Thursday, December 14, 2006

Lists on Library Thing

Last week, I became aware of a need for a simple online tool for cataloging and referencing the books I am using in my research project at the University of Bedfordshire. In one post on my 'Writing(s): not for WIMPS' blog, for example, I wanted to make a couple of links to books I had been reading. It would have been nice just to have knocked up a list page on my website but to be honest I don't have the time. However instead, I found myself re-directing readers to the relevant page. This was expedient because it provides anyone who interested with lots of information. However, I am worried about using a large commercial organization as a library and index. I am particularly worried about using Amazon as a one-stop reference and shop because this hands a huge amount of power on a plate to a commercial giant. My position might seem paradoxical considering the somewhat positive tone of my last post about the long tail and print-on-demand. However, it is the very power of print-on-demand in tandem with the potential monopoly of the amazon database (and their position in private hands) that suggests that alternatives should be found whenever one is available. I have looked at other services in the past, delicious monster , for example, allows users to catalogue resources. I have to say that I never really got on with this service. However, another option has recently come to my attention which looks like it could be bent to do the job that I require.

Library Thing, is a web application a bit like the social bookmarking site which allows you to record and share details of your book collection. On the site, it claims that it works by searching Amazon, the Library of Congress and 60 other world libraries to find your book which minimizes the data that you have to enter by hand. It also has the usual 'social' software features such as tagging, recommendations, importing and exporting, limited access to the API etc. It also works on a now-familiar business model. You can enter 200 books for free, as many as you like for $10 (year) or $25 (life) which is rather like the 'free' basic and 'paid' professional model used by flickr.

I have added the books I referenced in my post over on the
'Writing(s): not for WIMPS' blog and they can now be seen in all their glory at Digital Art by Christiane Paul and Digital Currents by Margot Lovejoy. I am also keen to make a list of the other books I have been reading this year. This will make a nice complement to the URL lists (about things such as RFIDs and surveillance) that I am building up on but accessing via a URL from the links on the right hand side of Writing(s): not for WIMPS' blog. Now all I have to do is understand how to get the information out of the API in the order I want it and I will be laughing...



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