Archive for the ‘apis’ Category

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

New: Add Events API

The Add Events API adds events to the LibraryThing Local events system using a simple “RESTful” API.

You can also find this on WikiThing: Add Events API

Come Talk about the API here.

The Request

Each Add Events request consists of a single http request, with all parameters specified in the URL. There is no ganging of requests.

There is no separate API to update events. If the system finds an event for the same venue at the same time and added by you, it replaces it with the new one.

Here is a sample request with the parameters broken out onto separate lines.

You can try out this request [,0380815591&time=2012-12-1+11:00&venue=2427&userid=timspalding&developerkey=%5Bomitted%5D&addevent=1 by hitting this URL]. Don’t worry, it won’t add a new event.

Basic parameters

title. The title of the event.

time. The date and time of the event, preferably in the format YYYY-MM-DD HH:MM (eg., 2012-12-01 14:00).

Ideally the HH:MM should be in 24-hour (or “military”) format, although you can also append “AM” or “PM.” All times should be local time; not include timezone data, or it will throw off the time calculation as it attempts to square it with LibraryThing’s timezone.

description. The description of the event. Works and authors should NOT be touchstones in the description.

isbns (optional). A comma-separated list of ISBNs relevant to the entry. LibraryThing uses these to retrieve all potential work titles and author names implicated in the description, and creates touchstones as appropriate.

ISBNs are not only for works, but also for authors. For example, if an author is delivering a talk but not reading from any specific work, referencing one of their ISBNs will still ensure that their name in the description gets turned into a touchstone.

eventurl (optional). URL of the event at the venue’s website.

mediaurl (optional). Archived media of the event (for past events only).

Basic parameters

There are two ways of finding the venue. You must use one or the other.

venue. If you know the LibraryThing venue id, use the venue= parameter.

The LibraryThing venue id is located in venue URLs. For example, [] has the venue id 924.

venuesearchtype, venuesearchdata and venuesearchexact. Using these two parameters you instruct LibraryThing to search for a venue. If exactly one venue is found, it will go ahead and choose it, and add the event. At present there are four venuesearchtype options.

*phone. Searches the venue’s phone number. All non-numbers are ignored (ie., 207-555-1212 is the same as 207.555.1212, etc.).

*twitter. Searches the venue’s Twitter handle, if they have one.

*email. Searches for the email.

*name. Searches the venue name.

venuesearchdata is the search string.

venuesearchexact is whether to do a match on partial searches (ie., “Strand” matching “Strand Bookstore,” “Strand Book Annex,” “The Strand Bookshop,” etc.).

Your information

userid. Your LibraryThing userid (ie., timspalding).

developerkey. Developer key. This can be found at . If you are not a registered developer, you can sign up and get your developer key in less than a minute.

Making it happen

addevent. To make it add the event, rather than just test the system and see an XML response, set addevent=1. Constructing http requests without addevent is a good way to test out the system.

The Response

Requests to the Add Events API return an XML response, recapitulating the event, reporting on errors or warning and listing the status of “added,” “replaced” or “not added.” The <touchstones> are lets you see whether your ISBNs were successfully turned into touchstones.

		<title>Spring Author Series</title>
		<venue>LibraryThing H.Q.</venue>
		<date>2012-12-01 11:00 AM</date>
			A reading from [Every Visible Thing] by [[Lisa Carey]].
				<text>[Every Visible Thing]</text>
				<text>[[Lisa Carey]]</text>

Labels: apis, bookstores, event

Monday, March 30th, 2009

LibraryThing at Computers In Libraries 2009

LibraryThing, your favorite makers of libraries in computers, will be at Computers in Libraries this week. We’ll be passing out free stuff and showing off our new LibraryThing for Libraries feature so if you’re at CIL, stop by booth 214 and say hi. Unfortunately, we’re rhino-less this time, but we do have T-shirts and laptop stickers (and Tim.)

Our new feature allows our catalog enhancements to run even on items that don’t have an ISBN. Check it out in action on this 1948 edition of Tom Jones, or this 1937 edition of David Copperfield

There’s no ISBN on those items, but our code is still smart enough to load the right tags and recommendations info. It uses a combination of our new What Work API and the LibraryThing Connector (the JavaScript that powers LTFL) to pull title and author information out of the catalog’s HTML and then match it against our system. This new feature should help our academic libraries in particular, since they tend to have a lot of older pre-ISBN books.

Labels: apis, CIL, CIL2009, conference, librarything for libraries, rhinos

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

New API: What work?

I’ve added a small, but nifty new API that provides a sure-fire way of connecting any site’s book data to LibraryThing.

The “What work?” API takes an ISBN and/or the book title and author and returns the LibraryThing work number, with link URL in XML.

It’s a very forgiving algorithm—these all lead to my wife’s The Mermaids Singing.

In sum, if you can’t connect your data to LibraryThing now, you aren’t trying!

If there’s interest, I can add a JSON version.

*You need to provide either an ISBN (ISBN10 or 13; with dashes or not) or a title and author. Authors can be in last-first (preferred) or first-last (fine). You can omit the author and tack it onto the title, eg., “Huckleberry Finn / Twain, Mark.” It’s very forgiving about punctuation, capitalization and so forth. It doesn’t make wild guesses, but it makes sensible ones.

Labels: apis, new features

Monday, August 4th, 2008

API to Common Knowledge

In case you don’t subscribe to the main blog, there’s a development there of interest to readers of this blog: We’ve unwrapped a free public API to all our Common Knowledge data—series, fictional places, characters, author educational histories, etc.

I’d love to see some of this data appear in library catalogs. The series coverage is really quite excellent.

At one point I made a series widget for LibraryThing for Libraries–listing other members of the series–but I didn’t deploy it. There was some concern that LT’s series data would fight with the libraries’ own series data. If an LTFL library wants to use it, however, let me know.

Labels: apis, common knowledge

Monday, July 7th, 2008

LibraryThing JSON-based books API

Over on the main blog I posted news about the new LibraryThing JSON-based books API (see here). The new API, which supplements our works API, comes with a small library of functions to manipulate it–all open source.

The API should be of interest to the libraries, as there are a couple of cool things they can do with the API. For example, with a few tweaks, it should be possible for libraries that use LibraryThing to showcase new or selected titles—a very popular thing—to create a widget that links into their OPAC, not to Amazon or whomever.

I’ll probably write some basic functions to change linking along these lines, if someone doesn’t do it for me first…

Labels: apis, JSON

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

First cut: Works JSON API

I’ve finished a simple Javascript/JSON API to LibraryThing’s core work information. In structure and implementation the API resembles Google’s recent Book Search API, but for LibraryThing.

Purpose. The API is designed to help libraries and others to add links to LibraryThing when LibraryThing has a book, and omit them when we don’t. It’s an easy conditional-linking system.

But the API returns other work information too, including the number of copies, number of reviews and average rating (with rating image). It comes with a simple function to insert the data where appropriate, but you can funnel this information to functions of your own devising.

Scope. This is an API to work information. Once I’ve worked through the kinks here, I plan to release a member API, allowing members to do clever things with their data. For example, members will be able to make their own widgets, not just rely on ours.

How it works. The basic mode of operation is to insert a script as follows:

<script src="*******"></script>

The ******* is reserved for the ISBNs you want to look up on LibraryThing, separated by commas. NOTE: This script should be placed at the bottom of the page.

For example, the JSON API Test includes one ISBN-10, one ISBN-13, one LCCN and one OCLC number.

<script src=",9780520042728,99030698,ocn8474750911"></script>

The script returns a hunk of JavaScript, including both the simple function and the JSON hash with all the book data. The hash is sent to a function of your choosing, or the simple LT_addLibraryThinglinks by default. To name another callback function add &callback= and the function name to the URL.

The function LT_addLibraryThinglinks looks for elements (DIVs, SPANs, etc.) with the ID “LT_xxx” where xxx is one of your identifiers. If LibraryThing has a work, it adds “(See on LibraryThing)”, with link. If not, it does nothing.

Here’s the JavaScript returned for the URL above:


More later. It’s 2:48am and need to get to bed. There’s much more to say, of course.

Labels: apis, javascript, JSON

Friday, February 15th, 2008

ThingISBN adds LCCNs, OCLC numbers

ThingISBN, our popular ISBN-based API, supports and returns data for two more identifiers: LCCN and OCLC.

At core, ThingISBN—blogged before here and here—takes an ISBN and returns a simple XML list of other ISBNs, corresponding to other “editions” of the work, eg.

Now, if you add &allids=1 to the ISBN, the XML will include relevant LCCN and OCLC numbers, eg.

You can also feed ThingISBN both numbers, eg.,

If you feed it an LCCN or an OCLC number you don’t need to add “&allids=1” to get back these identifiers.

What’s next?

  • I haven’t added LCCNs and OCLC numbers to the ThingISBN feed, yet.
  • Although there are some details to be worked out, this advance looks forward to adding support for LCCNs and OCLC numbers to LibraryThing for Libraries.

Tell us what’s going on. I know that ThingISBN gets a lot of use, some of it even in accordance with its Terms of Use. If you’re using ThingISBN, I’d love to hear how on a new wiki page I’ve created, Projects Currently Using ThingISBN.

Caveat. ThingISBN is free for non-commercial use. Commercial use requires our say-so. Read more here.

In the news! Coincidentally, LCCNs are in the news this week. Yesterday, the Library of Congress announced a “LCCN Permalink,” a smart bid to convert a vital but underused set of permanent, unique IDs, the LCCN (Library of Congress Control Number), into the regnant permanent, unqiue ID, the URL. See Catalogablog for the announcement.

Labels: apis, lccn, lccns, oclc, oclc numbers, thingisbn

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

ISBN check API

A smart young programmer from a book-related company and I were talking. It turns out that, to validate ISBNs and get back both 10- and 13-digit versions he was submitting ISBNs to Amazon Web Services. That’s like calling NORAD to find out if it’s raining.* Nor did he seem likely to hunt around for an ISBN library for Ruby. After all, what he was doing worked.

So I made a quick, very stupid API, ie.

  • Give it any old ISBN and it does the math to return the ISBN10 and ISBN13 forms, if both exist.
  • It removes dashes and other junk.
  • It transparently fixes missing initial zeroes. This is a common problem with data from Excel files, which turn 0765344629 into 765344629.
  • If the ISBN isn’t valid and can’t be easily fixed, it returns an error.

Don’t hit it more than 10 times/second. Otherwise, there are no usage restrictions.

*Amazon take note—I got your back, buddy!

Labels: apis, new feature

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

While you were sleeping, ThingISBN got better.

LibraryThing does a lot of cool things nobody else does. And, as we grow, we do them better and better.

I’ve got a very good example for today: the ThingISBN service. It was good when it was launched more than a year ago, becoming LibraryThing’s first API, and it’s been getting better ever since. (And where its competitor became a paid service, ThingISBN is still free for non-commercial use.)

The ThingISBN service provides something called “edition disambiguation.” Give it an ISBN and it will shoot back a list of “related” ISBNs—other editions, other media, and translations. Edition disambiguation is valuable stuff. Retailers use it to aggregate reviews and other data across editions, and to sell you something when the book you searched for is no longer available. Libraries use it to make sure a patron leaves with a copy of a book, even if the edition the patron searched for is checked out.

You can get ThingISBN in two ways:

  • As a REST-based API. Just change the ISBN in this URL as needed.
  • As a complete feed (thingISBN.xml.gz in /feeds). We ask that people not hit the API more than 1,000 times per day. Instead, pick up the full feed.

What’s cool here? LibraryThing isn’t the only supplier of this data. The other supplier, OCLC, the Dublin-Ohio based library data organization, compiles its data through clever automated analysis of OCLC’s billion-plus records. Their data and algorithms do a great job. Unfortunately, they charge for the service, called xISBN.

LibraryThing does it differently, relying instead on members, who add, combine and separate editions by the thousands every day. For doing this, LibraryThing members get better connections with other users. That is, you gain connections and enhanced recommendations by connecting your edition with others. The result is a detailed list set of correspondences between editions, assembled by thousands and improving every day.

You’ve got to admit it’s getting better. If you improve every day, you can get pretty good, and that’s what’s happened to ThingISBN. OCLC still beats LibraryThing in quantity, but LibraryThing is closer, and, it seems to me, has a clear advantage for paperbacks.

I want to revist some of the examples I gave when ThingISBN debuted:

  • OCLC’s canonical example is Frank Herbert’s Dune. I don’t have the exact counts, but LibraryThing originally trailed OCLC. (I know because I used it as example in a number of talks.) As of now, however, LibraryThing has passed OCLC, with 89 ISBNs to OCLC’s 80.
  • Peter Green, Alexander of Macedon. When ThingISBN started, both LibraryThing and OCLC knew the recent hardback, and one other edition. That is, LibraryThing knew the paperback and OCLC knew the 1974 first edition. Since then, LibraryThing has discovered the first edition, giving it three ISBNs; OCLC still doesn’t know about the paperback.
  • Lee Strobel, The Case for a Creator. OCLC knew of two editions, LibraryThing eight. OCLC now knows three, LibraryThing eleven. It’s about paperbacks, obviously.
  • Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights. Originally LibraryThing had 92 ISBNs, OCLC a commanding 326 ISBNs. OCLC is still in the lead, with 424 ISBNs, but LibraryThing has more than tripled its count, to 285.

Now, I’m quite sure that, overall, OCLC’s xISBN service still beats LibraryThing in coverage. LibraryThing only covers 2.7 million ISBNs. OCLC must cover more.

But LibraryThing is gaining. It’s getting better faster.

And while OCLC continues to sink resources into the project, including staff, now a paid service for all but minimal use as part of its Peace-is-War-ish Openly division, I can tell you honestly that I haven’t touched ThingISBN in six months. I haven’t made it better, even a little. Members made it better.

Now as then, that’s pretty revolutionary stuff.

See you next January, OCLC.

Labels: apis, frbr, oclc, thingisbn, work disambiguation, xisbn

Thursday, March 15th, 2007

thingISBN data in one file

thingISBN is a simple API for discovering related editions. Give it an ISBN and it returns a list of other ISBNs—different formats, translations, etc. We offer the API free for non-commercial use. Today we’re releasing thingISBN in one giant feed, under the same conditions.*

thingISBN is based on LibraryThing’s first-of-its-kind “work” system, by which regular people—LibraryThing members, mostly—combine and separate editions. Members run over 2,000 work-combination actions per day. Although some do it for pure altruism, combining editions helps LibraryThing users by improving the quality of their connections.

LibraryThing’s results compare very favorably with its competition, OCLC’s xISBN service (also free for non-commercial use). xISBN’s coverage is better, but where LibraryThing is built on the collective judgment of humans, xISBN is just a computer algorithm. As the fella says, xISBN is “based on a world which is built on rules and because of that, [it] will never be as strong or as fast as [thingISBN] can be.”**

APIs, while nifty, can be a pain. Both thingISBN and xISBN have a 1,000-per-day limit. So, starting today, thingISBN is also available in feed format—one giant XML file with all the data from over two million unique ISBNs.

Here’s a sample file with just 1000 ISBNs:

As you can see, the format is not ISBN-to-ISBNs. This would involve too much repetition—the full XML file is already 96MB! Instead, it goes work by work, listing the ISBNs inside them:

<work workcode="183">
<isbn uncertain="true">999107371X</isbn>

This format should go into a database well, e.g.,

CREATE TABLE isbn_to_work (
itw_workcode mediumint(8) unsigned NOT NULL,
itw_isbn char(13) NOT NULL,
itw_uncertain tinyint(4) NOT NULL default '0',
PRIMARY KEY (itw_workcode,itw_isbn)

As you can see, some ISBNs are listed as “uncertain.” This happens when an ISBN crosses works. In a perfect world, these works would be combined, but LibraryThing doesn’t do it automatically. There are a couple ways that can go wrong. For example “great books” sets often sport a single ISBN across volumes. It wouldn’t do to combine “Pride and Prejudice” with “Moby Dick” just because their publisher wouldn’t pony up for two ISBNs.

So, you can use the “uncertains” if you are willing to accept more errors. Otherwise, ignore them.

The feed itself is in and is called “thingISBN.xml.gz”. It is 16MB compressed.

We’d love to hear what people are doing with the data.

*Commercial use requires our permission. See
**Okay, the comparison in inexact, but OCLC does have a “Matrix” feel to it.

Labels: apis, frbr, oclc, thingisbn, works, xisbn