This blog has moved

June 1, 2010

Click here to go to the BookMooch blog.

forums now built in

May 19, 2010

I’ve added a forums feature to BookMooch. Here are a few things it enables:

* you can have open discussions about any topic.

* anybody can create a forum on any topic.

* a forum can either be an “open discussion” (everyone can post) or it can be a “blog”, where you are the only one who can post and others can comment. For example, you can create a book blog about what you’re currently reading.

* you can optionally receive email notifications of new messages from any forum.

* forums can be in any language, and are organized by language

* you can edit or delete anything you write at any time

* the forums you are active on are displayed in your bio.

You can access this feature by clicking the “forums” button on the main menu:


I’ve tried to build the forums feature to have a lot of functionality, but at the same time be quite straightforward to use.

I’ll be adding information about how each page works in the online help, by clicking the question mark icon
on the top right of each page.

My hope is for this forums feature to replace the email-only “BookMooch discussion list”.

If you’d like to discuss the design, features and functionality of the forums feature, I have a forum for that!

For those who are curious, the drive upgrade was needed because BookMooch uses a “solid state drive” for its database. That’s fancy speak for a disk drive that’s made entirely out of memory. The drive was only 64gb large (because memory is expensive), and the book database became bigger than that. Because BookMooch’s book database is almost as big as Amazon’s (but we don’t have lots of machines like they do) I use a very fast drive on the database to make everything work zippy-zippy fast.

I’ve upgraded the database drive to one that is 160gb in size, which should hold us for some time. That new drive cost about $600, which was thankfully available in the BookMooch account thanks to those who give a little.

Re: Amazon searches not working. Yes, I’ve fixed that now. Apparently Amazon rejects BookMooch’s searches if the clock time on the BookMooch server is not the same as Amazon’s clock time (sigh). Since the server was powered down for the drive swap, the time got out of sync. I *think* I’ve permanently fixed this, by setting the clock automatically whenever the server comes up.

Also, I wrote and ran a program to find “empty books” (those added during the 36h time of the problem) and re-fetch info from Amazon for them. The books I checked by hand that were blank now have data in them. If you still have empty books, do drop a note to tech support.

Re: what time zone? In the future I’ll mention that the BookMooch server’s time zone is USA Pacific, so you will know what Sunday means to me.


BookMooch will be unavailable most of Sunday, as I need to swap out a hard disk and replace it with a larger one. The “books” database is getting bigger than the current disk can handle.

Fortunately, thanks to those of you who give a little, I had $600 in the BookMooch account I could spend on a newer, bigger “SSD Drive”.




is a very nice article about BookMooch.

Please read the article and leave comments on the New Yorker page with your thoughts. The only current comment there is a bit negative because the person is in India and their postage costs are high, and that’s probably not a fair example of BookMooch usage.

A few moochers have emailed me, as they noticed that I’ve been elected to Chairman of the Board of the EFF and they were surprised that I hadn’t blogged about it. Well, this blog isn’t about me, it’s about BookMooch, and I *try* to not be too self-serving with it, so I wanted to wait until I had something BookMooch-relevant to say about the EFF.

BookMooch couldn’t exist without the first sale doctrine. It’s the single most important aspect of law that keeps publishers from prohibiting things like BookMooch, where a book, once it’s been purchased and read, can be passed onto someone else.

The “First sale doctrine” says: “once you’ve acquired a lawfully-made CD or book or DVD, you can lend, sell, or give it away without having to get permission from the copyright owner.”1

Fred Sm
A few days ago, EFF poster-boy and intellectual-property wunderkind Fed von Lohmann posted a short article about a recent challenge to the first sale doctrine.

The case is about a software company trying to use copyright law to stop their software program from being sold via ebay. The article writes:

When Mr. Vernor tried to auction four authentic, packaged copies of AutoCAD software, Autodesk sent DMCA takedown notices to block his auctions and threatened to sue him for copyright infringement. Mr. Vernor, assisted by the lawyers at Public Citizen, took Autodesk to court and won.

now this is the really interesting bit:

Autodesk has appealed, arguing that so long as its license agreements recite the right magic words, it can strip purchasers of any ownership in the CD-ROMs on which software is delivered. If that’s right, then not only don’t you own the software you buy, but any copyright owner can simply recite the magic words and effectively outlaw libraries, used bookstores, and DVD rentals, among other things (eBay also filed an amicus brief on behalf of Mr. Vernor).

The EFF have another ongoing case regarding the re-sale of CDs, which also makes interesting reading on the topic.

Got to

Fast again

January 30, 2010

For the past month, I’ve been working on making the BookMooch web site fast again. I think I’ve finally licked it.

I keep a daily chart of how many seconds it takes to load up the home page. Here is what the chart looks like over a year and a half:


You can see that the speeds were quite good from October 2008 until August 2009 when they started to get worse (1 and 2 seconds being typical) but still pretty good. Then, something happened around December 2009, when things got really bad, taking typically more than 5 seconds to load the BookMooch home page.

Initially, I thought it was simply that we needed a new server. So, I upgraded the server, and that helped a little bit, but not nearly enough.

Then I thought that this was caused by the search feature not being fast enough to keep up. So, I rewrote parts of it and removed a few extraneous features that took a lot of time, That speed a search for “Bertrand Russell” from 2.6 seconds to only 0.6 seconds. Much faster!

Unfortunately, that didn’t help either: the web site was still slow.

Then I started looking at the usage logs to see what was going on. I had 16 CPUs on the server, and when I shut BookMooch down, 14 of them were doing full text searches. Hmm.. And… 10 of those searches came from one search engine named Apparently, they’re a brand new search engine, and are trying to distinguish themselves by deeply indexing the web. Their indexer was hitting my full text searching feature pretty hard.

So, I banned completely from my site. I also banned Google and Yahoo and Baidu from using the full text feature to index BookMooch. Those sites can (and do) still index BookMooch, but they stay away from pages that are full text searches (indexing book details pages, mostly). A normal page on BookMooch takes about 2/100th of a second of the server’s time, whereas a complicated full text search can take seconds.

Bang! That was it!

The load on the server plummeted, which you can see on this chart:

There are two days of pre-ban usage on the left, where the load is very high, around 17, and then after the ban on the right side, where the server load drops to about 1/4 the previous level, to about 4. The server was a lot less stressed out.

Going back to my chart of how many seconds it takes to load the BookMooch home page, we have good news:


You can see that it used to take more than 5 seconds to load the home page, but for two days now it’s been less than 1/5th of a second to do so.

Thanks, everyone, for bearing with me as I figured this all out.

Two changes have occurred to the search results, as part of making searching work faster:

a) the search results page no longer displays 3 “related searches” for you automatically. If you want to see related searches, there’s a “RELATED SEARCHES” button toward the top right of the page.

b) the bottom of the search results page used to show you the other languages that the books from your search were in. This is no longer shown. It was noisy and not very useful and turned out to take a lot of time to calculate. I think most people use “advanced search” if they want to narrow their search down to books of a particular language.

Now that I’ve fixed the speed problems, I’m back on BM, working on new features.

One last piece of good news: now that BM is fast again, usage of the web site has climbed 45% in the past two days.


BookMooch now in Swedish

January 28, 2010

The BookMooch web site is now available in Swedish at:

My plan is to have the BookMooch web site available in lots of other languages… once I replace the book database use by BookMooch with a better and more international one. My intent is to add the OCLC, LibraryThing and OpenLibrary databases as sources of book information to BookMooch. I have agreements already in place with OCLC and OpenLibrary to do this.

Once I have a better and more international database in place, not only will we have much better “meta-information” about our books (including English ones) but it’ll be easy to add books from other languages as well, since BookMooch will know about them. The OCLC database in particular, is strong on Scandinavian books, as they tie into their excellent library system database.

The reason I did Swedish right away is that professional translator and fellow moocher Susanne Andersson had a free week between jobs and offered to do it right away.

It’s a huge amount of work (the BookMooch web site is big!), and she did it quickly and was a pleasure to work with. I’m including her business card here to thank her (hint, hint, if anyone needs to translate something into Swedish)

Susanne says that she’d be happy to supervise any translation of documents she didn’t get to, She’d also like to correspond with any other Swedes doing corrections of the translation, so that the same terminology is used throughout.

Susanne Translation 2

New server is up

January 19, 2010

The new server is up and running.

It’s 12:30 in the morning here (I’ve been working on it since 9am), so I’m going to bed now.

I still have more tweaking to do to make BookMooch fast again. I’ll get started on that tomorrow morning.

I *think* what’s taking up most of the machine’s time are full text searches. If that’s the case, I’ll need to look at that a bit further and see if there are any quick fixes I can do to make it faster, or if it’s time to move to a new searching engine for BookMooch.

So… for the time being, please have a bit of patience if the server isn’t as fast as it should be. I’m on it!