In Praise of LibraryThing

Book and journal curation
13 October 2023

I recently imported my writing-related bibliography into LibraryThing instead of trying to manage it in a spreadsheet on my computer. Should have done it years ago! So many good things about LibraryThing:

  • A recommendation algorithm that seems to work much better than Amazon, Goodreads, Kobo, and co., especially when it comes to niche interests.

  • Plenty of fun charts and graphs. Supposedly the stack of books in my library is taller than Napoleon and not quite as tall as an ostrich.

  • You can export all your data in a variety of formats (e.g. an Excel spreadsheet) so that you never lose access to your carefully curated and tagged library, even if the site someday goes off-line or is bought up by some mega-corporation.

The learning curve is steeper than for Goodreads, and I had to poke around for a while before discovering all the features.

If you're interested in non-fiction related to the Old Bridge Inn series, this is basically my rec list: LibraryThing collection.

LibraryThing allows you to keep things organised by tags, e.g. life in service or 1790s radicalism. Here's my tag cloud.

There are two limitations that I haven't yet managed to find a workaround for. One is how to add external links to online digitised copies of books that date from before the era of ISBNs and modern cataloguing. I mean stuff like The Complete Servant (1825) or The Gentleman's House: Or, How to Plan English Residences (1865). Sometimes it's necessary to dig deep before finding an accessible digitised copy, and I'd like to keep track of those links in the same place as I keep track of the books themselves. But I haven't found a way to do that in LibraryThing.

The second thing is organising my collection of journal articles. LibraryThing is simply not designed for that purpose, so I use Zotero for that. But I'd rather have them in the same place as the books!