I meant to post about LibraryThing hours ago, but I just can’t stop using it! A creation of Tim Spalding, it uses the Library of Congress catalog as a database of books to provide an easy means for users to catalog their own. You just enter a few words or an ISBN into the search box, hit Submit, and boom: either the book is entered automatically or a list of choices pops up. Or, of course, the system can’t find anything matching it and you have to enter it manually. You’ll probably want to tweak the entries in the various fields, and you’ll certainly want to add tags (when I’m done, I’ll be able to find out all the books I have relating to Central Asia just by clicking on that tag), but it makes cataloging (a task I always dreaded) supremely easy. You can see my catalog here; so far I’ve entered about 300 books, but there will be many times that before I’m done. I’m starting with the hardest sections, language and Russian, so that I’ll get most of the manual entering out of the way right off the bat; by the time I get to history, literature, and so on, it should be a breeze. Try it yourself!

(Many thanks to frequent commenter Tatyana, currently enjoying the beaches of Portugal, for the link!)


  1. There a Linux application called Alexandria that manages one’s personal library in a similar fashion. Besides LoC, you can also get information from the British Library,, and several European state libraries.

  2. Hmm. Also seems reminiscent of Delicious Library (, though that’s more attractive, more expensive, and less interactive. (There’s a bad and probably sexist joke to be made there, but I shan’t be the one to make it. (Especially if we change “less interactive” to “doesn’t get along with your friends as well.”))

  3. Hey Hat, thanks for the link. We have some overlap, but not as much as I thought. I liked this:
    A fez of the heart : travels around Turkey in search of a hat
    Worth reading? I should add “cataloging my books” to the project list. I’ve sort of given up on this since most of my books don’t have ISBN numbers.
    How large *is* your library?

  4. Decided to import 50 books today. This is fun, but I’m not sure if I want to continue – it does not recognize all of my ISBN numbers:

  5. Check back, after working all night it now mines both the Library of Congress AND Amazon. Oh, and try partial titles and authors. At least you’ll get some edition. [Tim, developer of the service]

  6. I have tried cataloguing all my books but it was too much work. I just started using the LibraryThing today and I absolutely love it! Thank you, Tim!

  7. We have some overlap, but not as much as I thought
    Renee, I’ve just gotten started — I have thousands of books! Most of them, of course, I haven’t read (yet?), and that includes the fez book… but it does look great, doesn’t it?
    Keep inputting — I want to see your library!

  8. And I wouldn’t start with the ISBN, which is a fair amount of trouble to look up and type in; I’d start by typing in as many words of the title as you think distinctive. Just now I wanted to enter Yu. M. Parfionovich’s Tibetskii pis’mennyi yazyk, and all I did was type “tibetskii” — among the choices that popped up was the one I wanted, even though the title showed up as “Tibetskiæi pis§mennyæi ëiìazyk”!

  9. Thanks for the mention, LH, although it wasn’t my find – I stole it from
    I am having a great time, and reading only fun books, probably not worth catalogueing: NAKED by D.Sedaris, etc. Noticed one boring financial type in the beach club today, something about hedge funds on his cover…Otherwise, crosswords in 3 languages are the most popular.
    I’ll be very interested to see the result of your labors (you outnumbered my meagre library so much, I’m not even intimidated). Have fun, all!

  10. I entered five titles and tried the blog widget on my sidebar. But it LT sends Latin1 while my blog in in UTF-8, so, even portuguese letters get corrupted – i wonder what would happen to Russian.
    I had a look at hat’s library then and saw that he enters Russian titles in latin characters. Hmm…

  11. Yeah, I can’t stand looking at the weird § and ëiì, so I change them to normal transliteration when they pop up.

  12. hat, this is tremendous: what a great site! I can see this becoming addictive (not least because at least my books can be organised somewhere, even if in the real world they’re still in great steaming disorganised piles on the floor…(I think I have a carpet in my bedroom, but I haven’t actually seen it for months…)) And you can see what other people are reading too…

  13. Yeah, I was just telling my wife that I’ve always wanted to have people come and enjoy looking through my collection, and now they can do it without getting dust on their fingers! I’m a bit embarrassed that I’m now at the top of the list (746 books so far); I guess I’ll take a break…

  14. Thanks for the pointer. This is addictive! I’m way below you in books entered (still midway up the top 45). I should not make comparisons between our collections until both of us have finished entering, but do you have Bosworth-Toller?

  15. Bosworth-Toller is one of those books I always wanted, but now it’s online, so I’m glad I didn’t shell out for it. (Only because Old English is peripheral to my current interests; if I started immersing myself in it, of course I’d want the physical book.)

  16. This is great, I’ve enjoyed looking through LH’s collection of dictionaries.
    Personally, I’ve been using citeUlike which is great because it also works with articles found on many online full text databases. It also lets you export in standard bibliographic formats. I mostly use it for books I want, rather than books I have. For books I have I use Booxter which I prefer to Delicious Library (mostly because it has Bibliography compliant export).

  17. That’s impressive, indeed, and I am glad to see some of the Greek titles, though I notice you didn’t anything by Ilias Petropoulos (yet?).
    He published (among many other things) wrote a dictionary of Athenian Gay slang (Ta Kalliarda) which is famous for its disclaimer that “the author is not homosexual” and a classic “laographic” study of rebetiko which contains a glossary of slang terms, presented in the Larousse “pages roses” format, and a lyrics anthology (he learned many on his jail time as a political prisoner).
    Both could be of interest for you, unless of course you already know them.

  18. No, I don’t, and they certainly sound interesting.
    (Incidentally, I don’t know why more people aren’t taking advantage of the ability to leave comments about their books; it’s a great way to promote things you think others might enjoy.)

  19. This is so cool! And I feel much better about my useless book fetish…

  20. Heh. Another victim. And I see we have many, many books in common!

  21. I was just telling my wife that I’ve always wanted to have people come and enjoy looking through my collection, and now they can do it without getting dust on their fingers!
    I was thinking the same thing, but frankly, I’d rather risk the dust… I am getting plenty of it going through my own books, as it happens! 🙂

  22. Let’s not forget! It’s been around for a lot longer. Slightly different paradigm (and one I prefer — I despise “tags” that can’t be combined for boolean searches), but also a great way to catalog your books online.

  23. Oops! Slight correction: that’s bibliophil.ORG.

  24. I tried it today, but i will probably need to give up, because I would need to enter manually most books I have in Greek and Chinese (the LofC doesn’t have Kavafis’ works in prose edited by Papoutsakis? Nor Feng Youlan’s Zhongguo zhexue shi?), and I don’t have enough time to do so.
    It does not help either that I want to exclude any books I or my people have contributed to, as well as those directly related to my research and money work.

  25. LH, the American Amazon seems to have a few books by Petropoulos, including what seems to be a translation of the Rebetiko one I own (if you check out the cover, it shows my usual position when sitting).
    They don’t carry his last before he died, called O kouradokoptis, which was censored. The Kaliarnta are not in sight either.

  26. Thanks, I added it to my wish list!

  27. Parakalô! (always a pleasure to share, etc.)

  28. Finally, we have a book in common, LanguageHat! Very nice service, by the way. My library can be found here:
    I don’t have so much books yet, merely for financial reasons: I just started working after my studies and they are expensive here in Holland. Also, I still need to climb the attic, to add the books that are stored in boxes there.
    It’s a pity that currently I cannot add any foreign books translated into Dutch yet. I am still waiting which libraries will become searchable before I start to add these books manually. This will also give some troubles with transliteration. Should I add Dostoevsky as Dostoevsky, Dostojevski, or Достоевский?
    Perhaps someone has an idea how to solve my confusion with the tags. I want to add a tag to my novels to indicate the language, the original language and the area to which the writer belongs from geographical/literary-cultural point of view. So, my English copy of Borges’ collected stories is tagged as english, spanish, latin-american. This is a bit confusing though, because clicking on english also yields the books that belong to England from geographical point of view.

  29. I’ve dealt with that problem by using the country name for the writer’s country and the adjective for the language — except in the case of “english,” which I use for both books on the English language and books by English authors. And I’ve probably been inconsistent, forgetting my rule fairly frequently. But in theory “russian” indicates a book in or about Russian, “russia” one about Russia or a translation of a Russian work.
    As for the author’s name, use whatever takes the least thought and effort on your part. I might have put the names and titles of Russian books in Cyrillic, except that when I started inputting them foreign letters weren’t supported. Now they are, so I input my Georgian books in Georgian (plus transliteration for those whose browsers won’t support the Georgian alphabet), which gives me great satisfaction.

  30. You may have a look at Creatisoft’s Online Library, an innovative cataloging software to be released soon. It features :
    1. Catalog Books, DVDs, Music CDs, Games and Software .
    2. Catalog and manage physical copies as well as electronic version .
    3. Access and share your library on desktop and online.
    4. online query, no more tedious typing
    5. Powerful reporting
    6. User and rental information

    It opens for beta testers now.

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