Posted by: nickgerlich | January 27, 2008

Biblio File

When the dotcom revolution began in the mid-1990s, the primary fascinations were having being able to sell things (any thing online, or, at minimum, having an electronic brochure of your company available for custoemrs to peruse at their leisure. But now, of course, those sites are lame. Anyone can sell stuff, and simply putting a brochure online is child’s play.

That was Web 1.0; this is Web 2.0. That was so 1990s.

The emphasis now is on social networking, as evidenced by the likes of YouTube, MySpace, and Facebook. And let’s not forget photo sharing sites like Flickr and Snap. It’s all about connecting people of like mind or interest, and creating online community. All we have to do is figure out how to make money off these networking sites, and we’ll have the answer to our prayers

Library ThingOne of the more interesting (and useful) networking sites I have used is LibraryThing, a free site for bibliophiles like myself to catalog our personal libraries, as well as connect with readers of like mind.

Dewey never had it so good. Who needs a decimal system when you have an online database?

LibraryThing is a godsend for an professor who buys more books than he could possibly read (I have stacks awaiting my ever-hungry eyeballs). My bookcases runneth over, often arranged in double rows on each shelf. But would you expect anything less from a lifelong academic?

Some of the features of the site include not just inventorying one’s book collection, but also being able to see other people’s lists, and form online groups of readers with similar interests. Users can “tag” books with multiple descriptors that allow them to encounter others who have tagged books similarly. It is a complete reversal of the Dewey Decimal System, in favor of a relational database capable of linking books and tags in 3-D.

Which is kind of like trying to stitch together various leaves on a tree from multiple branches that somehow all relate to one another.

Take, for example, one of my favorite authors, Donald Miller, who wrote Blue Like Jazz. I have his book listed, and could tag it with such descriptors as “spirituality,” “emerging church,” “Portland,” or “Christian.” I could then find other people who have tagged his book likewise, and engage in intellectual colloquoy.

Which is a fancy way of saying we can yak about his book.

The only evidence of a revenue stream I see here, though (unless you opt for the premium membership), is the fact that it links every book to its corresponding purchase page at, meaning that LibraryThing is an Amazon affiliate. If someone peruses my list, clicks on the title, and then decides to buy it, Amazon will kick back a little change to LibraryThing.

Being enamored of LibraryThing has gotten me to thinking: Wouldn’t it be nice to have similar sites, like MusicThing, MovieThing, PezThing? I would love it. If anything, having a list of my books would be helpful for insurance reasons, in the event of fire or tornado. Sure, there are some possessions you might not want the general public to be able to view, which is a reasonable and manageable request. But being able, at minimum, to organize a collection, and then if desired, connect with others sharing the same passion, is but another benefit of this 2nd generation of the web.

Now if I could just find the time to read all of those books.

Dr “By The Book” Gerlich


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