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Comparison of Internet Book Databases?

Cliff posted about 8 years ago | from the what's-out-there-and-how-well-do-you-like-them dept.


An anonymous reader asks: "There have been several attempts at creating a book database like the IMDB. I list several [in the full article] and I would like to know which you like best, and which you use most often. What are the features you find the most useful out of the book databases you use?""Here is a list of free Internet book databases:

IBDOF - The Internet Book Database of Fiction
IBList - The Internet Book List
Parchayi.net - Parchayi.net Book Database
SciFan - SciFan
FantasticFiction.co.uk - Fantastic Fiction

And I know of only one commercial one, the FictionDB, which is the largest among all the ones that have been listed.

Does anyone know of any others?"

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Amazon? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15093533)

How about Amazon? They have many many books, including old/out of print- at least listed.

Re:Amazon? (1)

d.corri (952075) | about 8 years ago | (#15093537)

True, but they're only in it for the money.

Re:Amazon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15094964)

Well, Amazon does own IMDB, right? Nobody complains about IMDB being less useful because they're "only in it for the money."

Re:Amazon? (1)

drsquare (530038) | about 8 years ago | (#15095870)

Amazon isn't a database of books, it's a database of publications of books. You can get the same book listed over and over again, each of a different size/cover/price, rather than one entry for each book. The ranking system is very flawed and only the most recently released books have any comments.

Not listed (3, Informative)

WedgeTalon (823522) | about 8 years ago | (#15093565)

I use a couple not listed...

bn.com and amazon.com

Worldcat, of course. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15094190)

Worldcat. http://www.oclc.org/worldcat/default.htm/ [oclc.org] . 65 million items. No more and no less than a unified catalog of mayor libraries, in the US and beyond, unified on the basis of sharing open-format records (MARC), that obey clear standards of bibliographic description and classification, developed and proven thru many decades. AARC2, LCSH, etc. Where cataloguers have gone thru the pain of researching who is who, what is what and where is where. And not just books, but serial publications, maps, sound recordings, pictures, computer files, and those weird things called realia. I love library catalogs and the cataloguers that make them. (Library reference zombies, and Library managers, that is another story).

Worldcat; one sly fox? (1)

Kadin2048 (468275) | about 8 years ago | (#15116228)

While it seems like a neat concept on the surface, I'm not sure I'm a fan.

The link you provided was dead for me though, although this worked:
http://www.oclc.org/worldcat/ [oclc.org]

The whole thing looks rather suspiciously proprietary; in order to get access and be able to search directly, you have to pay -- or be a member of a library that does. Basically what they're doing is getting libraries to contribute their electronic catalogs to the database, and then selling access to the resulting data -- BACK to the libraries that contributed! Not a bad business model, all they have do do is maintain the hardware and database, and watch the information and cash flow in. With every contribution, what they have becomes more valuable.

From http://www.oclc.org/worldcatsets/about/cooperative /default.htm [oclc.org]
While OCLC catalogers create some Collection Sets, most are built by OCLC member libraries, which have purchased a predetermined content set from a publisher and cataloged the set using OCLC cataloging tools in order to make it available to you. ... If you are an OCLC member institution, you can contribute a Collection Set of records your staff has cataloged. OCLC will set up a special authorization to allow you to input the records into WorldCat at no charge.
Putting data IN to their system, that's free (naturally); getting anything useful out doesn't seem to be quite so easy, or cheap.

At least not directly. It seems that they have partnered with some web sites [oclc.org] in a program called Open WorldCat to share their content, including with Google Scholar [google.com] and Google Books [google.com] , but there's apparently no direct public access. The closest I could get was by searching Google Scholar for a term, looking for the [BOOK] results, then clicking on the "Library Search" link, which took me to an Open WorldCat page.

The link to the Open WorldCat page doesn't use a human-readable link, either; it looks like a hash of some sort. For example, the Library link from the Google result for [google.com] P.L. George's "Automatic mesh generation: application to finite element methods" is this:

http://www.worldcatlibraries.org/wcpa/ow/f9f4fc530 c1c64e2a19afeb4da09e526.html [worldcatlibraries.org]

Maybe someone can figure out what hash they're using and provide a way to search them directly; just in case anyone was wondering, doing a Google search for "mesh generation" site:worldcatlibraries.org doesn't return anything.

I like their concept in terms of unifying all the library records, but I really am uncomfortable and frankly put off by their obvious and shameless attempts to monetize what ought to be a public resource. I'm glad it's at least searchable through Google, but their web site makes it clear that they'd much prefer you pony up some great and unspoken (of course there's no price listed, so we can only guess) wad of cash to get at their database.

I suppose that their partnership with the likes of Google and Amazon is a step above totally proprietary databases that are 100% pay-to-play, but I still find the concept of any database that's build up almost entirely from contributions by tax-supported Public Libraries doesn't have a globally accessible direct interface to let people search it. Plus, it's not clear that the information that you can search via Google is even their whole catalog: "Open WorldCat returns only the holdings of OCLC member libraries that subscribe to the WorldCat database on FirstSearch." Assumedly, the database that you pay for is more complete, and includes information from libraries that aren't current subscribers.

Excuse me if I sound cynical; the whole thing reminds me a bit of CDDB/Gracenote, writ very large. If someone can provide some good evidence that they're not just Hoovering up information until they can hit some sort of critical mass and productize it, I'm willing to change my opinion. But my initial reaction to these type of institutions is highly skeptical.

Amazon.com (5, Insightful)

zhiwenchong (155773) | about 8 years ago | (#15093575)

I'd have to say that Amazon.com probably has the largest online book database in the world, with perhaps the exception of loc.gov.

The most useful feature of the Amazon database is the user reviews. I usually check out the reviews on Amazon before I buy a book. Many of the reviewers are quite good, and trolls are usually easy to spot. I don't think it would be easy to replicate what Amazon has to offer. Yes, it's a commercial database, and you can't add titles to it, but those things don't really bother me, given that I have been able to get information on any book I have ever wanted on Amazon.

It would take one heck of a free book database project to beat it.

Re:Amazon.com (0, Offtopic)

TopShelf (92521) | about 8 years ago | (#15093633)

What idiot modded the parent Redundant? It's the 3rd post for the article, and is more comprehensive than the previous ones...

Re:Amazon.com (4, Insightful)

Tyir (622669) | about 8 years ago | (#15093702)

All true. Unfortunately, as soon as amazon decided to stop selling a book, or for whatever reason, the listing will be gone. Personally, I'd rather a book database be not owned by a commerical entity that can list whatever it wants.

One thing that should have been listed is Wikipedia, you'd be impressed with how many books there are. I tend to check Wikipedia on information on books before Amazon, althought it is still not nearly as comprehensive.

Re:Amazon.com (2, Informative)

NMThor (949485) | about 8 years ago | (#15093756)

Unfortunately, as soon as amazon decided to stop selling a book, or for whatever reason, the listing will be gone.
It seems to me that Amazon does keep books that are no longer being sold (e.g. "out-of-print") in it's database. I have looked for information on a lot of older scientific texts on Amazon and I have yet to find a book that hasn't been listed on Amazon, even those that aren't being sold anymore. Might not have, for example, a book image displayed, but it'll be there. Of course, this doesn't mean that one day Amazon could decide to drop all out-of-date listings, but for now...

Re:Amazon.com (3, Informative)

CRCulver (715279) | about 8 years ago | (#15094057)

All true. Unfortunately, as soon as amazon decided to stop selling a book, or for whatever reason, the listing will be gone.

Not so. While that sometimes happens with CDs, book listings stay around forever. Amazon contains books concerning obscure fields, published in microscope quantities, and fallen out of print decades ago. I study linguistics, which means I read a lot of dusty old monographs, and I never have a problem finding them on Amazon.com to review. Take Brian Joseph's The Synchrony and Diachrony of the Balkan Infinitive [amazon.com] , an obscure Cambridge University Press publication from 1983 really targeted just at libraries and never cheap enough for individuals. It still has an Amazon.com listing.

Personally, I'd rather a book database be not owned by a commerical entity that can list whatever it wants.

IMDB is now owned by a corporate entity, and while the quality has decreased, there's no problem with disappearing listings.

Re:Amazon.com (2, Informative)

NickFitz (5849) | about 8 years ago | (#15095017)

Unfortunately, as soon as amazon decided to stop selling a book, or for whatever reason, the listing will be gone.

They still list books by my father that have been out of print since the late 70s and early 80s, so apparently not.

Re:Amazon.com (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15098012)

All true. Unfortunately, as soon as amazon decided to stop selling a book, or for whatever reason, the listing will be gone.

No, just because *they're* not selling it doesn't mean they don't want other people to sell it through their marketplace. It doesn't make sense for them to remove listings.

Amazon.com API (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15093812)

You should also point out that Amazon.com has a Web Services API that (3 years ago when I used it) allows you to run queries and pull information down in nice XML packages. You can even search their international sites.

Re:Amazon.com (4, Insightful)

MythMoth (73648) | about 8 years ago | (#15094308)

I'm not as enthusiastic about Amazon user reviews. There are several big problems:

There is a tendancy for books to be reviewed by the people who like them. The gushing enthusiasm syndrome is at its worst in the Big Fat Airport Book genre of science fiction. Disregarding reviews with substantial spelling or grammatical defects ameliorates this problem.

Reviews by shills are depressingly common. These are the worst sort, because they're often quite literate and to the point. They're hard to spot, too, mostly showing up if you've noticed the name of the reviewer in some other context in close association with the book's author's name.

(Begin main rant)

Finally there's the "Top NNN reviewer" syndrome. Some of these are authentic, but a lot seem to be by idiots who scan the provided publisher review for basic details and paraphrase them. They always award 5 stars (to get a "this review was useful for me" click from the author?) and they sometimes are laughably off base.

For example, from the 5 star review for a book of mine:

"This should not be your first book on computers..."

Well no. That's because it's called "Building Portals with the Java Portlet API" and someone completely ignorant of computers wouldn't choose that in preference to an obvious beginners book on computing unless they were doing a LOT of drugs.

The guy who wrote that review is a "top ten" reviewer. His recent reviews covered such subjects as ASP.NET, Reproductive Biology, Architecture, the Confederate Horse Artillery, Corporate Finance, and Cultural anthropology.

None of these reviews contain any facts from outside the editorial reviews. Every one of his last 50 reviews was a five star reviews. Either he's REALLY enthusiastic about a LOT of subjects, or he's some complete tosser who's writing reviews of books he's not read in order to get whatever benefits acrue from being a Top 10 Reviewer.

And if he's honest, then I'm a leopard.

Amazon, of course, don't care because it helps to sell books when naiive users see a five star review from an apparently disinterested third party for a book they were considering buying.

Personally, however, I'm happier with the readers who disliked my book, awarded it the minimum one star rating (how come you can't give zero?) but were writing an honest review. Even if they are eejots :-)

I wish Amazon would consider the longer term effect on their reputation and kick out any top reviewer who's taking this approach. But I won't hold my breath.

(End rant)

Re:Amazon.com (1)

Imsdal (930595) | about 8 years ago | (#15098745)

I mostly agree on the Amazon user reviews, but I still find them highly informative and valuable. The trick is to disregard the four and five star reviews and read the lower rated ones.

If a book gets loads of one and two star reviews from right wing evangelical nutcases who can't spell, it's probably a good book. This is quite common for books by Pinker, Dawkins, Dennett etc. (For some reason, I don't see too many reviews from the left wing nutcases. Why is that?)

If, on the other hand, the one star reviews are pointing out specific problems with the book, chanses are they have a point.

There is one thing to look out for, though. In some highly competetive markets, in particular computer books, I've heard that there are sock puppets who not only praises their own books but also spends considerable time dissing competitors. I usually don't buy too many books in that segment anyway, so for me this isn't an issue, but I assume the average slashdotter does, so mea culpa!

Re:Amazon.com (1)

MythMoth (73648) | about 8 years ago | (#15101563)

If a book gets loads of one and two star reviews from right wing evangelical nutcases who can't spell, it's probably a good book. :-)

Very true. Applies on /. too - I generally stop reading any comment as soon as I encounter a to/too, your/you're, or they're/their mistake. Or any of the ones in my sig.

I would be hard put to justify the correlation on any logical basis, but it does appear to hold true from the empirical evidence available!

Re:Amazon.com (1)

drsquare (530038) | about 8 years ago | (#15095884)

The good thing about imdb is that each film has one entry. At amazon, each book can have dozens of entries, for each publication of it, it's a complete mess. Its main aim is to sell you the book, rather than to provide information about it.

The reviews are awful, it seems the most popular, dumbed-down books released in the last few years are the only ones which get any decent ratings.

Not to mention the site is cut up into geographical areas, so you end up having to go to several different entries for a book on several different sites just to get what imdb would have on a single page.

Re:Amazon.com (1)

1iar_parad0x (676662) | about 8 years ago | (#15099873)

I've noticed that Amazon has a habit of 'lightly editing' reviews if the review will directly hurt their sales. For instance, I once mentioned that the author placed a pdf version of the book on his site. While the reason for this omission is obvious, I didn't like the fact they reworded the review to cover up the modification. I would have prefered they flat out reject the review, insted of rewording it and putting my name on it.

In short, I like amazon.com, but I wish there was a non-profit entity that would provide amazon like content.

(Ahem... I'm looking in your direction Wikipedia!! :) )

Supplier Databases (4, Informative)

Monkeys!!! (831558) | about 8 years ago | (#15093624)

Working in a bookstore allows me access to book supplier databases such as iPage [ingrambook.com] . While they may not have the scope of the publicly listed databases, they do include books they haven't been published yet.

Re:Supplier Databases (5, Informative)

TopShelf (92521) | about 8 years ago | (#15093644)

For further info on iPage, head here [ingrambook.com] . There's a free basic subscription which gives access to over 2 million titles...

Re:Supplier Databases (2, Funny)

SeeMyNuts! (955740) | about 8 years ago | (#15093839)

"While they may not have the scope of the publicly listed databases, they do include books they haven't been published yet."

Bor-ing! My MTMD (Massive Typing Monkey Database) has books that haven't been written, yet!

IBDOF (2, Funny)

hackwrench (573697) | about 8 years ago | (#15093641)

We have 1133 registered users and We have 3334 registered users

Come again?

Re:IBDOF (1)

Blakey Rat (99501) | about 8 years ago | (#15095653)

Hah. It might as well read, "The Online Book Portal Created By Morons!" as far as I'm concerned. How do you let such a easy-to-spot mistake go unnoticed on the first sentence of your home page? Criminy. Even worse, what the hell is it supposed to mean? My guess is they mean "1133 registered users and 334 unregistered users," but your guess is as good as mine.

More criticisms: Their website design is questionable; it looks like a combination of the default phpbb subSilver theme combinaed with poorly-created transparent .gifs. There's no site search other than Google's, which isn't *terrible*, except that Google's search isn't designed for books and doesn't return the fields you'd be most interested in. (i.e. Title, Author, Genre.) The DB doesn't contain an entry for the novel Halo: The Fall of Reach, but good luck figuring that out from the Google search. (In fact, three search strings in, I'm still not entirely sure it's not there.)

Reader (2, Informative)

jacoplane (78110) | about 8 years ago | (#15094100)

Personally, I have been using Reader [reader2.com] , but mainly because it allows me to easily keep track of what books I've read or am currently reading. I don't think as a database it's as exhaustive as some of the other solutions. But, as others have pointed out, there's Amazon for that.

ISFDB (3, Informative)

AussieVamp2 (636560) | about 8 years ago | (#15094233)

http://www.isfdb.org/ [isfdb.org] Apart from the very handy website, there is a nice MySQL database dump that is very easy to grab and use yourself. It helped me find some old novels that had read that I couldn't remember the name of, but knew when they were published. A few queries, and there you go.

LT, Picarta, Google, European Library (3, Informative)

bbc (126005) | about 8 years ago | (#15094416)

http://www.oclcpica.org/ [oclcpica.org]
http://books.google.com/ [google.com]
http://www.librarything.com/ [librarything.com]
http://www.theeuropeanlibrary.org/ [theeuropeanlibrary.org]

Were you looking for something specific?

From LT's FAQ [librarything.com] :

"LibraryThing uses Amazon and libraries that provide open access to their collections with the Z39.50 [wikipedia.org] protocol. The protocol is used by a variety of desktop programs, notably bibliographic software like EndNote. LibraryThing appears to be the first mainstream web use."

LibraryThing (3, Informative)

booch (4157) | about 8 years ago | (#15096108)

LibraryThing [librarything.com] is pretty cool. It's a member-built database, but it links back to Amazon to get a lot of the details.

Amazon + Listal (1)

Apreche (239272) | about 8 years ago | (#15094574)

Amazon pretty much has every book which has ever contained an ISBN number in their database. Via the Amazon API it pretty much becomes the IMDB of books. Combine it with http://www.listal.com/ [listal.com] and you can really start to kick ass.

E-book Libraries (1)

Feneric (765069) | about 8 years ago | (#15094590)

Don't forget that there are not just libraries of book metadata online, there are libraries of complete books:

While these libraries are by no means as extensive as something like Amazon [amazon.com] , it's nice having the full text of the books themselves.

Comic Book and SF Fiction databases (2, Informative)

xanderwilson (662093) | about 8 years ago | (#15095018)

Of the ones you mention I've used FantasticFiction more than once, perhaps because it came up first on the Google search.

There's the CBDB [cbdb.com] for comic books.

And The Locus Index [locusmag.com] for science fiction and fantasy works, featuring short stories (which is no small task).


don't forget library resources (3, Informative)

shalla (642644) | about 8 years ago | (#15095759)

I'm a big fan of Amazon.com when looking for book information, but I'd also like to point out that public libraries often pay for access to book databases for their patrons, many of which can be accessed from home.

My library subscribes to Novelist [epnet.com] and Novelist K-8, which can be awesome when looking for fiction.

Many libraries also pay for patron access to the Books in Print database.

Finally, if you're determined enough, you can find some interesting things in WorldCat [oclc.org] , the union catalog of OCLC libraries. This is now searchable from Google and other places.

LibraryThing's "Works" (1)

tigris (192178) | about 8 years ago | (#15101731)

LibraryThing [librarything.com] is trying to do something similar to what you describe with its "work" system. Basically all different publications of a particular title are linked to one "work", which allows for recommendations and reviews to be shared among different owners of the same title (even if they own copies by different publishers, dates, etc.). The database is pretty small so far (only a few million books) but it's a pretty nifty concept and should only be more useful as more people add their books.

It's called OCLC (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15102403)

... and it's been around for the last 30 years or so. And it has something like 60 million records [oclc.org] , created by professional librarians. Done already.

Parchayi.net (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15106494)

I am the creator of the parchayi.net book database. Several new features have been added to Parchayi.net, especially in the bookshelf section - http://www.parchayi.net/bookhelf [parchayi.net] and I have managed to obtain several large book meta data databases which I'm currently in process of importing.

I do take suggestions - email them to contact@ibookdb.net

Free stuff to developer (1)

RMH101 (636144) | about 8 years ago | (#15113426)

I'll give a free pro Datalogic USB barcode scanner (I've a few spare ones I acquired ages ago and haven't used) to anyone who can come up with a simple Windows application that reads barcodes, submits them to http://isbndb.com/account/dev/api/20-structure.htm l [isbndb.com] , and builds a simple text file with all my books in there. I've got hundreds of books to take to the Charity shop, and I'd like to itemise them all - and I can't code for toffee.
Can anyone help me out?
http://www.eblong.com/zarf/bookscan/#quick [eblong.com] suggests it's trivial via Perl for those that can use it... barcode AT infobubble DOT co DOT uk if they can...!

Alexandria (1)

Kadin2048 (468275) | about 8 years ago | (#15116438)

It's unfortunate you don't use Linux, because then you'd have access to the excellent Alexandria [rubyforge.org] application, which I think covers everything you'd want to do (and more, probably). It's designed to quickly catalog an entire personal library of books, download information on them, and store that information in a database. I assume one could export information out to a flat text file if you wanted to from there. It supports a variety of barcode scanners (including the CueCat, it's good for something at last!).

I don't know whether it interconnects with isbndb.com in partiuclar, but it does use Amazon, Proxis, Barnes and Noble, the Spanish Ministry of Culture, Amadeus Buch, Internet Bookshop Italia, the US Library of Congress and the British Library; it can also use any other Z39.50 source.

If you really can't boot into Linux for a weekend to do it, perhaps you could use cygwin or something.

Re:Alexandria (1)

RMH101 (636144) | about 8 years ago | (#15116593)

I guess...cheers for the headsup. To be honest I've got a short term goal of indexing about 200 books ASAP - and all I want is book name, author, date in a .CSV file - and I'm time-poor, what with having a 2 year old to keep amused, a full time job and a pile of PCs *this high* to fix this week. A windows app would save me a load of time - I'm going to spend most of the free time I've got available getting dusty in the attic, getting the books in range of a laptop, and so whilst Linux is nice'n'all, I'm a bit strapped for the time to play with it.
You know how it is, I've been meaning to check out yet another modern distro again(looks like ubuntu's flavour of the month) but before I switch it's gotta do *everything* my Windows boxes do and I've not got the time to sort this out, either.
My bad, I'd love to spend a week or two tinkering but chances of that happening are pretty slim.....

rRhino.com (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15163519)

rRhino.com [rrhino.com] is a similar idea to this, and lets people maintain reading lists of their books, and discover new ones.
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