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Fun with numbers. Well, it was fun for me.

More about the Library Thing... What I’m stuck on is that even the most popular books aren’t terribly popular, with the most popular being in the area of fifteen thousand out of two hundred thousand, call it one out of every twelve or fourteen Thingers. Surely half of all book-owning people own Harry Potter or Pride and Prejudice? No, not so. Even assuming that half the libraries are essentially empty, people who signed up for a free thing and never bothered entering the bulk of their books, that’s still a lot less than I’d imagine for the popular books. And once you get down to the less popular books, the spread is immense.

So YHB did a little gadabout, by taking five random books (from the random-books-from-your-collection widget) and looking at who else lists them in their LT library, and what those libraries are like.

  • The Tyrannosaurus Game, by Steven Kroll. Owned by YHB and piseco, who also owns 25 other books to be found in my library. This is clearly a collection of only children’s books. Fairly large, but still, between piseco’s 486 books and my 366 children’s books, we have in common only 26, with eight hundred unshared books between us. Looking at our total, out of 1500 books, 27 are shared, for a total overlap of a little over 1.8%. piseco’s median obscurity: 20.
  • Chronicles of Chrestomanci, Volume 1: Charmed Life / The Lives of Christopher Chant, by Diana Wynne Jones. Owned by 455 members. Clicking at random to hoopmanjh, I find that we share 32 other books, including several Oz books, some Asimov, some Bujold, some Card, etc, etc. This is clearly a sign of shared taste, yes? But his library contains 1,684 books, so our total overlap is 33 out of 2,665, or about 1.2%. hoopmanjh’s median obscurity: 64.
  • The King Must Die, by Mary Renault. Owned by 389 members. Again, I clicked at random, and wound up with fictiontheory, who has a collection of 122 books, with lots of specfic. We share 15 books, which is a pretty big chunk of her collection (her LT collection, of course, which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s all she owns), but a pretty tiny chunk of mine. Overlap: around 1.3%. fictiontheory’s median obscurity: 277.
  • The Fox and the Stork and Other La Fontaine Fables, by Roberta Sewal. This is from a series put out by Grolier in the 1960s, and nobody else anywhere has a copy of it. Total overlap: none. SilverCircle has a different book of Ms. Sewal’s retelling of the fables of Jean de La Fontaine, so counting that library of 1,153 with 17 overlaps, that’s 0.8%. That’s stretching, of course, because that particular work has a 0% overlap. SilverCircle’s median obscurity: 22.
  • Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro. This is a hugely popular book in LT, 212th on a list of more than two million. It’s the Nth most popular book in our collection. I clicked on maddiegreene, who has a tidy collection of 486 books. We share 33 of those, mostly specfic. Overlap: 2.2%. maddiegreene’s median book obscurity: 269.

Looking at the list of “users with my books” weighted for book obscurity and library size, we see franny(overlap 2.3% entirely in Dick Francis books, median obscurity 140), redheadread (overlap 7.6%, median obscurity 381), sayyid (overlap 7.7%, median obscurity 441), paperclypse (overlap 6.2%, median obscurity 286) and tuxable (overlap 5.9%, median obscurity 294). In just the raw how-many-books list, we have gwyneira (overlap 3.9%, median obscurity 78), ginaruiz (overlap 2.2%, median obscurity 47), SeriousGrace (overlap 3.1%, median obscurity 74), bookstopshere (overlap 1.8%, median obscurity 30), and jalual (overlap 2.6%, median obscurity 7).

In other words, the most I could possibly expect is to share one out of twelve books in a library that was a real outlier in being close to mine. More likely, among people who share my tastes in books, would be that thirty-nine out of every forty books we own would be different. And it’s not unusual for half a person’s library—a person picked specifically because they share books with me—to be shared with one-tenth of one percent of people with collections on LT.

What I’m saying is that people are different, one to another, even people who are pretty much the same. Although it seems, now and then, like our culture is a homogenous mass of best-sellers and series mysteries, when it comes down to details, it’s more complicated than that.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


Well put.

I'd like to put ours online but who's got the time...

Well, and it was surprisingly quick. Over a period of three weeks or so, I snatched a couple of hours three or four days a week. Of course, I type very quickly and am familiar with the various databases. Also, the majority of our books have their ISBNs nicely printed on the back cover, so I didn't even have to open the book. Of the rest, many had an ISBN on the back of the copyright page, and some of the rest had LC numbers. That only left a few hundred to search for by title and author, or to enter by hand.

A collection with a lot of older books (particularly published before 1970 or so) will take much longer than one mostly comprised of new books. Comprised of? Is that right?


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