Techie Coolness: LibraryThing

Visit LibraryThingI discovered LibraryThing a couple of weeks ago, and I’m in book lover’s heaven! I could instantly see major potential here, and I’ve already started to get a couple of long-term goals accomplished. Ever since I started writing at Quilt Epiphany, I’ve wanted to make a Library page, showing all the quilt books in my collection, and either linking to my review of the book (if there was one) or to the book at Amazon.com, or both.

I do have a Worpress plugin called Amazon Media Manager (AMM) which makes it possible to insert a pretty picture of a book or product into my posts and have it linked directly to Amazon where readers can buy it. Oh, and the veritable river of cash that flows from the Amazon Associates account into my wallet is staggering, as well. 🙄 However, while AMM works great for one at a time inserts, or lists of two or three books or CD’s in the sidebar, I just couldn’t see spending the amount of time it would take to input 140 quilt books into my AMM list, and then program the thing to display them on a separate page. Never mind.

Here’s why LibraryThing is such a killer app. I made a free account at LibraryThing (a one step, two word process, believe it or not), and added a couple of books to my Library. It’s a simple process, since you can either enter the ISBN of the book, or search by title or author, and then select from a list to add the book to your Library. You can see the contents of your library, add tags, write reviews, share your profile with other users, see what other users are reading, etc. This is social networking for book lovers, as well as an off site inventory of your books for insurance purposes in case of catastrophic loss (think fire, burglary, flooding, etc.).

While you can use LibraryThing without the scanner, I highly recommend ordering a :CueCat Scanner. The :CueCat is a hand held scanner that connects via USB to your computer and reads the ISBN code of the book. LibraryThing automagically searches for the book and ads it to your Library when it’s found. It takes less than 10 seconds per book, whereas searching by title would probably take a couple of minutes per book. Once I had the :CueCat, adding all my quilt books to my Library took less than an hour.

Once you’ve scanned your books into your Library, you can mass edit to add tags so that you (or others viewing your Library) can view books by subject or “tag.” Then the real fun begins. You can create a widget to add to your web page or blog to display random books from your library, and books displayed in the widget connect directly to Amazon.com, with the Amazon Associates ID attached (remember that river of cash?). See the cute colorful widget on your right in the sidebar, under Quilting Book Addiction? Every time you refresh the page, different random books from my Library show in the widget.

So far, sooo cooool, but I wanted that Library page on my blog. I made another widget (you can make as many as you want), and then did a bit of slick programming so that you can view the books by tag, right on the blog without even going to the LibraryThing site to view my Library. You can see all the machine quilting books in my collection with just a click of the mouse. Okay, yeah, maybe you wonder why you’ll ever want to do that, but it sounded like a good idea at the time. And it will be worth it when I figure out how to link a book cover to my review of the book, if I’ve done one (haven’t gotten that far yet, but hopefully soon!).

The Library

Bottom line: I accomplished 90% of what I set out to do for a Library page on this site in just over two hours with LibraryThing and a :CueCat scanner. Visit The Library and check out the books! Next I’m going to do the rest of the (non-quilting) books in the house, not a small task, but necessary for records keeping purposes. There are even programs out there to inventory your music CDs and DVDs that will work with the :CueCat as well, so that’s next on the list. Can you say “mmmm, techie coolness?”

4 thoughts on “Techie Coolness: LibraryThing

  1. Ah yes. LibraryThing is awesome. I don’t make much use of the social networking aspects, but I find the ability to have an index of all the novels I own handy–particularly with so many on my shelves; I frequently forget I own books, and can’t remember or find books I was sure I owned.

    That said, I keep forgetting to update it when I get new books. Oh well.

    Glad to see another adopter though. I’ve been following LT since the beginning, and it’s a great service.

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  2. Hey Rich,

    How long ago was “the beginning?” Yeah, I need to get out more…

    I still have to do the rest of the books in the house now that the most important (quilting!) books are done. 🙂 It doesn’t sound as if I have as many as you though, thankfully, though that probably means I don’t read as much as I want to. I could go for a 48 hour day, and then maybe I might get to do everything I wanted to do in a day…

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  3. Ahem… I thought I introduced you to LT, Richard??

    That said, I have been so lazy about it, and I don’t think I have more that 10 books put into it. I should probably buy the scanner, but I’d hate to spend $15 on something I’d just be too lazy to use… I think I will think about it!

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  4. Erin, if you’re “thinking about thinking about” something, when do you actually think about it?? 🙂 My hangup with the whole thing is when I’m scanning merrily along through a pile of books, and come upon one that’s so old it doesn’t have a scannable ISBN code on the back, or the ones that are book club editions that are sometimes iffy with that too. It definitely breaks the rhythm, and then you have to either input the ISBN manually or search for the book by author or title. Grrr.

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