Bookstores, for all the obvious reasons, are hanging on by their fingernails. What brings people into bookstores nowadays? Some of us still buy and read actual printed books. Some of us enjoy browsing the shelves and tables. Some of us value interaction with friendly and knowledgeable booksellers. And some of us like to see and hear authors when they come to speak and sign books.

There are lots of author events at bookstores. Recently LibraryThing’s Tim Spalding tweeted:

Upcoming bookish events on @LibraryThing Local now over 10,000! http://www.librarything.com/local/helpers

It’s great that LibraryThing “helpers” (individuals, libraries, bookstores) are adding all those events to LibraryThing’s database. But I’d really like to see bookstores help themselves by publishing standard calendar feeds. That way, LibraryThing could ingest those calendars automatically, instead of relying on dedicated helpers to input events one at a time. And the feeds would be available in other contexts as well, syndicating both to our personal calendars (desktop-, phone-, and cloud-based) and to community calendars.

When I saw Tim’s tweet I took a look at how bookstore events are feeding into various elmcity hubs. Here’s a snapshot of what I found:


location store ical feed?
Bright Lights
Monadnock Region of NH Toadstool yes
Cambridge, MA Harvard Bookstore yes
Brookline MA Brookline Booksmith yes
Boston MA Trident Booksellers yes
Ann Arbor MI Crazy Wisdom yes
Portland OR Powell’s yes
Dim Lights
Berkeley East Wind Books indirect
Canada Chapters Indigo indirect
Seattle Third Place Books indirect
… and some others …
Dark Matter
Berkeley City Lights no
Various Barnes and Noble no
Seattle WA Elliot Bay no
… and many others …

There are three buckets:

Bright Lights: These are stores whose web calendars are accompanied by standard iCalendar feeds. Events from these stores appear automatically in the Monadnock, Boston, Ann Arbor, and Portland hubs. These stores’ calendars could also be ingested automatically into LibraryThing, and you could subscribe to them directly.

Dim Lights: These are stores whose web calendars are hosted on Facebook. There isn’t a standard iCalendar feed for Facebook calendars, but the elmcity service can synthesize one using the Facebook API. So I say that these stores have “indirect” iCalendar feeds.

Dark Matter: These are stores whose web calendars are available only in HTML format. Some of these calendars are handcrafted web pages, others are served up by content management systems that produce calendar widgets for display but fail to provide corresponding feeds.

There are a few Bright Lights and some Dim Lights, but most bookstore calendars, like most web calendars of all kinds, are Dark Matter. If you’re a bookstore I urge you to become a Bright Light. Making your calendar available to the web of data is as easy as using Google Calendar or Hotmail Calendar. It’s a best practice that bookstores disregard at their peril.