Please let me expound, for a moment, about my love for LibraryThing. LibraryThing is the nerd tool to end all nerd tools, at least for the bibliophiles around the world. If you could see me, you would see little floaty hearts rising above my head every time I wrote LibraryThing.
LibraryThing allows you, for free for a few hundred books and for as many books as you can enter for a $25 lifetime subscription, to catalog your own library. Oh yes, ladies and gents – the broke folks among us who have tried to do it in Excel and failed? Who have dreamed of having Voyager modules of our very own, but not quite so complicated or expensive? Our time has come. Try it for free; you’ll find yourself slapping down the $25 fee happily, just to be able to enter ALL of your books, and to have this nifty thing for a lifetime. An online catalog of your own personal library – no moldy old card catalogs for us (though we may still dream of someday getting the gumption to buy one and slave over handwriting the cards).
Now, I will mention the caveat that the hard-core catalogers who want to do MARC cataloging for fun may find this simplistic. As a reference librarian who merely has coveted the idea of having a complete listing of my books, and a tagging system I could create and recognize, I think this is the bee’s knees. Not only does it allow you to enter your books via ISBN and grab them from Amazon or the Library of Congress (book covers and ALL, folks! Heck, if we’re REALLY dedicated, we can buy a barcode scanner and SCAN our babies into this thing), it also lets you know if you’ve double entered a book (useful, even though I do tend to have multiple copies of my favorites), and (drumroll, please) - it actually compares the rarity of your collection compared to everyone else in the system. This is like a penis-ruler for nerds and geeks – do NOT underestimate the cool factor of owning a book (or two, or three) that no one else on LibraryThing has. (I have more than one of those, and yes, I do believe it ups my cool factor. Heck, hardly 15% of my library is entered in here so far!) It measures you median/mean book obscurity – the lower the better, here, and I am at 25/167 compared to others who have books in my collection. (Of course, admitting that you own popular tomes such as the Harry Potter series damages you here, but you really must include ALL of your books. Othersise you’re just skewing yourself compared to other nerds, and that’s just dishonest. And I’m sure my obscurity will decrease and my library will become more humdrum once I add the bulk of the rest of my books to the list.
LibraryThing lets you know how many others own that particular tome, if there are any reviews written of it, and you can go browse other people’s libraries to see if they are interesting enough for you to hang out with.
You can give one book multiple tags (for instance, “Trashy Romance” and “19th century”), see your tag cloud, and even get into tagmashes, which David Weinberger explains very well here. See your author cloud, and yes – for the shopaholics among us who frequent used and half-price bookstores and would have loved a list to bring with us….you can export your library into Excel. No kidding. I’d never joke about something like that. AND – which I just found today since I haven’t LibraryThing-ed in awhile, they offer you code to add to your blog or webpage that will bring up books from your library on your page. (I have mine set to a random draw of 5, at the moment.) Utter coolness.
So, LibraryThing. This is a bandwagon you should jump on. (If nothing else, you can always bandy it about as your library so folks don’t have to guess what books you already own when they decide to go shopping for you. Consider it a good deed, helping others and the such. You can find my collection here.