Tim Spalding was 9 years-old when he had the idea of using his first computer–an Apple II–to make lists of the books he owned, like the Adventures of Tintin series and Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective.
Flash-forward to 2007. Spalding is now a programmer, and he’s still keeping lists, but on a far grander scale. A couple of years ago, on a lark, he created an online version of his original Apple application, one that allowed anyone on the Internet to post a list of the books in his or her library, compare it with other online book lists, and talk about literature with people of similar reading tastes.
“I was trying to scratch my own itch,” Spalding admits. That itch became LibraryThing, a social network based not on who you know but on what you’ve read. It’s already producing a nice revenue stream for Spalding from the sale of thousands of premium memberships at $10 to $25 apiece.
Spalding’s creation is quietly achieving cult status among bookworms around the world, creating a network with one of the highest IQs in cyberspace. Less than two years after it opened its doors to the public, LibraryThing’s users have listed, tagged, or recommended more than 10 million works–a collection that, were it not virtual, would be the third-largest private library in the United States, behind those of Harvard and Yale.