Here are some of my thoughts.
Shelfari is a tool designed to provide its members with the ability to track reading in various status levels: read, plan to read, am reading, wish to read. To facilitate that goal, the tool uses a "shelf" to provide visual representations of the reading elements. These elements are called "books" which may not always align with the real-world definition of the term. Books are published. Works are created by authors.
Further, Shelfari provides a forum to allow members to discuss books and other topics in a social-networking environment. Members can review and post reviews about books. Members can post discussions about books. These reviews and discussions are visible to the entire membership and reaction/response to each is a feature also available to members. In addition, Shelfari provides features that allow members to recommend "books" and to ask advice about "books."
Shelfari provides and encourages members to form "Groups" to discuss books and types of books. Each group has a "shelf" , to some degree, allows reading to be represented for the group overall as is provided for individual members.
When a "book" represents a single printing/publication of a single work by an author, the tool is most useful. Complexities arise when a book is avialable via different printings or publications. Again, when each contains a single work, the tool is most useful because of the "combine" feature. This feature provides the concept of an umbrella that renders meaningless the various printings of the work so that members can review, rate, and track status of it regardless of the various printings each member may be using or plan to use.
Further complexity is introduced when the same work is available in different printings each of which may contain other works. Currently, because these are separate publications, Shelfari members cannot get to "work-level" reviews, ratings, etc for discussion purposes. There is no concept currently of an umbrella or linkage mechanism that can find these works inside these publications.
Here are some Real Life Definitions and a proposal for how to move Shelfari toward a Work-level specificity to encourage better tracking, reviewing, and sharing among members and a closer tie to real-life personal library management.
IRL baseline definitions
Book - publication
Work - created by an "author" (Author may be more than one name)
A Book can contain one Work.
A Book can contain more than one Work by the same author. (Omnibus)
A Book can contain more than one Work by more than one Author.
A Work may not be separately published but a Book can contain it as part of a collection. (e.g. The Poems of Robert Frost)
Series: A list of separately published books each containing one work. The Works involve the same characters or locations or other common characteristics and, commonly, each builds on the other to show a progression in storyline, character development, or movement toward an objective. The authors for each work may differ. The intent of the author(s) is to contribute an item toward the series.
Publisher Collection: A number of works each of which has been published separately but are reoffered as new printings or re-published as a single book for the purpose of providing to the purchaser a simple way of obtaining all (or a selection of) titles that are similar in some way.(e.g., The Franklin Library Collection of Pulitzer Prize Winning Fiction) These Publication Collections generally have an indentifying characteristic such as matching covers, boxed set offerings, or numbered sequencing of each book included.
Official List: A document naming separately published works possibly by different authors that are affiliated in some way (e.g. Oprah's Book Club) Note: This differs from an Amazon "list" as they are not just created by a member for some personal reason but have publisher value and have some method to ensure that the list entries are validated. This is appropriately used to "list" the various entries in a Publisher Collection.
Implementation on Shelfari
Book - icon representing one or a combination of content-identical publications; the icon represents the member's relationship to the "work" if it is separately published but does not, necessarily, reflect physical IRL copies of the book read and/or owned by the member.
Work - not currently instantiated on Shelfari
Omnibus - not currently instantiated on Sheflari
Series- same as above in intent
Publisher Collection - not currently instantiated on Shelfari
Official List - not currently instantiated on Shelfari
1) Create document type for "work"; these documents should contain at least one link to a publication that may be a book, a collection, or an omnibus. There may be unlimited numbers of links. Identifier for "work" is a title based on content. These actually form the baseline component of the system. All other document types are built based on relationships between and among "works."
2.1) Icon representing a specific publication of a work (member shelf count 1; 1 review/rating per member); identifiers such as ISBN.
2.2) Combined book Icon representing a collection of content-identical publications. Identifier is title based on the most common title reflected by the combined editions (books). (member shelf count should be # editions selected by the member but display will provide only one icon; list view should provide (separately) all editions; status, rating, review, and tags apply to all editions on member shelf; book detail page content for combined edition should apply to every edition in the combined version; Each edition should be separately editable to reflect information unique to that edition.)
3) Create document type representing an omnibus with a book icon display unique-indicator for shelf view. Identifier such as ISBN. Ominibus Documents may be combined in the same way that Books are combined. (member shelf count 1; ratings, review, status, and tags apply separately to each work); This could be more of a "pass-through" document type that will include links to the works that are separately published. Member shelf count for combined omnibus entries should be the # editions selected by the member but display will provide only one icon; list view should provide (separately) all editions.)
4) Create an Icon representing a Collection publication (member shelf count 1); ratings, review, status, and tags apply separately to each work; Searches should find the work first before collection publications are offered; Collections may be combined in the same way that Books are combined but each edition in the combination must represent identical works; Member shelf count is 1 per publication; Combined collections should increment member shelf count by the number of editions in the combined version selected by the member. List view should display by editions on shelf - all of them.
5) Publisher Collection Sets - This is a subset of Publisher Collections that are produced and purchased as one item but are actually separately printed books each of which may be a single edition of a work, an omnibus, or a collection. The most commonly used term to represent this is "boxed set." (This is not the same thing as one work published as separate volumes.) Each book in the set should be available on Shelfari as a separate work and book. Each book/work should provide the member with the ability for review/rating and tags but status should apply to the set overall. Shelf representation would be a single icon. List view representation would be each edition (at edition level - not book) contained in the set.
6) Series: same as IRL definition/creation and modifications to series should be reviewed by Librarians; Tracking provided on member home page and currently shows how many of the series entries are on the member's shelf. Series should be searchable.
7) Create a "List" feature. Lists will be member created but must specify an information source identifying the authority upon which the list was created. The list creation and revisions should be librarian reviewed/approved. Lists should be searchable. Each item on the list should link to the edition/book/work on Shelfari. "Lists" should be tracked on the member's home page when at least one of the books/works on the list is found on the member's shelf.