I’ve been a LibraryThing user for nearly 6 years, and am still finding features I didn’t know about. I enjoy the social interaction and have “met” a lot of book-lovers there (and have even had the pleasure of meeting some of them in real life). But LT is much more than a social site for book lovers. Book Riot recently published a comparison of LibraryThing and Goodreads (read Part 1 and Part 2), concluding with “LibraryThing is for people who want a serious, accurate, extensive book cataloguing tool.”
And yes, that’s where I began back in 2006. I looked around my bookshelves and started entering ISBNs for any book I had read or planned to read. I also added classics I’d read at some time in my life, but no longer owned — going from memory, so it’s by no means complete. My catalog grew as I borrowed books from the library, received gifts, or acquired them from used book shops, Amazon, Paperbackswap, etc. I use LibraryThing‘s collections and tags to keep things organized.
But LT has a myriad of cataloging features; I’m sure I don’t know about half of them. Many have been added over time and weren’t available when I first joined. Of course you don’t have to use them all; it’s a matter of personal preference. But sometimes I can’t help myself, and I end up falling down the rabbit hole of catalog organization. Just a couple of weeks ago, someone mentioned a catalog field that keeps track of where your books came from.
“Oh no, I don’t care about that,” I said to myself. But then others continued chatting about it, and I kept thinking about when certain books entered my life: that really cool used book shop … the four years I lived in England … my visit to The Mount, Edith Wharton’s estate … my public library … the books I’ve received through Paperbackswap … books passed on to me by LibraryThing friends … Secret Santa events …
I thought perhaps I’d just do a bit. I’ve tagged all books borrowed from my library, so in one fell swoop I could update the “From where?” field. Oh how cool, I can link to a venue page! Well, it wouldn’t take too long to work through my Paperbackswap transaction archive and update those books. And oh, look! Online booksellers have a record of my purchases! Before I knew it, I had filled in the “From where?” field for most of my 800+ books. Sure, there are some where I haven’t a clue: I marked 95 of my books “unknown.” But it’s kind of fun to look over my library statistics and see I’ve cataloged 163 books from Paperbackswap, 141 from my local public library, and 68 from other LibraryThing members (plus 19 Virago Modern Classics received from members of the Virago LibraryThing group). This was a satisfying little project, but also a bit of a time suck …
And then last week someone mentioned the “pages, weights, and dimensions” feature. LibraryThing uses a book’s ISBN to fill in the number of pages, the weight, and the height/length/thickness of a book. Who cares, I said. Then I looked at my library’s physical statistics, where LT happily informs me my book stack is just a little higher than the Sphinx, would fill 1.6 bathtubs or 5.52 IKEA Billy bookcases. But wait: there are several books in my catalog with “no data” !
Oh dear. Where’s my tape measure?