A Quick Guide to Google Books and LibraryThing

This is the third post in a series I call A Quick Guide to Collaborative Media Tools (first post here, second post here). The purpose is to give a quick introduction to tools that are helpful when doing collaborative work. This post is about online bookshelves.

Sharing information on what books you are currently reading or have read has become a common practice on social networking platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Motivations behind these actions vary but this practice can prove useful when doing collaborative work or, for instance, supervising students.

To utilize the full potential of the act of sharing “these are the books that I’ve read”, the items you share need to be organized in one way or another. The two most used tools for doing this are Google Books and LibraryThing.

Google Books
Google Books (look for My Library in the upper right corner) allows you to create “bookshelves” which fundamentally is nothing but tags. If you want to add a book to that bookshelf, make a search for the book, click add to my library and choose the bookshelves you want to add that book to. You can then go to any of your bookshelves, copy the link and share this collection’s URL on for instance Books I’ve read on ‘blogging’ (well, this particular collection sucks because I haven’t read too many books on blogging… but you get the idea). Then share the link with co-workers and students or use it as a reference if anyone asks for what books you would recommend on ‘blogging’.

LibraryThing is a similar service with a few added functionalities such as groups. It is optional to write a short review of the book you want to add to your library. The added benefit of doing so is that you can provide a motivation to why this particular book is worth reading. For an example, see Jonas Löwgren’s Interaction design bookshelf on LibraryThing.

Example: teacher supervising students
Supervising students involves recommending what books are relevant for them to read based on their assignment. This is often a time-consuming task, time that could be spent in a much more efficient way. A solution, for you as a supervisor, is to keep on online library where you record the books you read and tag them according to what topic they are on. See for example the Michael Krona’s library where the tags “sociology” and “methodology” gives him the possibility to share a URL to what books he would recommend his students to read.

What does your organization know?
Finally, on an aggregate level it is interesting to see what the knowledge base of an organization consists of. At MEDEA, we currently have three people contributing to the MEDEA Bookshelf, a collection of books syndicated via RSS feeds and Twingly to this website.

How are you using LibraryThing, Google Books or similar services? Let us know in the comments!

Image credit: Bookshelf by ollesvensson CC:BY