Always looking for stuff to blog about, I thought I’d check out some of the websites listed on the Mashable social sites list. I’m coming from a perspective of a new user, along the lines of “will I use this?” or “does this site make any sense?”
The first site I thought I’d take a peek at is LibraryThing. My first impression was, frankly, it looks cheesy. But after further interaction, I left quite impressed. It’s function first here – as with reddit or Craigslist. Ultimately, the real value is in the staggering amount of people who have signed on, offering up their information. This could possibly be a bibliophile’s dream – maybe bringing to light of day some obscure, dusty tomes stored deep within personal bookshelves and libraries.
For a glimpse at the sheer wealth of information, take a look at the Zeitgeist- it’s pretty fascinating. Talk about being open with your stats. They have 123,893 members and 8,571,045 books cataloged. There are lists of the Top 25 Books, the Top authors – all kinds of tempting info-nuggets.
I signed up and found entering a new book really easy. You start by typing in a title (or ISBN, author, etc.), which is searched for on Amazon or the Library of Congress. A list of books matching the search appears on the right. Just click on the correct title, and it’s added to your library. Once added, you click on a pencil icon to add your information: tags, reviews, your rating, dates you acquired the book (and started and finished reading).
This information is then added to the LibraryThing site. Now, when you go back to “Your Library” you can see a list of your books and ratings. You can sort this list view by any of the columns (title, author, rating) iTunes style. Nice. If you click on a book in your library, the “social” part comes in. There’s a tag cloud, a list of other users that have this book, the cumulative ratings, other people’s reviews, and similar books you might be interested in reading.
So my basic impression is that LibraryThing figured out what they wanted to do (enable people to share information about their books), how to do it (make it easy to enter information and then combine the data in interesting and useful ways), and then did it in a simple, easy to understand manner. Two questions I had before checking out the site were, how easy is it going to be to enter in my book information? And once I did that, what benefit would there be? Largely, both proved to be a positive experience.
So what’s a down side? Well, I’m not a terribly voracious reader – I might read a book a month if that. So realistically, after an initial flurry of activity of entering in my book data, I may not return to LibraryThing often.
Maybe I’m just waxing philosophical about the long term prospects for a website like this, existing in a culture that obviously watches much more television, movies, and YouTube videos than reading. Still, I’m pretty sure there’s enough of a niche audience to support LibraryThing.
Note: I’ve used a program called Delicious Library for the Mac that lets you scan in books by holding the bar code in front of the iSight camera. And there may be a way to import data to LibraryThing from Delicious Library.