Thursday, August 26, 2004

Incidentally... (more about libraries)

I chanced upon the LibraryLookUp site while looking for tools (preferably free) with which to catalogue my own modest library. The idea I had was to type in, or possibly scan in (buying some cheap barcode scanner) the ISBNs of the books I have. Presumably I could then use some sort of lookup service to get the full information for those books (including edition information). But these lookup services all seem to cost money, which seems slightly bizarre.

The alternative idea, which I will explore if I have the time, is to write some code with which to look up the book information via a site like Amazon. Then you can look up all the product information, and also (presumably) get access to reviews and even content, using Amazon's Look/Search Inside the Book system. Maybe this can be done using the Amazon API. (Some interesting applications that use the Amazon API service.)

It seems to me that a really interesting application that Amazon might want to enable is for people to easily build their own library catalogues within the Amazon environment. Then you could easily search within your own catalogue. The only issue that I can see is privacy - do you want Amazon to know all the books that you have? Then again, they already know about quite a few of the books that I have, some of which I bought from them, and the others of which I told them I had through the recommendation system, in order to get them to stop recommending me books I already have. And millions of people already tell Amazon what they read when they purchase and review books on the site.

And then again, how many people actually have big enough collections that they want to make a formal catalogue of? I do, but how many other people do? Probably not many (when I hear about things like how the value of one's property decreases with an increasing number of bookshelves (couldn't find information about this on the internet, heard it more than a year ago on one of those let-us-help-you-sell-your-house type of home improvement shows. May be untrue for all I know.). And then, I suppose, there may be people like Lord Emsworth, creation of the immortal P.G. Wodehouse:

Lord Emsworth - "Catalogue the library? What does it want cataloguing for?"
Lady Constance - "It has not been done since the year 1885."
Lord Emsworth - "Well, and look how splendidly we've got along without it."

(From Leave It To Psmith).


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