LibraryThing – A Very Cool Site for Readers


It is late on a Thursday afternoon, and I must admit that my blog is behind schedule because I have just spent a couple of hours playing with LibraryThing.com. So before the day completely escapes me, I thought I would share my fascination.

As I have already confessed in several prior blogs, I am a list maker. It is a somewhat unnatural fascination, but I should have been a taxonomist (not a taxidermist – I faint at the sight of blood). I keep lists of my favorite books, music, movies, etc. The internet actually encourages this – I have rated 1497 movies on Netflix, for example. However, most sites really don’t reward you for doing this.

Amazon.com is a perfect example. I buy lots of music from the site, and there is a “Rate This Item” feature. However, the purpose behind the rating system is to sell you more in-stock music that just happens to be on sale from Amazon. A buddy and I have a bet going as to how much Amazon adjusts prices just for me – based on my buying habits – but that is a different topic altogether. The point is that the algorithm used by Amazon for recommendations is pretty bad – hey, “we recommend all albums by Little Feat because you just purchased Dixie Chicken (also by Little Feat)”. Thanks for slowing me down. These sites also don’t do well with matching my tastes with like-minded shoppers. And, you will never find a recommendation for something that is out-of-print or hard to find.

LibraryThing.com is the answer to bibliophiles who like to review books and get meaningful recommendations. You start by adding books to your library and reviewing them. It has many of the features of a social network as well: forums, groups, and friends. I can see which members have the same books in their library as me – and invite them to be a friend.  We can have real-life conversations about books.  Recommendations are available from both the automated engine and my friends. And, the site supports “tags” – words that describe books that I like. Since the site isn’t tied to just books for sale, a vast universe of possibilities open up. When was the last time Amazon.com suggested you read Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut?

Finally, it has some very cool features like “local events”. By typing my zip code into my profile, I am kept up with local literary events – I see Elisabeth Hyde is going to be at the Boulder Book Store tonight. Cool. It also has reviews of pre-release books, book giveaways for members willing to write a review, features on authors, etc. As you can see, it is sufficient information overload to keep this publisher happy for hours. Now, that I have destroyed your productivity, my job for the day is done. Enjoy.


  1. I’m a little gun-shy about this sort of site since I joined GoodReads, which I believe to be the same sort of site. I have been repeatedly contacted by other writers whom I know only by name or not at all, who invite me to “compare reading lists” only so they can spam me with their own five-star reviews of their own, just-released books. This has become a problem with Facebook as well. Does LibraryThing have any kind of structural aspects that prevents it being used by people who merely want to promote their own books under the guise of “sharing”?

  2. Chris Matney says:

    Being somewhat a newbie to the LibraryThing site, it doesn’t look like there is a rating associated with the reviewer – like you would find on eBay. That is probably something that is needed, however. You make a very good point about being spammed by people trying to promote their own books. The mutual feedback loop is pretty much a neccessity for social networking sites to create the trust relationship between two people who don’t know each other personally.

  3. Sara says:

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



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