Topics list is now a drop down list

August 30, 2007

This is a tiny tweak, but it’s always bugged me how, on the book details page, you often had to look at a dozen or two topics on the page. Worse, because every topic was linked to a browse page for that topic, every topic was blue underlined, making it “scream” on the page.

And to add insult to injury, Amazon tends to put too many topics on books, so we got lots of complaints about how stupid we the BookMooch staff must be to have all these stupid topics, stupid!

I’ve changed the topic to be a dropdown now, such as on this page:


as you can see on this book, there are lots of topics:


the book details page looks a lot neater now, with all those blue underlined topics gone. You can still browse on a give topic, by selecting one and clicking “GO”

A teeny change, I know…

I thinking of perhaps doing the same for previous givers/moochers/wishlists. It’s usually not a problem, as most book titles aren’t popular enough to be traded frequently but the page for “The Long Tail” is ghastly:


12 Responses to “Topics list is now a drop down list”

  1. Lethe said

    Hi John,

    I hate to complain when you’re doing so many great things here, but as long as you have brought up the topic of topics, I have two comments.

    Regarding: “And to add insult to injury, Amazon tends to put too many topics on books, so we got lots of complaints about how stupid we the BookMooch staff must be to have all these stupid topics, stupid!”

    Making topics be a drop-down list is the wrong solution to the problem of too many long topic lists. The correct solution is fixing the acquisition of these multiple spurious topics.

    I have found many cases where a book here at bookmooch has a bunch of stupid non-relevant topics on it, where the same book at Amazon does not. So somewhere along the way of getting book info from Amazon, spurious incorrect topics are introduced. This is what should be fixed instead.

    Example: , which has a bunch of topics in its record while there are NO topics at all on its Amazon page. Or this: , which has a bunch of just plain wrong totally non-pertinant topics, which the amazon record for that book has just a handful of correct topics.

    Most of the time when there is a ridiculously long list of topics, they are spurious. If these listings were correct, you wouldn’t have the ugly long list of topics that is driving you to make the drop-down button. I would rather see a short list of correct topics that doesn’t require mouse action to reveal, than a long list of incorrect topics that requires mouse action.

    Secondly, on the advanced search page, you have a box to type in topics you want searched. If you enter the word “Science” there, no books are found, which is obviously nonsense. However, if you enter “Science” into the top input box and then set “Words appear in” to “topic only”, then you do get science books. (You have to put “fiction” in the “Not these words” box in order to filter out the “science fiction” books.

    Thanks again the wonderful site. I think fixing the incorrect subject headings would be a big improvement, almost as great as it would be if I could add condition notes before adding a book rather than after.


  2. Patricia said

    I don’t mind that the topics list is now a dropdown menu. But please don’t do that to the moochers/givers/wishlists even if it’s a long list sometimes. I like that I’m able to see at one glance who has mooched, given, and wishlisted a book.

    The reason is I am able to control-click on a name or several names at a time (Windows) and the moocher’s page (whether bio or wishlist page) will open in a new tab (Firefox). I like doing this because I am able to see who else has wishlisted a book I like and then I find out what else he has wishlisted. More often than not, by reading other people’s wishlists, I realize what other books I like that I forgot to put on my wishlist. (I said “wishlist” too many times there. =)

    I also do this (control-click) on previous moochers and givers of a book. If they gave away or mooched a book I like, I control-click on all the names to go their bio and then I can see what else is in their inventory that may be similar to that book. This has helped me find a lot of books available here in BookMooch.

    If you make all that as dropdown lists as well, I won’t be able to open their pages in new tabs at simultaneous or succeeding times. You can’t control-click on/open-in-a-new-tab a dropdown list. I’ve tried that on the topics list.

    So, that’s what I think. I really hope you’ll keep the previous givers/previous moochers/wishlists thing as is. It’s simple to navigate and just better for quick control-clickers like me.

    Thanks, John.

  3. Kirk said

    I think I suggested this some time ago, but if you allowed users to modify the topics (check or uncheck them to remove them) then, gradually, they would be more valuable. I know I’d do it for some of the books in my inventory, and if people did it when they browsed or added books, it would eventually simplify the anarchic topics.

  4. Love Bookmooch! Thank you for all your hard work! I’ve added more to my library in the past three months than in the last five years!

    One thing I’d love to see . . . link to a query of the most recent additions. I’d love to “browse” the way I do at bookstores — just wandering around and seeing what’s marked “New”.

  5. evolve said

    I think that making the topics alterable by bookmooch members (perhaps only by those who add the book to their inventory, to prevent abuse) would make the topics function actually useful. As it is, and as has been stated, several books have long lists of completely irrelevant topics.
    I mean, come on.. 18th century? African American? Native American? Woman Writers? It’s Bukowski!


  6. Guilherme said

    If any list of users is too big, I would suggest adding an expandable “… and $number others” link rather than a drop-down. It’s impossible to have a sense of volume on a drop-down list.

    And talking about topics… does anyone actually use them? I think Amazon’s classification quality is so low it’s not worth it. I know it’s a lot more work, but a “people who mooched this also mooched…” list would be a much nicer way to browse.

  7. Sharon Epperson (sharonae44) said

    oh please – oh please – please, plleeezzeee, Let me browse by what’s new, been posted in the last 24 hours, last 48 hours, last week. Anything to keep from having to scoll though 50K books. If you cannot do that then make the lists longer (like 100 books or so) and sort them by author’s last name instead of title, but include the title. Sorting by title only with no clue about the author until one has clicked the link is soooooo time consuming and frustratingly slow and tedious and boring.

    I know that I miss a lot of good books because I only look at BookMooch when I see something I want at another swap site so that I have ISBN, exact title or exact author for the search box.

  8. Kathy said

    I’ll add my voice to the one above who is requesting that you do not make the “previous moochers/givers/wishlists” into drop down menus. I love seeing the really long lists of blue names because it gives you a feel for how many people like the book and makes you feel like you are a part of that group. I also have fun when I see that one of my wishlist books or inventory books has only me on the list because it makes me feel like I am helping bookmooch grow and/or finding and pointing out a new book gem. If these lists were made into dropdown lists, it would ruin the “at a glance” feel you get for the popularity of a book and make it all feel more business-like.

  9. Trochee said

    geeky observation: there’s something funny about the escaping in the drop-downs. One of the available topics for this book ( )is “Comics & Graphic Novels”. (I might add, this is one of those with too many topics: why does “Publishers” come up?).

    Anyway, the geeky observation: following the “Comics & Graphic Novels” drop-down takes me here ( which lists *nothing*. But if I type “Comics & Graphic Novels” into the search field, I go here ( which is full of stuff. Somethings wrong with the escaping of ampersand?

  10. Trochee said

    As a response to Lethe at the top, it looks like books from are listed with *every* topic: see for example this one:
    which is “The Edina Ronay Knitwear Collection”, listed as everything from Audio CDs, Biography to Horror but is pretty clearly just about knitting (and maybe fashion).

  11. Lethe said

    As a response to Trochee, whose comment I have just seen, if you look at the same book at, you will see that it has none of the topics listed in the bookmooch entry for them. In particular, the listing for that book has only one topic “Fashion” (scroll down to see), which is not on the bookmooch listing for that book. So the bookmooch listing for that book did not get those topics from the listing. So where did they come from?

  12. acaplyenlinly said

    I am here at a forum newcomer. Until I read and deal with the forum.
    Let’s learn!

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