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Manage books with LibraryThing

As much as I love neatness, I just can’t gather the motivation needed to tidy and clear out the plethora of books which live in the cupboard. I pay for this lack of action most times I want to find a particular book or simply view my collection to see if anything tickles my fancy. A website which goes some way to solving this problem is LibraryThing, which also adds extra features and additional jazzy things.

LibraryThing allows users to create an interactive library which lists their books

LibraryThing allows users to create an interactive library which lists their books

The first feature you’re like to come across is the ability to start your online book library. Viewing your library will give the option to add books. Once found, the book’s title can simply be clicked to add it to your listings. Once it’s safely in your virtual library, additional information can be added. This includes a rating for the book and the ability to change the title and other such information if the fancy takes you. Alternatively, you can search through the plethora of books catalogued by the site and its sources using the ‘Search’ tab, top right. This allows for books to be searched by title, author, date and more. Tags can also be searched, which allows you to find new books which are related to, for example ‘cars’.

However LibraryThing comes into its own with its community. There’s a large number of users, many whom contribute reviews and details about books which aid you in deciding whether to purchase the book or not. Each user receives their own profile upon which information can be added and their library can be viewed. You can contribute your own rating and review for any book you’ve read, and this will be displayed to other users to help them make decisions about purchasing.

LibraryThing includes a feature which estimates how likely you are to enjoy reading a book.

LibraryThing includes a feature which estimates how likely you are to enjoy reading a book.

In addition to this, LibraryThing also offers a list of suggested books for each item. For example, a viewing of Orwell’s 1984’s page yields a number of similar books: ‘Animal Farm’, ‘A Clockwork Orange’, etc. Whilst this is useful for seeing alternative books or reads that you might enjoy, LibraryThing goes a step further with its testing feature. Clicking the ‘Will I like this book’ button will send Librarything off on an epic quest to battle dragons and the like, before returning to tell you how likely you are to enjoy reading the book you’re looking at. It works this out by seeing what other books you have in your library and how highly you’ve rated them, so it pays to keep active with the LibraryThing community.

There’s no question that it beats a handwritten list, so pop over to www.librarything.com to begin making your collection and finding new books that you’ll adore.

Listen to free audiobooks with LibriVox

Having completed ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’, I’ve now got to read ‘King Lear’ for my upcoming English course. I’ll be studying these two in-depth soon, but it’s necessary to read them through first to get a gist of the plot and form preliminary ideas about meanings and themes. Whilst I enjoyed ‘Streetcar’, ‘Lear’ is proving much more heavy-going. The language used is very hard for me to get used to, and I must say the plot is yet to get interesting. It takes me several minutes to get through a single page since I have to keep referring to the modern translation page, which tells me what the most confusing phrases mean. Moving on from this tangent and putting my ineptitude aside, this article does have a point to it. In my pursuit of making Shakespear easier to read, I searched for an audio recording of ‘Lear’, and fortunately found it listed on the smashing little website called LibriVox.

Librivox has a wide variety of audio-books which can be downloaded and played on your PC or portable players

Librivox has a wide variety of audio-books which can be downloaded and played on your PC or portable players

All the audio-books available for download are fully legal since their copyright has expired; they’re therefore in the public domain. There’s a useful search feature which lets you find books by title, author, genre, or other options. So even if you’ve not got a particular book in mind, you can simply search for ‘Horror’ or ‘Romance’ to receive a selection of different books that meet that criteria. When you’ve found a book you want to listen to, you have the choice of downloading it as a single zipped file, or streaming separate MP3 or OGG tracks. Once these have downloaded to your PC you can unzip the folder and then play the tracks. Since the file format is MP3 you’ll should be able to copy it onto your MP3 player to listen to it when you’re not at your PC.

Web community projects have been all the rage since Wikipedia, and LibriVox is no exception. However,  the community features are implemented in a very in a very effective way way – the users seem friendly, and it appears that anyone who wants to can add audio for a new book or contribute to one that’s currently being recorded. You’ll obviously need a microphone and some recording software to save it, but other than that, there are no limitations. Each project tells you where the transcript can be downloaded for free – this saves you buying the book.

The variety of audio-books is very impressive, and the dedication of the contributors is equally good. From my brief look around the forums, everyone seemed to be more than willing to assist confused users. The library of books is also being added to all the time. The audio-books can be downloaded from librivox.org.

Amazon got hot under the collar; ended up in hot water

An Amazon spokesperson has now blamed ‘a glitch in the system’ after books containing lesbian, gay, and sexual content were removed from the rankings and therefore dramatically lowered in the search order at Amazon.com. Despite earlier responses to complainants stating that the decision was made consciously in an effort to ensure that the listings are suitable for the majority of their user base, the aforementioned spokesperson denies that this policy ever existed.

This apparent censorship caused a furor across many websites, with campaigns being launched which aimed to raise awareness of the issue and force Amazon to remove the new restrictions. Anger was already created at the censorship of books containing explicit sexual content. However, it also seems that books containing lesbian and gay themes were censored without consideration of content, inciting anger from various parties throughout the Internet at the perceived lack of foresight and double-standards.

Apart from the previously mentioned apparently unfair treatment of lesbian and gay books, there also appeared to be other unfairness in the change: the books’ rankings were changed based upon their category. Therefore a version of a book filed under the category ‘sexuality’ may be removed from the listings, whilst a different version of the same work filed under ‘memoir’ would remain in the listings. This would appear to be in conflict with an intention to protect shoppers.

‘Amazonfail’ seems to have become a tag which will haunt Amazon for quite sometime. One of the current most discussed subjects on the popular social networking website Twitter.com is Amazon’s actions during this fiasco. Users are also marking books which have been lowered in the rankings with the same aforementioned tag, making their anger clear. Even definitions have been created for ‘Amazon Rank‘ to be placed in online dictionaries.

Twitter has proved instrumental in the outrage which followed this change in policy. The issue would likely have not come to wide public attention without the multiple discussions and updates which were added by Twitterers. Articles were also written by many bloggers, bringing the matter to the forefront. It is becoming more and more apparent that businesses will have to listen to their customers if they don’t want to see an online circus of criticism like this occur again.

Amazon Kindle setback

February 28, 2009 Leave a comment

After complaints by the Writer’s Guild of America, Amazon has caved in and left the text-to-speech feature of their portable book gadget at the discretion of the book’s author and publisher to decide whether the machine is able to read their book aloud to the owner or not.

The Kindle, which is not currently available in the United Kingdom, is a portable e-book reader which was originally released in 2007. The second version, which was released on the 23rd February, is more portable, has a longer battery life, in addition to the most talked-about new feature: the ability to read books aloud. This feature was going to be available for all books on the Kindle, however following complaints from the aforementioned Writers Guild, Amazon changed the feature to be optional for all books. This has prompted complaints from the hard of sight, for which a major appeal of the device is the ability to enjoy books through audio whilst travelling. The Authors Guild’s reasoning for the complaint was that there was a potential for the device to become the de-facto in audio-books, which may reduce the profit that publishers and authors make from releasing their books as audio-books themselves.