Monday, April 30, 2007

LibraryThing for Libraries launches

We've launched the LibraryThing for Libraries demo site. After CIL we pushed everything back a week to work on speed, add fielded imports, and make some interface changes to the tag browser.*

Here's the demo site: http://www.librarything.com/forlibraries/

So far we have about two dozen libraries and consortia interested enough to send us ISBNs. Over the next few days we'll be getting back to people with directions on testing the service out.

Sad to say, but we're still trying to figure out pricing. Here's my thinking, which ends in aporia.
  • It seems right to tie the price to the number of ISBNs that LibraryThing can potentially enhance. For public libraries, this is about 50-70% of ISBNs. For academic libraries it's more like 25-50%. So, my thought was to make it $.02 for the first 25,000 ISBNs, and $.01 after that. (The two levels try to get at the shape of interest in a given ISBN; it's more valuable to enhance Harry Potter than some obscure book.)
  • So, a small city in New England (pop. 75,000), has 84,612 ISBNs. 57,312 (67%) are enhanceable by LibraryThing. That comes to $823/year. That seems like a very good deal.
  • Clearly a consortium needs to pay more than a single library with the same number of ISBNs. After all, the consortium will have multiple copies of the item spread around the various consortium members. But a consortium of fifty libraries won't actually have fifty copies over every ISBN, and there ought to be some "bulk" savings for them anyway.
  • This lead me to charging consortia a multiple of the square root of the number of members. So, for example, a library with 284,742 enhanceable ISBNs would pay $3,097, and an identical consortium with 28 members would pay $3,097 x SQRT(28) = $16,390.
  • Then you have the "branch" problem. A large city signed up for a beta test. They have 270,002 ISBNs—$2,950. But they have some 30 branches, a population of 600,000, and a library budget of $30 million dollars! This doesn't work.
So, I think I need to get total collection or circulation figures, and multiply them by the percentage of ISBNs we can enhance.

I wish we could expand our pay what you want program...

(Money photo courtesy Jessica Shannon on Flickr, under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0)

*Among other things, we normalized ISBNs, moving from storing a 13-character string in every table that needed them, to storing a four-byte integer tied to a table that mapped the integers to ISBN. Normalizing textual data happens all the time here, but normalizing something already so compacy and inherently unique was force on us by the dawning realization that we're going to be handling dozens or hundreds of millions of bibliographic records. So now LTFL tosses around arbitrary ISBN keys like mad, without ever knowing what ISBN they represent. O brave new world...

9 Comments:

Anonymous fyrefly98 said...

FYI, there's a bad link around the "privacy policy" on the FAQ page.

4/30/2007 1:32 PM  
Anonymous Zoe said...

I see that library users will be able to add reviews, ratings, and tags. Will their contributions show up on the works pages for regular LT users?

4/30/2007 1:39 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Zoe: Right now, they can't. Our initial round of widgets are all "pushing" data, not taking any of it in.

When we do some patron-interactivity, the data will certainly be sequestered. I'm not sure if any of it will make its way to LibraryThing.com itself. I think it would be up to the library, and to whether it improved the experience for others. If it did, however, it be noted as such.

4/30/2007 1:43 PM  
Blogger Felius said...

Your suggested pricing scheme for consortia reminds me of an ISP I used to work for in the mid-late 90's. They had a pricing plan which included a logarithmic formula for determining the number of "hours" of access you had remaining given your current account balance. (I've been trying to find a copy on the Wayback machine, but no luck.)

With the caveat that I have nothing to do with libraries, I suspect that large libraries will care more about functionality and a comprehensible charging scheme than they will about fairness.

If you go too far down the path you're talking about, then you start to have to consider recalculating charges monthly based on the current ISBN coverage, current number of members of a given consortium, etc. Maybe even pro-rata charging based on changing ISBN coverage within a month..

Why not just come up with a couple of flat-rate levels of charging based on the size/budget of the institution and leave it at that?

4/30/2007 4:52 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Yeah. I think it needs to be simple now—budget or circulation. Circulation is probably better.

I might even leave off caring about the enhancement percentage. The academics are richer, so maybe that compensates.

4/30/2007 5:13 PM  
Blogger Kath said...

Ooops with demo link:

ISBN Upload
Problem getting progress bar counts

5/01/2007 9:48 AM  
Blogger Kath said...

Will you let us know what libraries are already using this? This is so cool! Getting this into libraries also really enhances the credibility of all of LT. Fantastic idea.

5/01/2007 4:47 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Thanks. No announcements yet. (Libraries don't approve this sort of thing in a day.)

5/01/2007 4:51 PM  
Anonymous herzogbr said...

I'd vote for a flat-rate fee, too. Selling the idea of this widget to my library higher-ups is difficult to begin with. After I convince them it's worth looking into, their first question will be "how much?" If my answer to that involves mathematical calculations and numerous variables, they might give up before we've even started.

With consortia pricing, can there a way to scale it based on the number of libraries within the consortium that opt-in? Or will it just be left up to the consortium to pay the flat rate, and then collect that money itself from the participating libraries?

Also, will this is an annual fee, recalculated each year? Or will libraries be paying each month as we add additional ISBNs? Or for every 1000 additional ISBNs?

And another consideration: something libraries love are statistics. Does LT have a way of providing numbers on how many patrons click on the widget tags and links from within the catalog?

5/04/2007 12:28 PM  

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