Library Thing

Library Thing is a Web site where you can catalog your library. You can enter up to 200 books for free. Or you can buy a membership for $10/year or $25 for your lifetime. (The latter is obviously a great value in the long run.)

I’ve started entering my library, starting with the hardcovers and trade paperbacks (otherwise known in my household as “the small bookcases”). You can view my library if you’d like, although it will take a while before I get it fleshed out. (Don’t expect me to get to the humor or non-fiction for a while.)

The site has its pros and cons, although its pros far outweigh its cons.


  • You can search by author, title, ISBN, and other aspects to enter a book into your library.
  • Searches can be made against several sites (such as Amazon), which often come with default information and cover art.
  • The editing page is very easy to use, if you want to tweak an entry in your library.
  • You can link to reviews you’ve written in your journal so others can access them from Library Thing, or write a review directly on the site.


  • The database doesn’t have separate fields for copyright date (i.e., when the book was first published) and publication date (i.e., the date this edition was published). Both are interesting to track.
  • The database doesn’t have a way to list individual stories in a collection, or (of more interest) individual books in an omnibus.
  • The Suggestions page doesn’t have a way to ask that it permanently exclude a volume from its recommendations (although “omit authors already in your catalog” gets close).

One thing that’s been interesting as I enter books is that I’ve found a few books I own which I could not easily locate via the search mechanism. For instance, I own first edition hardcovers of Vernor Vinge’s novels The Peace War and Marooned in Realtime, and I couldn’t find the latter, so I entered it manually. That means I’ll probably also scan its cover to add to my library.

All of this is probably not the best way to spend my time. 🙂 As Cliff said when I told him about it, I’d probably do better spending my holiday vacation writing my own fiction.

7 thoughts on “Library Thing”

  1. Nadyne: I haven’t used Delicious Library. My impression is that it was mainly a desktop app, whereas LT is a social cataloging app. So getting my library and my reviews out in a more visible forum has some value to me. (Perhaps not a lot of value, but, well, that’s the Internet for you.)

    T.S.: I’ve always been somewhat fascinated by sites which recommend things based on data you input, from way back when Reel had one of the early film-recommendation engines (this would have been around 1997) and recommended some fine films to me. Does the catalog itself have value? That’s hard to day, especially when your collection is already meticulously organized (as mine is).

  2. Oh, you mean Marooned in Realtime? Only 114 copies on LT thus far, with three separate covers pictured. I’ve learned that it’s best to search for one word in a given title. Realtime didn’t work, but Marooned did. It’s one of those quirky things about LT.

    Actually, one of the things i like best is that lots of people scan covers, so that I can often grab the appropriate art for my catalog while I don’t have scanner access.

  3. Well, this must run in the genes Like mother like son. Hmmmm I wonder if I should catalog my home library. Nah, I’ve cataloged enough books to last me.

  4. Bibliofile: I did a search by ISBN for Marooned in Realtime when I entered it, and LT could not find it at all, although I did find other editions. It appears to have my edition listed now (ISBN 0-312-94295-8), but it wasn’t there a few days ago, and their edition has the wrong publisher listed! (It was published by Bluejay, not St. Martin’s, although it was distributed by St. Martin’s.) Moreover, LT doesn’t have the cover of the edition I have, which you can see here (although they have one wth different lettering).

    I doubt I’ll find many books in my library like this, but I do own a few peculiar editions, so I’ll probably find a few more.

  5. I share your fascination with the potential for those sorts of recommendations, and was a fan of the brick-and-mortar Reel in Berkeley, which may or may not still be there — I don’t go to that side of town so much now. But I’ve never been impressed with the results that Amazon generates, and they should have much, much more data to work with and the right commercial motives to use it to full effect. They usually tell me about other books by the same authors. Gee, thanks, I think.

    Nevertheless, I continue to rate books on Amazon, in the hopes that they will hone the process to make it useful.

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