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Comparison of Internet Book Databases? 53

Posted by Cliff
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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Comparison of Internet Book Databases?

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  • Amazon? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    How about Amazon? They have many many books, including old/out of print- at least listed.
    • 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 (Score:3, Informative)

    by WedgeTalon (823522) on Saturday April 08, 2006 @10:48PM (#15093565)
    I use a couple not listed...

    bn.com and amazon.com
    • Worldcat, of course. (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      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 r
      • 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 librar
  • Amazon.com (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zhiwenchong (155773) on Saturday April 08, 2006 @10:52PM (#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 (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Tyir (622669) on Saturday April 08, 2006 @11:44PM (#15093702) Journal
      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 (Score:2, Informative)

        by NMThor (949485)

        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 m

      • Re:Amazon.com (Score:4, Informative)

        by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Sunday April 09, 2006 @02:46AM (#15094057) Homepage

        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 (Score:3, Informative)

        by NickFitz (5849)

        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 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MythMoth (73648) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @05:13AM (#15094308) Homepage
      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)
      • 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 revi

        • 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!
    • 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
    • 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
  • Supplier Databases (Score:4, Informative)

    by Monkeys!!! (831558) on Saturday April 08, 2006 @11:13PM (#15093624) Homepage
    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.
  • IBDOF (Score:2, Funny)

    by hackwrench (573697)
    We have 1133 registered users and We have 3334 registered users

    Come again?
    • 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-cre
  • ISBNDB (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bogtha (906264) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @12:11AM (#15093757)

    ISBNDB [isbndb.com] make all their data available through a web service [isbndb.com] as well. That's a killer feature as far as I'm concerned.

  • Reader (Score:3, Informative)

    by jacoplane (78110) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @03:04AM (#15094100) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 09, 2006 @03:17AM (#15094120)
    http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/ [upenn.edu] - Listing over 25,000 free books on the Web

    For dead tree books, you can search the LoC online catalog: http://catalog.loc.gov/ [loc.gov]
  • ISFDB (Score:3, Informative)

    by AussieVamp2 (636560) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @04:26AM (#15094233) Homepage
    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.
  • by bbc (126005) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @06:29AM (#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."
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • by xanderwilson (662093) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @11:07AM (#15095018) Homepage
    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).

    Alex.
  • The Library of Congress [slashdot.org] online catalog has more breadth than most of those, and it's not full of fancruft.
  • by shalla (642644) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @02:48PM (#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.
  • Theassayer.org [theassayer.org] is sort of orthogonal to the ones you've listed: it only lists free books.
  • http://www.bl.uk/ [www.bl.uk]

    Always found it very good
  • 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.
  • 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.ht m 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] sug
    • 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 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

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