Small-World Affiliation Networks

by Kieran Healy on October 26, 2005

Speaking of website gadgets, yesterday I tried out Library Thing, a service that lets you catalog your books online. Think of it as Flickr for your books. About 70 percent of the books in my office are already in a Delicious Library catalog, which Library Thing can import, so I uploaded the lot. Like Delicious Library, the most obviously useful feature of a catalog is as yet unavailable—namely, the ability to do a full-text search on the books you own. Something like Amazon’s Search Inside. Maybe in the future there will be a way for applications like this to talk to Search Inside or Google Print.

In the meantime, Library Thing lets you explore an affiliation network. You’re tied to other users through ownership of the same books, and in your profile you can see who overlap the most with. It turns out that the user I’m closest to none other than Chris Brooke, of the Virtual Stoa. He and I share 38 titles. This may partly be a size effect, as Chris has more than three times as many books cataloged as I do. But it may also index up our relative closeness in Blau Space. Further evidence of affinity in tastes comes from the fact that Chris’s photo and mine come from the same source.

{ 23 comments }

1

Eszter 10.26.05 at 8:31 am

Yes, it’s a neat service. I tried it a while ago, but it looked like it would take too long to add all my books. (I don’t have the iSight scanner option for Delicious Library.)

While we’re at it, I’d like to recommend CiteULike. It’s a similar idea, but for articles. Here’s my example, but again, I didn’t take the time to explore it fully. It seems to lack the feature of comparing your entire library to others’. But it does show you who else has the same article listed or the same tag, which is certainly helpful in finding additional relevant pieces. Moreover, you can export citations into EndNote or BibTex.

As for your and Chris Brooke’s images, not only do they come from the same source, but it looks like your dress styles are similar and you both like to drink.

2

Kieran Healy 10.26.05 at 8:49 am

I’m drinking coffee, though.

3

Kieran Healy 10.26.05 at 8:50 am

Also, no Viking helmet, either.

4

Eszter 10.26.05 at 9:02 am

Oh, I thought it was hot chocolate, bummer. (I didn’t really.) You also have a friendlier look on your face. I didn’t notice the helmet discrepency. (JK)

5

Eszter 10.26.05 at 9:29 am

I just figured out – and it looks like Chris (Bertram that is) may have as well – that the easiest way to add books to our shelf is to copy them from someone else who’s already added them to theirs. I’ll have to come back to this later, but I’ve already added a bunch of books from your shelf. Not surprisingly we have quite a bit of overlap. (For those who don’t know, Kieran and I got our grad training in the same department, shared some mentors and also TA’d a class together so we have quite a few books in common.)

6

Chris Bertram 10.26.05 at 9:31 am

Neat. Unfortunately the quickest way to add lots of books for me was by clicking on the chrisbrooke at kjhealy libraries and adding all the ones I share. I think that’s called sampling on the dependent variable or something.

7

Tad Brennan 10.26.05 at 10:30 am

Yeah, I tell you–
for a bunch of people who are supposed to be savvy about statistics, this counts as a lot of expressions of amazement at multicollinearities.

I mean, if you think the overlap between Bertram’s library and yours is noteworthy, you can also marvel at the fact that everyone who was born the same year as you and is still alive is now also *just as old* as you!

8

Kieran Healy 10.26.05 at 10:46 am

everyone who was born the same year as you and is still alive is now also just as old as you!

Really? That’s gotta be one of them million-to-one chances.

9

Jed Harris 10.26.05 at 11:23 am

Nice that you jumped to #2 on my “Similar libraries” list and that I made it to about the middle of yours. Right now the population of libraries is rather thin and dominated by science fiction and web development but I hope your addition is a leading indicator.

10

brayden 10.26.05 at 11:56 am

I entered all of the books in my office (sadly, it took me less than a half hour) and passed Chris as your closest user. That prelim exam you gave me did wonders to my book collection.

11

Steve 10.26.05 at 12:28 pm

“Like Delicious Library, the most obviously useful feature of a catalog is as yet unavailable—namely, the ability to do a full-text search on the books you own.”

I may not understand this sentence. But are you saying the ‘as yet unavailable feature’ will allow you to seach the text of the book itself? If that is true, the book itself will be on the web, in electronic form? And if that is true, won’t there cease to be a reason to buy the book in the first place? (i.e. could this actually happen?)

Steve

12

antirealist 10.26.05 at 2:09 pm

But are you saying the ‘as yet unavailable feature’ will allow you to seach the text of the book itself? If that is true, the book itself will be on the web, in electronic form? And if that is true, won’t there cease to be a reason to buy the book in the first place?

Amazon already allows full text search of many books, but not in a way which renders actual possession of the book otiose.

13

Kieran Healy 10.26.05 at 2:20 pm

I may not understand this sentence. But are you saying the ‘as yet unavailable feature’ will allow you to seach the text of the book itself? If that is true, the book itself will be on the web, in electronic form? And if that is true, won’t there cease to be a reason to buy the book in the first place?

Well, it’s true that it would be nice to have the full text of every book available for searching and printing: a complete, unrestricted Google print service, say. This is unlikely in the near future. But as antirealist says, many books are already available for full-search on Amazon, and on Google Print too. Browsing is limited to a few pages, though, on fair-use grounds. I was thinking that if I’ve bought the book (from Amazon, say), I should get an unrestricted full text search/print service as part of the bargain. Beyond that, I’d want to be able to restrict searches to books you own anyway, as it’s often the case that I’m looking for something specific that I know I have, I just don’t remember where. So before the arrival of the universal library, I’d settle for a comprehensive fair-use Google Print/Amazon Search-Inside service, combined with unrestricted full-text searching and browsing for those books which I’ve purchased.

14

Alan 10.26.05 at 3:28 pm

_I’d settle for a comprehensive fair-use Google Print/Amazon Search-Inside service, combined with unrestricted full-text searching and browsing for those books which I’ve purchased._

It’s the little things that matter, really.

15

Kieran Healy 10.26.05 at 4:40 pm

Hey, can a man dream?

16

Amardeep 10.26.05 at 5:06 pm

I haven’t tried these bookmarking tools yet, though I will when I have about some time to spare.

But I wanted to mention one way in which I’ve found “Search Inside” very helpful — gathering bibliographic details. I’ve been working with an editor to finalize an essay for publication. The essay has many references to editions of various works, as well as translators and editors, sometimes from books that were in libraries I don’t have access to right now. Search Inside has helped me get quick access to copyright pages and front matter to sort out my bibliographic tangles.

(And really, there’s no good reason why the front matter to every book shouldn’t be readily available.)

I wish more academic publishers could be coerced (I mean, persuaded) into allowing at least parts of their books to be rendered searchable.

17

Charlie Hodge 10.27.05 at 12:36 am

LibraryThing is very cool. Stuffopolis is similar (also has the delicious library import) but for all things. They have a focus on sharing stuff.

18

Alex Gregory 10.27.05 at 4:39 am

you can also marvel at the fact that everyone who was born the same year as you and is still alive is now also just as old as you!

Wouldn’t that actually be quite surprising, since it would imply that they were either all born before the current date, or all born after it?

And who says studying philosophy makes you pedantic?

Perhaps I should continue lurking until I have something more constructive to add!

19

Chris Brooke 10.27.05 at 5:16 am

Kieran – you don’t have a viking helmet? More alarmingly, perhaps, you do have my brother Michael’s hair: over here.

Tad (since you’re there) – The Stoic Life is excellent. Well, I haven’t read the section on fate yet, but the first two thirds of the book are really very good indeed. So thanks for writing it.

Chris – sample away…

20

Danny Yee 10.27.05 at 8:13 am

Hmmm, if it were free I might give it a shot – I have all my books catalogued in a Refer database – but it’s $10 to enter more than 200 books.

(Surely no one here has fewer than 200 books?)

21

Eszter 10.27.05 at 9:24 am

Listal is another one that also organizes music, movies and games. However, they don’t have an import function, unfortunately.

22

Anthony 10.27.05 at 2:42 pm

The *easiest* way to add books (other than your Delicious Library) is to make a file of ISBNs, and upload them at the import page. I got 200 books in about an hour’s work, while the first 270 took five hours or so.

23

Charlie Hodge 10.27.05 at 4:28 pm

The easiest way to add books…is to make a file of ISBNs

check out the last minute of the stuffopolis screencast. that’s what i would choose to quickly add stuff:

screencast

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