The Book Seer is another little project we’ve just released onto the web. It’s very simple, and hopefully quite nice. Tell it what you’ve just read and it’ll suggest some stuff to read next.
It’s very simple. It’s just pulling suggestions from Amazon and LibraryThing – at the moment. I’d like to pull stuff from more places, but it’s not easy.
For example, I like supporting local libraries and bookshops. But there’s basically no way to get at this data. I’m really glad that The Book Partnership exists, but it’s not exactly a beacon of open data best practice, and its Local Bookshops service is slow, cludgey, and impossible to link to in useful, meaningful ways. Likewise, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council’s Find A Library service. There’s better data out there for libraries, but it’s mostly monopolised and ring-fenced by the Online Computer Library Centre (for more on this, see my post at Booktwo: OCLC and the Great Library Scandal).
And even many other online reading apps don’t have great ways of getting this kind of useful information out (by which I mean connections-between-books, not just the books themselves). The LibraryThing part is done by horrible old screen-scraping (sorry, Tim), and I couldn’t even make that work with GoodReads or Shelfari or Bookmooch or Bookarmy or Bookrabbit (RIP) or … well, you get the idea.
Book data is hard, but it shouldn’t be. It’s also valuable, and that’s why Amazon ranks higher than most publishers for their own books, and why monopolies like the OCLC exist and why things like OpenLibrary are A Good Thing (and I need to have a proper play with their API). Data should be free. Representations of that data can then be used by all, and the most successfull will Rise. That’s the idea, anyway: things like this should be easier to build.
Enough from me. Go, ye, to the Book Seer, and be Enlightened.
P.P.S. The Book Seer is in fact the late Mr Charles Lucy, distinguished artist and most estimable gentleman, courtesy of the London Illustrated News, 1873, and Wikimedia Commons.
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