BookMooch will (hopefully) be moving a new server on tuesday.

That means BookMooch will probably be unavailable for quite a few hours tomorrow, as I move the database.

I’m preparing as much as possible ahead of time, to minimize unavailability.

I know that BookMooch has been really slow for the past two weeks, and this should fix the slowness.

Wish me luck!

And thanks for your patience!


Power outage

January 12, 2010

BookMooch was down for about 7 hours due to a power outage.

More specifically, the circuit breaker tripped on our server rack at the hosting company, because we were using too much electricity.

I’ve noticed that BM has been slow for about a week, and so I’ve been preparing a new server for BookMooch. Last night, I put it into a “stress test” to make sure there weren’t any hardware problems. I’m guessing that the electric power draw of the stress test is what sent the circuit breaker over the edge.

No data loss, everything is back up ok, but I do need to find a way to lower the electrical draw, so I can get the new BM server operational, and everything will get zippy fast again!


Librarymooch ?

January 3, 2010

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Here’s an idea I’d like feedback on: a separate web site just for libraries who want to mooch from each other:

Yes, I know that Inter-Library-Loan exists, but it’s different from mooching, as it’s not a good way for libraries to permanently acquire books that they’d otherwise want to buy, nor is it a good way to get rid of books they no longer have storage for.

A few libraries already use BookMooch, and supporting their survival and growth is one of my personal goals with BookMooch. However, the needs of libraries are a bit different from the general public, such as:

1) they have a LOT more books, and would rather send a minimum of a box of books, and not one at a time
2) they would prefer to send their books to other libraries
3) they would like BookMooch to be integrated with their existing cataloging software

The goal would be to build a vibrant library community mooching from each other, and since their points would be acquired just as on BookMooch, offer libraries the possibilities of expanding their network (both giving and mooching) by joining the larger BookMooch community.

Thoughts? Any libraries interested in such a thing? (if so, email me).

One possibility is making simply be a sub-site of BookMooch, where a checkbox toggles which site you’re on, so that it’d be easy for libraries to “upgrade” to the greater bookmooch site, or stay within the smaller library-only community. In this same direction, it could be possible for other sub-groups to make their own “mini mooch”, such as (say) a university that wants to initially just have mooching as a person-to-person activity on their campus.

Not to worry, this isn’t what I’m working on at the moment, it’s just an idea that came up in a conversation today, and I wanted to get feedback on it.


Short URLs

December 26, 2009

Bonnieux Snow3

Merry xmas, from a snowstorm in Southern France where I was a few days ago!

I’ve made a teeny tweak to the bookmooch site today, enabling two kinds of short URLS. Namely:

  • – this now goes to your bio page. It’s meant to be short and sweet so that you can include it in your email footer or your blog.
  • – this now goes to the book’s detail page. Also short and sweet so that you can use these URLs when you’re posting a message somewhere about a book, and want to reference it (much cleaner than those huuuuge Amazon URLs)

Here are two examples:

You can find the short URL for your bio page on each person’s bio page, here:


So, if you’re emailing someone about a book and want to give a link to it, from now on you might try the short bookmooch book url.

I also added the short URL to the details page of each book. If you look at the bottom of a book details page:

Screen Shot 2009-12-27 At 9.51.38 Am

you’ll see the short URL you can copy whenever you’re referring to a book in an email or blog posting:



Screen Shot 2009-12-22 At 10.52.52 Am
If the thought you’ve been having lately has been “Gosh, how I can thank John Buckman for running BookMooch?” then I have a solution for you!

I’m on the board of a charity called the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). They’re a civil-rights-for-the-digital-age organization, and do a lot of work that’s very, very relevant to BookMooch. Further in this blog entry, I give a few examples of the kinds of good works they do.

So … for every $10 you commit to giving to the EFF, I’ll give you one of my mooch points, which you can redeem to get one book for free on BookMooch.

These are my personal points, which I’ve gained from giving away 1381 books from my home. If you join as a member, I’ll give you one year’s equivalent (i.e. one year at $10/month = 12 book points).

Here are some books & reading-related topics they’re active in:

1) the EFF has defended the “first sale doctrine” in court. The is the fundamental legal right without which BookMooch could not exist. It’s the simple idea that “once you buy something, you’re allowed to give or sell it to someone else”.

2) A few days ago, the EFF came out with a guide to the various E-Book standards and what rights and privacy is provided with each.

3) Free press – large companies have been arguing that writing on the Internet shouldn’t have the same freedoms and privacy as traditional (print press). This is a busy topic for the EFF, as it’s constantly being attacked

and way, way more…

Once you’ve made your gift to the EFF, email me a copy of the receipt you get, as well as your BookMooch user name.



ps: I tried this same idea two years ago, and it worked out really well.

I’ve long thought about having Text notifications (eg: mobile phone “SMS” messages) from BookMooch when a book on your wishlist becomes available. That would help people who aren’t at their computer all the time, be notified right away. The SMS message could even say:

“Your book ‘The Name of the Rose’ by Umberto Eco is now available on BookMooch from ‘angey (NY, USA)’.

Would you like me to reserve the book for 24h for you? Text YES back if you do”

I could also add features to tell BookMooch to do things via SMS, so you could send a text to bookmooch that said:

“bm wishlist 0812532597”

which would tell bookmooch to add the book that has that ISBN number, to your wishlist.

Or if you sent to BookMooch:

“bm 0812532597”

you’d get an SMS message saying:

“Good news, the book ‘The Name of the Rose’ by Umberto Eco (0812532597) is currently available on BookMooch from ‘angey (NY, USA)’.

Would you like me to reserve the book for 24h for you? Text YES back if you do”


“Sorry, the book ‘The Name of the Rose’ by Umberto Eco (0812532597) is not available on BookMooch at the moment.

Would you like me to add it to your wishlist? Text YES back if you do”

Would this be a feature you would get excited about?

Now, the problem. SMSs cost about $0.05 each to send. While that may not sound like much, there are over 3000 books mooched per day. If there were 3000 notifications per day, that works out to $4500 per month in SMS send fees.

Since BookMooch doesn’t charge for its use, that leaves me with a few options:

1) enable the SMS feature for everyone, but do a fundraising campaign and try to get more people to “give a little” each month

2) enable the SMS feature in a limited way for everyone (perhaps 3 notifications per month) and fully enable it for people who “give a little”

3) only enable the SMS features for people who “give a little”

I’ve made a survey to gather people’s opinions about this, please tell me what you think!


More Twitter Features?

November 6, 2009

Twitter Gra12
As I posted last week, the “newly added books” feature uses Twitter in a big way.

Now that I’ve added some Twitter features to BookMooch, it would be fairly easy for me to add deeper BookMooch/Twitter integration. I have a few ideas.

Help me decide what to do : answer this one question poll.


After 4 days of this survey, here are the results:


and here is how people answered the “other” choice:


A few comments from me in response to these results:

* “optional” — of course, this feature would be optional. There would be no obligation that just because you use Twitter and BookMooch that you need to have the two talk to each other. And of course it wouldn’t use your BookMooch username — these tweets would go to your twitter account as if you had written them. The idea is for your twitter followers to know what books you are giving away (or want to receive), etc…

* “yes, when…” — it looks like I’d need checkboxes for people to choose what BM events would cause a tweet, since what people wanted to be tweeted was all over the map

* “confusion” — a few people were confused about this feature, and thought that it would notify their twitter when books they _want_ (ie on their wishlist) became available. That’s not what it would do. What I was thinking was that BM would tweet that you have added a book to your BM wishlist, so that your twitter followers know what books you are looking for and could perhaps help you find it.

* “facebook” — there used to be a working Facebook app for BM, but it was not widely used (about 50 users per day using it). When Facebook did their app redesign a few months ago, the BookMooch app on Facebook no longer worked with Facebook’s new technology, and the person who had written the BookMooch app for Facebook decided to not put the work into making it work, since so few people used it.


BookMooch survey

October 31, 2009

As in the past two years, professor Karl Fast’s class is studying various aspects of BookMooch, conducting interviews and writing recommendations for changes. I’ve blogged quite a bit about the classes’ previous years’ results, and last year’s report on BookMooch’s culture is fascinating reading (as well as being very helpful for me).

This year, the class has broken down into different groups, each looking at a different aspect of BookMooch. It’s a bit more ambitious (which is great!) and the groups are attacking questions that I think are really important for BookMooch.

  • First survey: how you use social networking sites to talk about books and BookMooch.
  • Second survey: to find people to interview over Skype.

(these survey are now closed, thanks to everyone who answered them!)

Updated book topics

October 30, 2009

Mark and the other BookMooch admins have put together a new list of top book topics, and I think it more accurately reflects both what people are looking for, and the books that are available in BookMooch.

These new topics are now in place, and you’ll see lots of new topics that people have asked for (such as “cooking“). They show up in the “browse topics” page, and also on the “recently added by genre” page.

ps: I know that the topics assigned to books aren’t great, but this will be fixed in a bit, when I switch off of using Amazon’s data (sigh, who put “Davinci code” in “cooking”), to use using book data from other sources. I’m hoping that will happen in December.

Here is the new list of book topics:

Action & Adventure
Arts & Photography
Audio Books
Biographies & Memoirs
Business & Investing
Children’s Books
Comics & Graphic Novels
Computers & Internet
Cooking, Food & Wine
Gay & Lesbian
Health, Mind & Body
Home & Garden
Jewish American
Libros en Espanol
Literature & Fiction
Mind & Body
Outdoors & Nature
Parenting & Families
Religion & Spirituality
Science Fiction
Short Stories
Women’s Fiction
World Literature

I’ve added a suite of features that show you books as they’re added to BookMooch. Specifically:

  • see all books as they are added to BookMooch (in real time!)
  • see books in a specific genre as they are added
  • see books available in a specific country as they are added
  • only see books which are both in a specific country and a specific genre, as they are added
  • see books as they are added by a single member
  • use Twitter to subscribe to any of these feeds and monitor them however you like
  • use Twitter to search for any combination of countries, users and genres that you like.

You’ll find all these features under the new “recent” button in the “browse” section of BookMooch.

I’d very much appreciate it if any mooching Twitter expert wrote tips in the wiki help page for the “recently added books” page, as the capabilities this all makes possible are pretty neat.

Note that this feature is brand new, and the “newly added books” pages only contain books that have been added since this evening. This means that many of the genre searches you might try will come up with no books, simply because not enough time has elapsed for books of that genre to be added since the feature was added. However, in a few weeks, most of the search variations should yield results.

A note about wishlist notifications vs. the “newly added books” page

These pages are updated as if they were the very last wishlist notification for any newly added book. I.e.: as if every book had an invisible “update me” member at the end of its wishlist.

Here is how this works:

  • If nobody has this book on their wishlist, then the “recently added books” will update 2 minutes after the book is added. The two minute delay is there so that if a book is added and then whoops! it is removed, no notification is displayed.
  • If there are several people who have wishlisted the book, the “newly added books” will only update one hour after the last email notification to all the wishlisted members. In this way, this new feature doesn’t preempt wishlist notifications: you’ll still get the emails when a book you want is added, and you’ll have at least an hour to get the book before it shows up on this page.
  • If a book is mooched, reserved or removed before the “newly added books” page is updated, then the book is never added to the “newly added books” page.
  • If a book is mooched, reserved or removed after the “newly added books” page is updated, then the book is removed from the “newly added books” page. People going to the “newly added books” page will not see books that are now no longer moochable from that member. Note that there is one minor glitch, namely that the “real time” update on this page only adds books (i.e. if you leave the page open and never reload it by hand), it doesn’t remove them if the book is now unavailable. To see an updated version of the page with unavailable books removed, you need to reload the page in your web browser.

Ok, now let me explain how to use all these features.

You’ll see the new “recent” button on the “browse” page:
Screen Shot 2009-10-26 At 10.20.19 Pm

the page you get defaults to showing you all books as they are added to BookMooch. It looks like this:
Screen Shot 2009-10-26 At 10.42.52 Pm

the rounded grey box which shows you the new books automatically updates every minute or two, and it uses very little of your computer power (and none of BookMooch’s), so feel free to leave it up all day.

There is a lot packed into each entry on the page, so let me go step by step through it. One reason it’s so packed with data is because Twitter, which I’m using to manage this feature, limits each line to 140 characters. I need to make each letter count.

Here is what a single book line looks like:
Screen Shot 2009-10-26 At 10.45.04 Pm

The book title is given first. If the title is more than 70 characters long, only the first 70 characters are shown.
Screen Shot 2009-10-26 At 10.45.04 Pm2

Next, the author name is displayed. If the book title is quite long and the author name is quite long, only the book title is given. This doesn’t happen very often, though.
Screen Shot 2009-10-26 At 10.45.04 Pm3

Next, the URL to the book at BookMooch is given. If you’re interested in this book, click this URL.
Screen Shot 2009-10-26 At 10.45.04 Pm4

Note that the URL is a new, very short version of the book URL, in a new format of — if you ever need a short URL to paste into an email, you’re welcome to do this (ie, to trim into

An aside: while working to make this very short URL, I noticed that some people mis-type common URLs at BookMooch, such as “” (leaving off the trailing /) — I now transparently “fix” the most common typos and they work as you’d expect, redirecting you automatically to the right URL.

Next on the line is the BookMooch userid of the person giving this book away:
Screen Shot 2009-10-26 At 10.45.04 Pm5

Twitter uses #tags to indicate important searchable tags, which is why the # is present so many times on this line. It also means that you can use the twitter web site to search for any BookMooch username, and you’ll see (on their books as they add them.

Next, the country of the book owner listing this book is displayed, as a two-digit code (ie, USA is “US”)
Screen Shot 2009-10-26 At 10.45.04 Pm6

Next, the main genres this book is categorized in are shown, in a very abbreviated format:
Screen Shot 2009-10-26 At 10.45.04 Pm7

In this example, #chld = children’s book, and #clssc = classics. If there are too many genres for a book for the 140 character limit, as many as will fit are shown.

Finally, how long ago the book was added is displayed:
Screen Shot 2009-10-26 At 10.45.04 Pm8

Now, let’s go back to the “recently added books” form itself.

You can select a genre, and then click the “genre” button to view only newly added books in a certain genre. The list looks like this:

Note that only the “top genres” from the “browse topics” page are used. I’ve been talking to the BookMooch admins and they’re about to give me a more useful list of genres, so this will change in a few days.

the same kind of search is possible for countries, which is very useful if you prefer to mooch books from people in your own country:
Screen Shot 2009-10-26 At 11.01.05 Pm

At the top right of this page, and of every page of the “recently added books” feature set, you’ll find an “advanced search” button:
Screen Shot 2009-10-26 At 10.58.47 Pm

this brings you to a page where you specify a genre and a country that you’d like to restrict your view to.
Screen Shot 2009-10-26 At 11.03.30 Pm

For example, you can show only “Romance” novels in the “United States”
Screen Shot 2009-10-26 At 11.04.19 Pm

As of today, you can now see a “recent” button on the inventory page for every member.
Screen Shot 2009-10-26 At 11.09.08 Pm

this will give you a live page of books added by that member:
Screen Shot 2009-10-26 At 11.11.07 Pm

I haven’t yet mentioned the “twitter feed” button that is on the top right of every “recently added books” page:
Screen Shot 2009-10-26 At 10.58.53 Pm

If you click this (or the “join the conversation” link at the bottom right of each page) you’ll be taken to a page that is equivalent to the page you were just viewing:
Screen Shot 2009-10-26 At 11.12.51 Pm

If you have a twitter account, you might want to follow the “bookmooch” account on Twitter and use any of the dozens of Twitter goodies out there to do neat things.

For example, if you go to your own inventory page at BookMooch and click on the twitter feed link (editor: I just noticed that button is missing, will fix tomorrow), you might see:
Screen Shot 2009-10-26 At 11.15.44 Pm

You could then (for example) use a Twitter Widget, such as the “Widget Search” to build an automatically-updating widget of your inventory for your web site.
Screen Shot 2009-10-26 At 11.17.22 Pm

this is a really convenient way to embed your BookMooch inventory on Facebook or Myspace.

You can also very easily search newly added books inside Twitter itself. For example if you type “bookmooch #us #scifi” then this will match the “bookmooch” user (which is where the feed comes from) and the country “us” (United States) and the Science Fiction genre.
Screen Shot 2009-10-26 At 11.22.35 Pm

There’s a lot packed into this new feature, and I’m sure I’ve omitted some neat things that are possible, so please leave comments to this blog entry if you’ve got more ideas!