July 21, 2006

If you’re a book lover and not too secretive, visit as fast as you can.

Keeps a convenient online catalog of book collections. Lets you browse other collections. Connects you with other book lovers. Gives book recommendations.

You can’t expose your online book catalog solely to specific friends and family—it’s either completely private or completely public.


Notes: Free for up to 200 cataloged books; for more than 200 books, shell out either $10 per year or $25 for a lifetime membership.


LibraryThing is a social network of bibliophiles. That’s right. Bibliophiles. Despite its reputation as a frivolous fad among teenagers and twentysomethings, online social networking has the power to serve almost anyone—including people with a passion for books.

Created by Chicagoan Tim Spaulding, this grass-roots site follows in the footsteps of Flickr and Just as Flickr built an online community around digital photos and fashioned a similar social network around browser “favorites,” LibraryThing connects people through their book collections.

To date, more than 39,000 people have cataloged their personal book collections on the site, posting information about more than 2.8 million titles. Some use it to keep tabs on their vast home libraries. Others are merely interested in, well, showing off. But first and foremost it puts you in touch with people who share your tastes. You can browse each other’s collections, trade recommendations, and even forge relationships. It isn’t called social networking for nothing.

At the very least, you should spend a few minutes perusing this vast catalog of book titles. Search on your favorite authors—just to see how popular they are. Track down reviews people have posted about your favorite novels. Find out what else they’re reading. Check out the “Zeitgeist” page, where you’ll find the top 25 most popular titles, the top 75 authors, and more.

I particularly enjoy browsing via “tags.” As with Flickr and, LibraryThing encourages its users to tag their books with keywords, a process that essentially sorts titles into ad hoc subcategories. Tags associated with Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince include “adventure,” “british,” and “children,” and if you click on “adventure,” you’ll find a list of other titles carrying the same tag. The Zeitgeist page includes a list of the 75 most popular tags, letting you peruse everything from “historical fiction” to “young adult” books. I could spend hours on the Zeitgeist page alone.

Of course, LibraryThing is even more useful if you post your book collection, and the process is wonderfully easy. Once you key in a username and password—nothing more—you can immediately start cataloging. Simply enter a title or an author, and the site searches and major library sites for matching books. Then, with another click, you can add a book to your list. Within 15 seconds of first visiting LibraryThing, I’d added the first three titles to my catalog. If you’ve got a rare or unusual book that LibraryThing can’t find, you can add it manually.

Assuming the book is found (and most will be), each time you add a book, LibraryThing automatically posts an image of its front cover, its date of publication, its ISBN (International Standard Book Number), a list of other editions, and even where you can buy new copies online. If you like, you can add other information, including tags, a star rating, a Dewey decimal number, the date you acquired the book, the day you started reading, and the date you finished. You can add comments. You even can post a review.

At the very least, this gives you a detailed record of your personal library. That’s a good thing to have on hand, whether you’re giving book recommendations to a friend or trying to remember if there’s a particular title buried somewhere in your collection. I recently bought a copy of Nicholas Pileggi’s Wiseguy, not realizing I already owned it. That’s a common problem among big book collectors, and LibraryThing solves it. The site even lets you browse your titles using only their cover images, as if each was propped up on a vast bookshelf.

Better still, posting your collection proves to be an even easier way to leverage that vast LibraryThing network. The site automatically generates book recommendations based on the titles you own. It gives you a list of other users who own the same books. Perhaps my favorite thing about LibraryThing is that you can track down someone who shares your tastes and request a direct recommendation or ask them if a book you’re thinking of buying is any good. You can easily trade comments with users, and you may even develop running relationships. Why not meet up with someone and trade books? Spaulding claims his brother uses the site to meet women.

Don’t want others to see your book collection? No problem. If you like, you can make your catalog completely private. Unfortunately, you can’t expose your collection to specified individuals. I’m hoping this semiprivate option will be added in the future.

Users aren’t afforded a full-fledged Web presence on LibraryThing—you can’t really customize the look and feel of your profile, for instance—but the site does let you sign up for RSS feeds that alert you to newly added books and reviews. How much does it cost? You can browse for free, and you can post up to 200 books for free. Beyond that, you have to pay either $10 for a yearly membership or $25 for a lifetime account.

Yes, LibraryThing has much the same appeal as Gen Y sites like MySpace and FaceBook. In letting you post your book collection for all the world to see, it’s a means of connecting with other people—and a way of feeding your vanity. If you’re not into books, you may not see it that way, but trust me, book lovers are very vain when it comes to their books. On the other hand, there’s a more civilized side to LibraryThing: Not only do you have the option to keep your collection private, but the site also has a very practical purpose of providing book recommendations. For a book lover, nothing’s more practical than that.


Site of the Week: Simply Hired

July 19, 2006

This site should be your new first Web stop when looking for a job.

Currently aggregates listings for 5.3 million jobs. Refreshingly tailored toward the job-seeker. You can rate the jobs you find, and you can easily return to any job listing. The company’s companion site, Simply Fired, is great for a laugh.

Limited to the U.S. market (Canada to be added soon). Résumé service needs some tweaks.

Simply Hired Inc

Notes: Free


Editor’s Note: Although it’s still in beta, Simply Hired recently addressed my chief “con” by adding a résumé service to the site. This review has been updated accordingly.

Two years ago, the stresses and challenges of finding jobs drove the founders of Simply Hired ( to create the site and its service—both dedicated to job seekers. The site currently contains over five million jobs aggregated from many U.S. sources, including thousands of newspapers, 5,000 job bulletin boards, and over 200,000 companies—all conveniently indexed in a single place. It’s a great place to start your search, especially if you’re looking beyond your immediate environs—although the listings are only Stateside at present.


Of course, the most popular job sites remain Monster, CareerBuilder, and HotJobs, in that order—and they’re certainly more visible. But while they have plenty of handy tools for job seekers, the three big players focus more on the companies that pay for their recruiting services than on job seekers. Check out the home pages of the top two, and you’ll see that the most prominent sign-in buttons are for employers.

The search, filtering, and tracking capabilities are what you’ll most appreciate about Simply Hired. I found the search facility, available on the clean opening page, to be simple yet powerful. You can filter the results based on criteria such as education level or amount of experience required; job type, such as contract work, full-time, and part-time; company rankings (Forbes 100 and Fortune 500, for example), and company size by number of employees or revenue. Heck—you can even seek out positions that are dog-friendly.

When you find results that interest you, the My Jobs dashboard lets you keep track of any offering, and it gives you a simple five-star rating system (much like PC Magazine‘s) allowing you—and only you—to get a quick, at-a-glance gut feeling about a particular job listing when you return to it, thus saving you the time of rereading the listing. You can also save search criteria and get e-mail alerts or even RSS feeds notifying you as soon as new jobs that fit your requirements appear on the site—options that are comparable to what’s available via Monster’s search agent.

The site’s new résumé service, Résumé Post, is free and available to the general public at; links to the service also pop up when you search the site for jobs (see the slideshow ). Résumé Post prompts you to fill out an online form that it will send to up to five job boards/sites including, Career Builder, Career Meta Search, and, helping you establish a beachhead presence on those sites (though you may still have to register for a user name and password with them).

It took me half an hour to build my résumé and the process worked fine. Each of the other sites uses its own templates and stylesheets to create a customized version of your résumé based on the information you provide at Simply Hired. (You’ll also receive an e-mail invite to visit these sites and customize your info further if you desire.) A Simply Hired representative said the upcoming fall refresh of the site will have more boards for posting your résumé. It will also have more in-depth choices for targeting jobs you’re interested in. I hope to see a few adjustments as well; its integration with other sites generated some bizarre job search results (a journalist as line cook?—see the slideshow ). The service could also communicate better once you’ve filled out the résumé form by advising you what to do next. For now, though, the new service makes the site more compelling.

Simply Hired is keen to establish partnerships, and its first big one was with LinkedIn, the career-networking site with about six million users. Once you’ve also joined LinkedIn, you gain access to mashups of the two sites. For instance, with a single click, a Who Do I Know? mashup lets you locate anyone in your LinkedIn network who works for a company with an opening that interests you. Other tools include Apply Now, Company Research, Map Jobs (which provides you with a Google Map), and Research Salary (a mashup with The Apply Now feature will take you away from the Simply Hired site to whatever page the particular company uses for online applications.

No review of Simply Hired would be complete without at least a mention of its hilarious sister site, Simply Fired ( Solace and humor are to be found there, including spoof videos of scenarios that have gotten people fired (or could get people fired) as well as testimonials and links to blogs, many of which might make you laugh—because as the site’s tag line says, “If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry.”

Simply Hired’s résumé service needs some tweaks, and many people would find a database of international job listings helpful (Monster can tell you about jobs available in some two dozen countries, for example). But the ability to search, track, and rate millions of positions easily makes Simply Hired well worth visiting.

See the slide show
Visit the site