Words on the web: literary websites

Okay, so we don’t have an IMDB for books.  That site is one of the best resources of any kind on the web, although it focuses on the visual media (movies and TV).  You can put really obscure titles in there, and get credits and budgets and quotes…all kinds of stuff.  It isn’t a wiki (a user-contributed encyclopedia), the information is actually checked. 

I’d love that for books!   I want to be able to put World Enough, and Time  into a website, and find out how many copies were sold, how many pages it has in each edition, if it’s in e-book, who owns the rights, when it falls into the public domain…all that stuff.

The closest thing we have to that right now probably is…Amazon itself.  Even if a book has been out of print for a long time, and never made much of a splash in the first place, it’s likely to have some information in there.  It doesn’t have all the information I want, but it’s more likely to list a book than, say, Wikipedia, at least in my experience.

I know that books have a much smaller market than movies or TV.  If a book sold as many copies as a flop movie sells tickets, it would be all over the bestseller lists.  Still, I think a comprehensive book website would…well, not succeed, but I’d love it, darn it!  😉

However, there are some good reference websites out there for books.  They tend to be focused on certain genres and/or user-contributed, but still, they can be helpful.

Since e-books are books (they are…really), I thought you might find some of these helpful.

ISFDB (Internet Speculative Fiction Database)

Genres: Science fiction, fantasy, horror

This is a great site, easily searched, with a lot of bibliographic information.  You’re not going to find narratives (like summaries of the books) or reviews, but you will find where a book falls in the series, the price, all the editions, cover artists, and so on.  You can search by title, by author, by year, and a lot more.  There are also lists (such as Oldest Living Authors in the database, Most-Reviewed Books, and so on).  They have some Top 100 Lists, because, as they cleverly say, “…there must be a genetic disorder in humans which compels them to create Top 100 Lists.”

It generally presents itself as scholarly, rather than pop.  I don’t think they’ve added e-books into it yet…

When I put in my test title, World Enough, and Time, I got the listings for four publications (including links to them), listings of where it was reviewed, ISBNs, and so on.

Fantastic Fiction

This is an interesting British site, with information on (it says) over 300,000 books.  I found the title “fantastic” misleading, because that makes me think it is science fiction and fantasy, but it’s actually quite broad.  It does have those genres, but it also has romances and even mainstream.

It’s really geared towards you buying the book, and there are lots of listings.  You’ll see a book’s availability at Amazon US, Amazon UK, tons of other sources…even eBay auctions.

You’ll literally have flashing ads and such…I find that distracting (nothing like that at ISFDB), but it’s got plenty of valuable information.

They listed four editions for World Enough, and Time.

AllReaders.com

This one is a bit clunky, but has one feature that’s worth using.

This is really a listing of reviews.  What makes it cool is that you can search for books by elements…for example, if you want to find a science fiction/fantasy book where the main character is a female scientist with a cynical sense of humor, you can do that.   Looking for literature with a fancy mansion and a jungle?  Done.

It’s great if you can’t remember the title of the book.

It’s not all that comprehensive (no World Enough, and Time), but it’s pretty good. 

Here’s the link to the search:

AllReaders Book Search 

Yes, you’ll see possibly tacky ads.  🙂

LibraryThing

This is a popular site, but it’s a bit odd.  On the one hand, it’s a place for you to put your own personal library listing, so it can track what books you have for you.  It will also do recommendations based on that.

On the other hand, it’s sort of social networking.  You’ll see reviews…if it’s a popular book.  There will be recommendations based on the book.  If you put in enough books, Library Thing will figure out for you if you will like it or not.  I guess that presumes you like the books you own.   🙂

There is also a big Talk section, which is essentially a forum.

Zeitgeist is the area where you’ll find things like most reviewed books.  The largest individual library listed as I write this?  40,122…that beats me.  🙂

There was information on World Enough, and Time, but no reviews.

Free membership is required.

Kent District Library 

Some libraries have pretty extensive websites. This one is an example of one where you can search for the next book in a series. It didn’t find World Enough, and Time…or even Professor Challenger.

It’s interesting, most of these websites seem to focus on children’s series.

Shelfari

This is a popular cataloguing website, which is now owned by Amazon.  You build a bookshelf, where you list your books (similar to LibraryThing).  This also has a big social component.  You can see what your “friends” are reading, for example.  Free membership is required.

It did list World Enough, and Time.  Even without a membership, it showed me the 12 people in Shelfari who have listed the book…a few of them with pictures.  I could then click on a person and see their library, favorites, what they plan to read, and so on.

Definitely a social networking site! 

I did search for a rare book I have, and they listed it, but no members were listed.  That’s interesting to me…I might have guessed that someone had to add it before it would find it.

There is a beta (test version) of a book details page that includes things like “Books That Influenced This Book”.

Wikipedia

Just a quick comment that the user-contributed encyclopedia that is a social phenomenon is a good source of information for things like the order of books.  Yes, it can be inaccurate, but that tends to fix itself pretty quickly. 

Well, there are  a few listings.  As you can tell, I don’t regularly use all these.  I’m curious about your experiences.  Do you have other websites you’d recommend?  To you have “field reports” on these websites?  Feel free to drop me a comment.   By the way, if you recommend a website in a comment, make a statement for you that you are connected to it (except as a member/user).  I don’t want to approve comments that are actually ads.  🙂

Recommended by readers:

I have gotten a couple of recommendations from readers, and I’ll check them out.

Caroline recommended GoodReads.com.  I’d heard of it, but haven’t really checked it out yet.  I think it is similar to LibraryThing…

Joyce suggested Stop, You’re Killing Me!.  That’s a site that specializes in mysteries.  I’d heard of this one, too, but hadn’t reviewed it.  I see it has one interesting feature: you can search by character name.  There doesn’t seem to be much detail about the books, although it did link me to Amazon. 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

7 Responses to “Words on the web: literary websites”

  1. Caroline Says:

    Great list! You’ve left off my favourite, though — GoodReads! http://www.goodreads.com/

    I use it both to catalog my books, DTB and electronic, and also to find information. It’s a great site and every well organized.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks, Caroline!

      I figured I’d miss a few…I’ll add GoodReads into it. I’ve heard of it, but haven’t used it myself. I’ll check it out, first.

      Good thing folks like you could add comments to help enhance the information!

  2. Joyce Says:

    My favorite for mysteries is http://www.stopyourekillingme.com/

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks, Joyce! I’d heard about that one, too, but didn’t remember to put into the listing. 🙂 I haven’t used it, but I will add it into the post. 🙂 What do you especially like about it?

  3. Dain Says:

    First, thanks for the article on literary websites! As a library employee, I’m always on the look out for sites that will help me help our library patrons and hopefully make my job a bit easier! Second, I just wanted to make a comment about the Fantasticfiction.com website. This site has become invaluable to me at work because of one feature you didn’t attribute to it in your article; its book series search feature. I would say that one of the top 3 questions I get asked by patrons is “what is the title of book 3 in the series?” or “what’s the first book in this series?”, etc. Unbelievably, our library catalog doesn’t even have a half-way decent way to search and find this! Fantasticfiction to the rescue! Not only does the site give the titles in the series and the order in which they go, but if you search by an author, say Nora Roberts for example, it will list all of this prolific author’s series (she has several), in order plus any stand alone novels, omnibuss or contributions to other titles! You would think that the author’s own websites would do this obvious task for their readers, but amazingly, many of them don’t! And as much as I love Amazon.com, they also don’t offer an easily searchable and in-order series listing. For any reader who gets hooked on an series and an author, this is a real god-send of a website! As you can tell, I’m a bit passionate about it and just wanted to make sure the other readers of your blog who also enjoyed this particular article knew about this site’s best feature-IMHO. Now if only I could figure out how to get a little kick-back from the site since I’ve sent hundreds of users to them….:-)

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Dain! I like passionate people. 🙂

      Just to be clear, it’s http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk . You probably have it bookmarked.

      Yes, that is something people want. ISFDB.org does that well, but only for fantasy (Fantasy/Science Fiction/Horror) books.

      It’s more complicated than people might think. Should the order be the order they were published, or the chronological order of events in the series? For example, the first Star Wars movie was #4 in the series, according to George Lucas.

      The Oz books are another good example…there is one that I don’t recommend (The Woggle-Bug Book) because it really doesn’t belong with the others (it’s a tie-in to a play) and has ethnic humor the others don’t. However, some omnibus editions of Oz include it and assign it a number, so don’t.

      I love libraries! You librarians have a tough job…I did it for a little club in high school, and it was even a challenge then.. 🙂

      Thanks again!

  4. Round up #266: genre map, Hachette’s sales are… | I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] in 2009, I listed literary websites, and one of the ones I mentioned (still in operation) is AllReaders.com. I think that has an […]

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