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LibraryThing Is Now Free to All (librarything.com)
395 points by user_235711 8 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 61 comments





Longtime LT user here. It is primarily a cataloging service. Catalogue your library and make it easily searchable and organizable with extensive tagging. They previously charged for logging more then 200 books in a year I believe.

The real highlight of the LT service is the forums. There are forums for almost every reading genre and specialty book collecting genre. Some of the most knowledgeable people about books reside in those forums.

How did LT survive? Because it and Goodreads are inherently different services. Someone else described their usage of it and the differences between them perfectly when they said that they keep track of what they have read in Goodreads and what they own in LT. Plus LT has forums as I said and Goodreads cannot compare with their commenting system and the communities created in LT.


Long time, sometime, user of LT. Short on shelf space, I've moved to storing (~800) books in boxes. I label each box, and add it as a collection in LT. The books stay out of the way, but I can easily find one when I need it.

Thanks for the idea. My parents just moved so all my boxes of books are now scattered around my condo and I'm going to have to figure out what to shelve on limited shelf space, what to cull, and what I can fit in limited storage space. This process would be faster if I had tagged the boxes the first time (and the last cull) a decade ago. (It is all in LT, just not organized to the box level, though I've been lax about adding new books since, given the majority of purchases since have been virtually shelved [e-books].)

I've long joked I wish there was a storage company devoted to personal libraries, a "Rent-a-Library". There's so many storage companies that are just ugly warehouses full of what are just storage sheds, imagine a place full of shelves and comfy chairs, and maybe good librarians to dust, alphabetize your section, greet you, and maybe even hush you for being too loud for old times sake. (I feel that need less now, given how many of my books are e-books now, but it's still a good idea I think.)


> I've long joked I wish there was a storage company devoted to personal libraries, a "Rent-a-Library".

I've long had a similar thought, though not as user-friendly as yours, just the book storage part, not the reading room part. Some combination of LibraryThing, storage boxes, storage units, and shipping companies, managed to make book storage, retrieval, and sharing, convenient and reliable for its users. I think the only novel thought that I've had on the topic would be that the charge for not returning a book that was shared with you would be some base processing fee (say $5) in addition to the cost of repurchasing the book.


I own thousands of books. I think I'd rather read more books than catalog what I own ;-) Too bad this didn't exist decades ago.

I've got 1050 books all catalogued in LibraryThing. I find it quite worthwhile – I can search my library, useful if you have an extensive reference collection on a particular topic. And if I'm out at a bookshop wondering if I have a book already, I can check! :)

A true collector would buy the book regardless. The duplicates are part of the character of the collection. If you like a book that much, gift the extra.

With a barcode scanner it shouldn't take you long to catalogue even thousands of books (disregarding the pre-barcode ones).

The barcode on paperbacks is usually UPC, not ISBN (unless it has changed in recent years). And therein lies a big problem: UPCs get recycled. I was bitten by this when I scanned a bunch of old Sci-Fi books, only to discover that totally different titles got assigned to those UPCs later.

By coincidence yesterday evening I decided to start scanning my books with an Android application I'd come across during random surfing.

I figured if I picked a bookshelf at random and could enter all the books without a problem I'd do the whole house. As it turned out a random bookshelf had about 60% success rate.

I knew that I have some books without ISBN entries, and some that have got barcodes covered in stickers, etc, but I didn't expect it to be such a hard job. I guess every decade or two I try auditing books and I never get very far.

I should just pay a student to enter them into an online CRUD application and be done with it..


When I scanned my books with LibraryThing (more than a decade ago now) with one of those CueCats I had lying around as my barcode scanner at the time (now the LT iOS and Android apps can act as a barcode scanner), the primary data source was (and still is, I believe) Amazon's database which has a very good idea of paperback UPC codes to ISBNs from their used book sales. In the average case you'd just have to pick between two or three alternatives, and in the worst case that Amazon had very few used sales of that book just text search some other source (and LibraryThing is rife with all sorts of really cool catalog data sources).

Unfortunately, ISBNs also get recycled. They shouldn't be (I think it's actually against the ISBN rules), but it happens.

That's mostly older commercial paperbacks that have UPC instead of ISBN barcodes. I think nearly everything published since the 90s has an ISBN barcode.

Google Trends shows that GoodReads seems to get at least 100x the popularity LibraryThing does.

Both sites were founded around 15 years ago.

But they're both still going. (GoodReads, of course, now being owned by Amazon.)

Which seems like a pretty unusual situation to me -- can't think of too many parallels where the extreme underdog doesn't either a) just call it quits or b) keeps innovating until they get some kind of "reasonable" market share, whether that's 10% or 30% or 50% or 80%.

Above all in a social network. (A big value of GoodReads for me is seeing my friend's books and activity too. As much as I'd be curious to try LibraryThing, I don't think any of my friends have even heard of it.)

I'm quite curious how LibraryThing has managed to keep going despite such a tiny userbase, comparatively? I'm genuinely impressed.


They have a very small staff, and the website isn't their main source of income. A few years ago they spun off two other SaaS products for libraries, and that's what mostly pays the bills.

The data from LibraryThing powers book recommendations for libraries and other metadata for a lot of libraries, and they also sell a very low-cost cataloging system targeted at small libraries.

I switched to LT from GoodReads a few years ago, and really prefer it.


"The data from LibraryThing powers book recommendations for libraries and other metadata for a lot of libraries, and they also sell a very low-cost cataloging system targeted at small libraries."

So in this case there is actually is a sustainable business model for the company having it free. cool.


> I'm quite curious how LibraryThing has managed to keep going despite such a tiny userbase

LT got traction significantly earlier than GR (or Anobii, which is big in some countries). In fact, they could have gone hockey-stick, but basically chose not to - they kept it somewhat exclusive and expensive, àla Apple, while GR went free. It always felt like LT was a lifestyle business and GR was a VC-style business (I don't know if this perception actually matched their financials). When the chips are down, you need very little to keep going what is essentially an online book database, if you don't go chasing growth metrics.


I use both LT and GR for different things: GR is a record of what I've read, LT is a record of what I own. Among other things it makes it relatively easy for me to shelve my books by LoC call number which isn't possible at all with GR.

I really wish Amazon would do something with GoodReads instead of just parking it and running it with a skeleton crew. As a platform, it has so much potential, but for some reason Amazon doesn't see it or can't do anything about it.

What potential is left? I’m curious about what could goodreads add to make it better?


From what I understand, having followed them (and used them happily for a few years) is (1) they don't employ that many people. And, TBH, having used librarything for many years, very little has changed for probably 7+ years. I imagine maintenance is hard but they keep it slim.

And (2) they focused heavily on the medium-scale market with tinycat (an online catalog for "tiny" libraries like community centers/etc) and (3) used their extensive user-generated data to help 'enrich'/recommend/etc books from bigger libraries. These are all cool niches that were under-developed, especially b/c goodreads with amazon wanted to keep as much data as possible to themselves.

I do which they would update the main website more (it doesn't even have a mobile version of the site, although 2 stripped down apps). But they do have an API which is amazing and very useful. I use it for a lot of stuff (find books I want to read in my library/overdrive, find new books my authors I've liked, etc)


> I do which they would update the main website more

The surprise takeaway for me in this announcement was that a "2.0" complete redesign is apparently not only in the works but around the corner (just not entirely ready yet).


> Which seems like a pretty unusual situation to me -- can't think of too many parallels where the extreme underdog doesn't either a) just call it quits or b) keeps innovating until they get some kind of "reasonable" market share, whether that's 10% or 30% or 50% or 80%.

IIRC, in search Google has a ~93% share, and Bing is number 2 with something like 2.3%.


From what they said in the announcement they are able to get a lot of revenue from selling cataloguing software to libraries. Sounds like a different use case than GoodReads.

Maybe it's a labor of love and doesn't have shareholders who want big returns.

Yeah, and running something like LibraryThing would be quite inexpensive. It doesn't need a lot of updates, there would be minimal problems if a data leak happened (it's fairly open anyway AFAIK), and book cataloging is very light on resources. You could probably get away with a single developer dedicating a handful of hours in a given week, probably less, and hosting would be in the noise as well.

My understanding is that hard core literary readers tend to prefer Goodreads, so the S/N ratio is higher. That's the claim, no idea if it's true. I do recall a fairly popular article some years ago talking about rating inflation on the Internet in general, and they used GoodReads as the classic example - where medicore books often get a 3.5-4 overall rating.

I probably should see if I can go through all my LT books and compare the rating with that on GoodReads. Would make for a fun little project.

(Note: Just looked at a few random ones, and while LT ratings are lower, not really by much (e.g. 3.8 vs 3.9).

I think a lot of hardcore readers don't care that much for the GoodReads social aspects.

I made my account in 2010. I considered GoodReads, but LT won because they allow you to download all your data. Maybe GoodReads does, but they either didn't back then, or it was non-obvious. I haven't ever tried to look at GoodReads again, but to be frank, I kind of like that LT looks like it was made 15 years ago!


> iterary readers tend to prefer Goodreads

You mean LibraryThing?


Yup. My mistake.

GoodReads does let you download your data, but it's a weird complicated process. I've done it once or twice to try to update my LT library with Amazon ebooks, and IIRC every time I've done it I've used the kindly updated instructions on LT's own import page to remind me how to download the GoodReads data.

I use goodreads as a catalog of what I read, easy access to quotes from kindle, and a list of future books to read. Ml

The social aspect pretty much does not exist for me.


Yahoo search?

LibraryThing is used by fine press book collectors to discuss the physical properties of fine editions from for example The Folio Society, Easton Press, Centipede Press etc. The forums will discuss in length for example expensive limited editions, the bindings, choices of paper etc. It really is a different audience to Goodreads, which is more focused on reviewing the content of books rather than the bindings.

If you love fine books and supporting small independent publishers, LibraryThing is an amazing niche community.


Speaking of cataloging, my children and I have been spending time identifying and cataloging the collection of minerals we've acquired over the years. I've found an amazing app, Memento Database, that has great UX, very customizable collection fields, and lots of functionality, including gsheets export and built-in cloud sync and sharing. I'm sure it works for books as well.

I had no idea this existed but seems useful.

Took a quick look at the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Notable gotcha: kids under 16 (in the EU, 13 elsewhere) are prohibited from using this.

(Also, it says "Au revoir mes petits choux!", and I think it's funny.)


I've been a happy LibraryThing user since since 2006.

Me too. (Even if I've fallen way off in week-to-week usage over the years because of the luring convenience of ebooks. I know, I feel guilty about it too.)

Ditto. [We seem to have about 10% of our listed books in common!]

Reporting in.

Me too!

I've used LibraryThing since my senior year of high school and have always loved it. As others have noted, unlike Goodreads, LibraryThing isn't a social network. I'm an obsessive about what books I own, how to categorize them, where/when I bought them, where/when I read them. I don't care for my friends to know what I've been up to and I don't need their recommendations (at least not through the web).

As an aside, I vaguely recall that at some point their memberships were pay-what-you-can. Super curious what the distribution of payments looked like.


I'm looking for a solution to a problem, and I don't think Library Thing is quite it (or maybe it is?), but I figure the folks in this conversation will have some suggestions on how to move forward on it.

My dad has over 10,000 books. He's a retired professor, and he just … loves books. He's older, and is trying to figure out what to do with his books. Most of them aren't in great shape, so most general-purpose libraries aren't interested. The topics span just about every topic you could think of — philosophy, watercolor technique, Civil War history, chess strategy, ethics, business, fiction — so it's not like there's a topic-specific library or school that would be interested in them.

He'd love to get them to people who will really find value in them, whether that's through a donation or through selling them, but he's not extremely tech-savvy, and he lives across the country from me, so my ability to help coordinate is fairly limited. I thought perhaps some sort of "catalog them, then send to Amazon to sell on the secondary market" approach might work, but that could also be a disaster.

Any ideas? Have any of you handled something similar?


The first step does sound like "catalog them", and LibraryThing is a great tool for that (especially now with the expanded free access they just announced here). The LibraryThing iOS/Android app includes a bar code scanner to help.

LibraryThing's forums are also where I'd start to ask the hard questions of what to do with the collection. Especially once it is cataloged you could get a ton of good opinions in the LT forums on which books might have value where. A lot of small and niche libraries already use LibraryThing for their operations and you might be surprised who you network with once the overall collection is cataloged.


Awesome. Hadn’t been aware the forums could be that granularly useful. Thank you!

I think your best bet is to catalog them (using LT if you like) and try to sell them as a single collection. If there are any that you identify as particular powerful, maybe sell them separately. What's going to kill you is the shipping for a single collection. Maybe offer a discount for a local sale and pick up.

I've been using Goodreads for years and am kinda tired of the UX (in particular not being able to access private notes on mobile) but this doesn't look too much better.

For those curious here's decent youtube video giving an overview of LibraryThing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NuYOcRiXLcU


Pretty happy with Goodreads except that the search functionality sucks. Would like something like this:

https://www.imdb.com/search/title/

Where I can search for a novel in a certain genre from a certain publication date with a certain rating from at least x users. Nothing like that seems to exist for Goodreads.


Awesome. I love LibraryThing. It's one of my inspirations for creating rate.house.

This is awesome! I just started browsing LT, and it has the feel of Hacker News for books. I have tried multiple times to get into using Goodreads but it just didn't work out, for whatever reason.

I'm in the exact same boat. Goodreads has always felt...clunky to me. This is the first I've heard of LibraryThing, so I'm excited to try it out!

I registered an account in 2009 and started adding my books. Ran into the free account limit, and gave up. I'd like to take it up again, but I have long since forgotten that password and can't seem to find any way to do a password reset. Anyone that knows a way to do it your help will be greatly appreciated.


worked like a charm. Great thx!

Been using LT for a year now for my 500+ collection, I also use TinyCat because I like to be able to search and catalogue them. There's nothing out there that compares IMO especially considering it's practically free. Really really amazing service that I hope stays alive.

Thanks for sharing this. I just signed-up for the service right now and began cataloging my books (around 1300), a cool thing to do during my family's quarantine period.

I dont get it, isn't this a service similar to Goodreads? Why was it not free? Or what they were charging for?

I have never used it can someone please explain what are pros/cons compared to Goodreads?


It is really too bad it doesn’t include the ability to read said catalogued books.

That said, I wonder the catalogue could be exportable to a web-based option like omega.org, which is self hosted.


Long live LibraryThing! Cool service and cool library people.

Not working for Adidas at German exchanges :/ http://stockjump.sos.gd/?symbol=ADS1.F&currency=EUR&name=ADI...

Wrong thread.



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