, too. Re: sci-fi books. I suspect there's a correlation between sci-fi ownership and an interest in using a cutting-edge Web-based book cataloging system.

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