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LibraryThing

Paul has been posting about books over on his blog. I might have a stab at answering some of the questions posed but those questions look difficult. Only five books that mean a lot to me? I’ll have to ponder….

However, I thought I’d mention LibraryThing, a site I came across a couple of weeks ago. It’s taking the “Web 2.0” buzz of sites like Flickr, Del.icio.us and Technorati (sharing information about yourself, tagging it with key words to create informal groupings and being able to explore new information based on other people’s tags) and inviting you to apply it to the books on your shelves.

You put a list of your personal library online and tag the entries with the areas of knowledge they represent. On a physical shelf, each book has to be given a single place, whether by subject, author or shape and size (I have to admit the latter two cover most of my book storage); you have to remember where to look, which gets harder as the collection grows. With tags, you can file the books under multiple headings, although you’ve still got to remember where you put them.

Another dimension is exploring other people’s books. In part, it is a system of recommendations, like Amazon’s “other people who bought this also purchased…”, which has been echoed by many online traders. However, it could be particularly useful if my friends had their libraries online. Rather than spending more money on books (Amazon’s idea) I could drop them an email and ask to borrow something – that would be great for unearthing gems from dusty, out of the way shelves, and supporting books as a great stimulant for conversation and friendship. I could also tag all the books I’ve lent out or borrowed, which would help keep track of things.

Of course, there is the worry about whether thieves might target library items. On the other hand, as a reader rather than a collector, I don’t think there would be a lot of profit in picking off something from my collection (not to mention the aforesaid problem of finding it on the disorganised shelves!). And then there’s the fact that free usage is limited to only a couple of hundred books – I’d have to sign up for their life membership ($25 – not a king’s ransom) to make a dent in my collection. Mind you, I’ve only got a small number on there so far, so there is still time to think about it.

Anyway, it seems like an interesting tool. Perhaps it could even have a button so I could answer Paul’s questions in a flash!

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