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Do your own LibraryThing

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But we haven't even touched on the Social angle yet, and before we do, it's worth pointing out that anyone who wishes to retain their privacy at LibraryThing can easily do so. You don't need to enter any personal information in order to create an account, and your Personal Profile page can be left blank - so as long as your username is sufficiently obscure, the only thing that other members will know about you is your taste in books. If that's not enough, you can edit your Personal Profile to make your account private, so that not even your book selections will be visible to other members.

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If you are into sharing, LibraryThing follows in the now familiar 'social website' footsteps of such operations as Flickr and Del.icio.us, by allowing subscribers to share profiles, collections, and opinions, and discover people with similar tastes through Tags and Titles. In a nicely autonomous "Connections" feature, links to members that share titles with your collection are automatically added to your Profile page. For more specific matches, clicking on the Graphical Shelf cover photo of any book in any user's catalog reveals links with the ability to instantly add that title to your own collection, as well as access to such "Social Info" as Tags, other Users who have the selected title, User Reviews, and Recommendations of other books based on shared libraries.

Activities can also enter the realm of friendly debate - through the exchange of reviews and Profile Page comments, or mutual agreements to take up the conversation elsewhere, but is social really likely to give rise to social at LibraryThing? Well, if you can tell a book reader by his or her covers, then perusing another member's collection might go a long way toward predicting compatibility. Of course, one should always be aware that potential matches can pad their virtual shelves as easily as they can pad their résumés - so if you're sharing a love of Hamlet and your correspondent praises Shakespeare's wisdom in casting Mel Gibson for the lead role, you might want to move on to the next contestant.

There are still more features available at the site (such as direct links to various online book retailers), and a Site Blog will keep members up-to-date on the latest developments. Finally, a Zeitgeist page reveals, among other things, the most prolific collectors and reviewers, best books as ranked by user ratings, most contentious books (those with the largest spread in user ratings) and...that there is a definite skew in the reading habits of the members that have signed up to date. (The top six Most Owned Books are all Harry Potter titles, followed by "The Da Vinci Code" and then about 20 assorted science fiction and fantasy titles.)

But rest assured, you'll find Melville and Tolstoy lovers if you look for them. Barely two months old, LibraryThing has already found a large audience - and the level of participation by early adopters demonstrates the application's ease of use, even as it serves a variety of roles ranging from simple private database to full-blown literary clubhouse. But this newfound appeal for bibliographic cataloging does raise an interesting question.

What other amusements have librarians been keeping to themselves?

LibraryThing can be found at http://www.librarything.com/.

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