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An IMDb for Books 391

darkgray writes "After years of reading books and never really knowing which books were, perhaps, the best out there, and in the meantime getting more and more impressed by sites like the Internet Movie Database, I decided to start a project of my own. I named it the Internet Book List, and now it needs people to vote on books they've read, and even more it needs dedicated people to submit books and author information. Help out Humanity: Add a Book!"
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An IMDb for Books

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  • What About Amazon? (Score:3, Informative)

    by n3rd ( 111397 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @12:53PM (#5459684)
    There's always Amazon.com. They have reader reviews as well as a rating system for each book. I personally use it due to the large amount of traffic they have so I can see a wide range of opinions on a product.

    They may not have everything, but they're pretty close.
    • by SirSlud ( 67381 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @12:58PM (#5459773) Homepage
      > They may not have everything, but they're pretty close.

      Erm, and you know this how?

      If Amazon decides not to carry the book, *poof* it ceases to exist if we rely on it as a means of archiving records of books.

      Also, if we rely on Amazon purely as a reference, I don't like the idea of the huge advantage they get on their competitors. Even if another site sells the book for cheaper, the convenience (pardon me, the conflict of interest) of mixing reference lists with sales catalogs seems a little too market-muddling for me.
      • by joshsisk ( 161347 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @01:12PM (#5459944)
        If Amazon decides not to carry the book, *poof* it ceases to exist if we rely on it as a means of archiving records of books.

        Well, no. There are lots of books on there that they don't carry. In fact, there are lots of books on there that they have NEVER carried.

        The do this because they will send a request to a rare book dealer for you and then take a commission from the sale if the dealer can find it for you.

        That said, I think a non-commercial DB is better...
      • by targo ( 409974 )
        If Amazon decides not to carry the book, *poof* it ceases to exist if we rely on it as a means of archiving records of books.

        Actually, Amazon has hundreds of thousands of out of print titles in their database, complete with reviews and data. So your argument doesn't really hold.
        Also, I would be much more worried about some guy's week-end project going offline than the web's biggest retailer. So I would still need more convincing to believe that this is in any way a better archiving solution than Amazon or other online bookstores.
      • by n3rd ( 111397 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @01:25PM (#5460077)
        Erm, and you know this how?

        Personal experience. It's rare I don't find a book I'm looking for.

        If Amazon decides not to carry the book, *poof* it ceases to exist if we rely on it as a means of archiving records of books.

        An excellent point.

        Also, if we rely on Amazon purely as a reference, I don't like the idea of the huge advantage they get on their competitors. Even if another site sells the book for cheaper, the convenience (pardon me, the conflict of interest) of mixing reference lists with sales catalogs seems a little too market-muddling for me.

        Conflict of interest how? You see this daily in many places. Video game reviews have links to purchase the game they're selling, same with books, computer hardare and almost everything else. And of course, if your purchase the product using that link the reviewer generally gets a percentage of the sale. The same goes for the grocery store. Why not get some toilet paper while you're there instead of driviing to Target and saving $.50?

        Like it or not, convience is king.

        Also keep in mind nobody is forced to purchase the book there, and that's exactly what I do. Use Amazon for the review and then shop around if I decide to purchase it.

        Keep in mind what this person wants to do is not create a reference list but a centralized web site for reviews. If you want a reference list I would suggest The Library of Congress.
      • by Nept ( 21497 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @01:33PM (#5460189) Journal
        Amazon doesn't even come close to having everything. If you want everything go to the Advanced Book Exchange [abe.com] online. Thousands of independent booksellers all over the world. That's everything my friend.

    • by sethaw ( 598206 ) <sethaw@yahoo.com> on Friday March 07, 2003 @01:01PM (#5459802)
      The problem with amazon is that their main purpose is to sell the product. This is a conflict of interest since they are always pushing some product to you, and in the process influencing people's opinions.

      After using it for movies and also using IMDB.com I have always preferred IMDB.com because it has a much broader user base and offers better information. I feel like a good book site could do the same if it is able to gain enough information to get started.
      • by b!arg ( 622192 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @01:56PM (#5460441) Homepage Journal
        You do realize that IMDB.com is run by Amazon, don't you?
    • by kaisyain ( 15013 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @01:10PM (#5459898)
      Amazon edits the reviews in ways that some might object to.

      Amazon limits reviews to 1000 words. 1000 words isn't really that much for some reviews.

      Amazon lets people review books that they clearly haven't read (because they aren't even available yet).

      And maybe you aren't entirely comfortable with the fact that when you submit a review to Amazon "you grant Amazon.com and its affiliates a nonexclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, and fully sublicensable right to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, and display such content throughout the world in any media."
    • What you should do is write a spyder-bot that crawls through Amazon.com's site, and collect a huge amount of book information. If you can do it surreptitiously enough, you might not get sued :-D

    • Exactly, if I need a basic idea of what a book is about or even whether a book is in print, I look at Amazon. Then I buy it from half.com, or check it out of the library. (Now that Amazon lists the price of used books right next to the new ones, I sometimes get it used through Amazon.) Amazon has publisher's descriptions and excerpts/links to standard reviews in addition to customer reviews, so it will be hard to compete with such an extensive already-existing database. The "iblist" might get some leverage by linking to as many existing reviews on individual websites as possible, they have a long long way to go if they are starting from scratch.

      I still haven't gotten over the tactile appeal of dead trees for browsing --- I sometimes go to large bookstores with coffeeshops, browse a while, have a cup of coffee, and write down the name of the books that look interesting --- much as I appreciate the vastly increased selection of books available online, I still really enjoy picking new books up, looking at them, scanning through. I'm not sure if this is just a throw-back that will go away in time (like writing papers out in longhand before typing them into the wordprocessor) or whether the experience of having a book in my hand is just fundamentally more satisfying. (BTW, I started this "writing down the title instead of buying the book" regimen before books were available online, as a way of curbing my bookbuying.)

    • by cosmosis ( 221542 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @01:13PM (#5459958) Homepage
      I think this Book List is a fabulous idea and I support it 100%. My only concern is something of this magnitude will require a business plan of some sort. Already the server appears to be having problems handing the slashdotting effect. If this project hopes to achieve its true potential its going to need a lot of bandwith and storage capacity, in addition to a lot of open-sourced people power and coordination. At the very least I would expect it would require some people to manage it full-time, who will need monetary compensation for doing so.

      Do you have a business plan that will anticipate and manage this growth. I hope so.

      Best of luck and success to you.

      Planet P Blog [planetp.cc]
    • What you'll miss on Amazon, apparently, are regionally published books. I'm currently reading "Rat's Ass Republicans, and Other Hoosier Tales" by Harrison Ullman, but you can't find it on Amazon. It's regularly available at all the local Indy bookstores (including B&N and Borders, for example), though. That sort of thing certainly leaves room for an IBDb, I think.
  • Obvious question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mosch ( 204 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @12:53PM (#5459686) Homepage
    So ummm... how do we go about inputting books ourself? I mean, there are some decent books in the system that need rating and reviews, but none that I've read recently enough to write a decent review.
  • I think it would be difficult to post most "memorable quotes" from a book, sadly. At least, not without posting a dozen paragaphs of context :) (Well, I guess there are a few exceptions ... but in general, it might be difficult)
    • Re:I think ... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gorilla ( 36491 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @01:14PM (#5459970)
      It's no more difficult than for movies.

      "Call me Ishmael" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick
      "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." - Jane Austin, Pride & Prejudice.
      "There was only one catch and that was Catch-22" - Joseph Heller, Catch-22.
      "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" - Charles Dickens, A Tale of two Cities.
      ""When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean--neither more nor less." - Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

      5 perfectly good memorable lines, without lots of context.

  • Copyrights (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Vollernurd ( 232458 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @12:53PM (#5459696)
    Have you already considered the legal ramifications for what you're doing?

    It's a sterling idea, it's just that some publishers might get aggrieved when they see information on their publications being held by a third party.
    • Have you already considered the legal ramifications for what you're doing?

      It's a sterling idea, it's just that some publishers might get aggrieved when they see information on their publications being held by a third party.
      Smokey, this is not 'Nam, this is bowling. There are rules.

      While I agree with you on these points, I have only one reply ..

      "Fuck`it dude, lets go bowling."
    • Re:Copyrights (Score:5, Insightful)

      by imadork ( 226897 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @01:02PM (#5459815) Homepage
      It's a sterling idea, it's just that some publishers might get aggrieved when they see information on their publications being held by a third party.

      How could they possibly have a legal right to complain? How is someone infringing on copyrights by simply acknowledging the existence of a published work? If it's published, it's implied that it was offered for Public Consumption, and referencing the author and title of a particular book should be considered a non-copyrightable fact.

      Besides, there are already publically-accessable book lists in many places, on and off line. Amazon has already been cited, but how about your local library? Or the Library of Congress? Do libraries need to get permission to put books in their card catalog?

      I'm curious if he recognized how much bandwidth can be eaten up by a project like this. Or if he's looked to see is Amazon has a patent on this. It seems right up their alley...

    • It's a sterling idea, it's just that some publishers might get aggrieved when they see information on their publications being held by a third party.

      To that I'm inclined to say: "so what?" While the text of a book may be copyrighted, the information about a book (page count, date of publication, author, etc.) cannot be - at least not without a few more Bad Laws being passed. And, any reviews/synopses written by 3rd parties will be copyrighted by those who wrote them and constitutionally protected (for now). Publishers might get pissy about it, but I don't see what they can do about it, legally.

    • Re:Copyrights (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ichimunki ( 194887 )
      Who the hell modded this up to five? It's ridiculous. Things like titles, tables of contents, book reviews, book ratings, ISBNs, page counts, date of publication, etc etc are either Fair Use (i.e. criticism) or uncopyrightable facts.

      Personally I see no point in such a database project unless it builds on public information like that produced by the Library of Congress.
      • It doesn't really matter whether it is fair use or not: what matters is that it be so obviously, unequivocally fair use that even the most sleazy lawyer would never try sending out a cease-and-desist letter.

        Unless you have the money to hire lawyers of your own, you have to tread very carefully around the edges of the law and avoid things that 'might be illegal' as well as those that really are.
    • This has nothing to do with copyright violation. Anybody is free to post reviews and/or opinions on whatever they like...
    • It's a sterling idea, it's just that some publishers might get aggrieved when they see information on their publications being held by a third party.

      Publisher/author information are all facts. You can't copyright facts.
  • Free is better (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jonner ( 189691 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @12:56PM (#5459728)
    Amazon and other retailer sites are good, but a free, non-comercial one is better. Amazon won't bother having entries for books they don't sell, which excludes many old and obscure ones.
    • by edgarde ( 22267 ) <slashdot@surlygeek.com> on Friday March 07, 2003 @01:09PM (#5459890) Homepage Journal
      I submitted (via email) a missing book and author, but really the site could use a form for this. Populating this database by reader submission seems pretty wrong overall -- it'll always be highly incomplete and fulla errors. I imagine it would be easy enough to get permission from publishers to parse in electronic copies of their catalogues.

      So what rights do I have with this data? I was kinda burned when FireFly sold all my record reviews (along with those by hundreds of other users). CDDB being sold to (and locked up [com.com] by) Escient [escient.com] is a better example of this phenomenon. (For those who arrived late, freedb [freedb.org] is an open source fork of CDDB, which is now called GraceNote [cddb.com]).

      No more submissions from me until someone tells me what happens to my work. I don't mind someone like Jon Katz quoting my /. posts, but I'm not willing to have my work turned into proprietary data.

      Good project tho; I'm surprised it took this long to happen.

      • Populating this database by reader submission seems pretty wrong overall -- it'll always be highly incomplete and fulla errors.
        I was a little worried about this on my own user-submitted book review site, The Assayer [theassayer]. However, it's turned out not to be a problem. The site is very open. Any registered user (i.e., someone who's supplied a valid e-mail address) can enter new books, edit the information about a book, report that the link to a free book has been broken, etc. It hasn't been a problem at all -- users are generally pretty responsible about this kind of thing. I do look at the log file every day or so and make sure that nobody has been doing anything really goofy. Also, I back up the database pretty frequently, so if someone truly malicious came along and munged it, I would just have to restore off of backup. Hasn't happened, though.

        Sure, users make mistakes like entering a title as "The War of the Worlds" rather than "War of The Worlds, The." Not a big deal. I just see it in the log and fix it.

        A somewhat bigger problem is conflicts of interest. I've had several cases where the author tried to submit a review of his own book. The cure is caveat lector: don't trust a review by someone who hasn't given any personal information (real name and bio). Also, a person who has submitted a lot of well-written reviews is more trustworthy than someone who's only written one. I've heard stories about abuse on Amazon.com, too (e.g., grad students submitting glowing reviews of their thesis adviser's book).

      • I have no intentions of selling out. I was simply naïve enough to think just about everyone would love a website where they could look up books without having pricetags pushed up their nostrils every three seconds.

        Regarding copyrights, I haven't even thought about it. I didn't realize people would be so annoyed for putting their time into a project like this. I do, however, intend to read up on the GNU licenes and whatnot and make sure I end up not even being able to sell other people's work for my own profit.

        It might be nice with some money to upgrade the server, though. :p

    • Actually, I have found several out-of-print books and software that is no longer available (old Lucasarts games, etc...) in their database, not available for sale.

      That said, I still think a non-retailer database is a fantastic idea. It would be nice if the database itself was freely available, so that we don't have a repeat of the CDDB fiasco. ("It's free! Wait, no it's not!")

    • Amazon and other retailer sites are good, but a free, non-comercial one is better. Amazon won't bother having entries for books they don't sell, which excludes many old and obscure ones.

      The original poster says that his project's goal is to become "the IMDB of books", but IMDB happens to be owned by Amazon now. So it doesn't really look like this project has your goals in mind.
  • by Schnapple ( 262314 ) <tomkidd@[ ]texas.com ['via' in gap]> on Friday March 07, 2003 @12:56PM (#5459730) Homepage
    The imdb has an easier task in this respect - movies have only been around maybe a century or so. But books have been printed for thousands of years. So, how far back are we talking? I presume you can submit a book as old as you want, but how far back is the goal?

    Fiction, Nonfiction, both?

    What about textbooks? Do we want those too?

    How about programming books? Manuals? At what stage of public availability do we want to consider? If it's on a shelf at Barnes & Noble that's one thing, but are we talking Congressional Review here?

    Suggest some boundaries!

  • by frizz ( 91565 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @12:56PM (#5459735)
    Maybe an extension to this could include magazines, journals, and other literature. Including full-text for things that are public domain would be another nice feature.
    • Agreed. As a comic book reader (and one who likes obscure, indy press), I immediately wondered if the site would include that genre as well.

      On the other hand, for a hobby project, that might be too ambitious.

      On the other other hand, I'd be willing to add entries for the books I have myself. ;)

  • Suggestions (Score:3, Insightful)

    by coldcity ( 657243 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @12:56PM (#5459743) Homepage
    1. Amazon "buy this book" buttons. They could get some decent Amazon affiliate revenue I'd think... easily done & free to set up 2. "This user also enjoyed" cross-referencing! I've found some great stuff with that feature of Amazon. Oh. Now I think about it, this site is basically Amazon, except without the database or a way to actually buy books. Hmmm.. not really that great now, is it?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 07, 2003 @12:58PM (#5459766)
    http://www.alexlit.com It's a little SF heavy, but it has a great rating systems and has been operating for a number of years. Check it out before you start a whole new project.
  • A Great Idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shadow Wrought ( 586631 ) <shadow@wrought.gmail@com> on Friday March 07, 2003 @12:58PM (#5459770) Homepage Journal
    Although folks are talking about this being a redundant service which Amazon already provides, I think this will provide a better database of books.

    I would much rather research a book or series without being unindated with adds and guesses as to what I want, and sweaters randomly dropping down out of a Target tab.

    I look forward to submitting.

    • Re:A Great Idea (Score:5, Insightful)

      by targo ( 409974 ) <targo_tNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Friday March 07, 2003 @01:11PM (#5459928) Homepage
      I would much rather research a book or series without being unindated with adds and guesses as to what I want, and sweaters randomly dropping down out of a Target tab

      In order for this site to be taken seriously and comparable to Amazon, it needs millions of titles, much more features, and the ability to survive slashdot effect. This presumes a rather powerful database, quite a bit of storage and bandwidth. The current amateurish system would never survive this, it needs some serious full time staff to keep it running.
      And there is no way this would be free unless the original poster is a philantropic millionaire.
      • Re:A Great Idea (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Deagol ( 323173 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @01:29PM (#5460123) Homepage
        Even if it fails, the spirit of the attempt is worth the time, so long as the content remains Free.

        I remember when the IMDB was a collection of huge text files passed around on USENET. Next, it was converted into DOS-based database application. The app and a few hundred megabytes were passed around the 'net. Once the WWW thing caught on, it went to the web. I don't know if there was ever a time it was on the web but not the pimped commercial version it currently is.

        Since it was a community effort, I felt it worthwhile to add my own contributions. I haven't felt compelled to contribute (can you?) to the current commercial incarnation, as it's not Free anymore.

        My biggest fear is that such a project will sell out like CDDB and IMDB did, riding on the backs of those who selflessly contributed content.

  • by GeckoFood ( 585211 ) <geckofood@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Friday March 07, 2003 @01:00PM (#5459791) Journal
    Your site looks like it is off to a good start. Considering that there are thousands upon thousands of titles, how do you add a title that is not in the database? Do you have an automated process, or are you stuck adding titles and authors by hand? If you are doing this via hand and you get, say, 100 submissions per month for a new title, you will be a busy bee (and very well might burn out before you really get going). If there is an automated process, how do you access it?
  • by jwjcmw ( 552089 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @01:02PM (#5459811)
    One of my favorite wastes of time is following threads on Allmusic. I love the way they have a description of a band, and also have information on contemporaries, styles, members etc. that are dynamically hotlinked to other items in the db. If you could do the same kind of thing with the author information, it would be really great.
  • Provide a way to download/purchase an archive of your listed books?
  • Ratings is the least interesting feature of imdb and a big failure. Focus on content. Also I didn't see any promise to keep the submitted comment "open" and "free". I don't want to contribute to another cddb fiasco.
  • Oh boy (Score:3, Informative)

    by Sgs-Cruz ( 526085 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @01:04PM (#5459829) Homepage Journal
    Get ready for a world of hurt ... first the Slashdotting, and then, if this becomes popular, a wave of traffic to your site that won't stop... just look at IMBDB or RottenTomatoes: sites that started small and today have huge server farms...
  • 1. It doesn't look like anything that online bookstores (e.g. Amazon) wouldn't have already. If I want to find out if a book is good or bad then I can usually already do it.
    2. IMDB and other similar "serious" sites have paid full time staff that deals with submissions, fixing inaccuracies, and feeding out other problems. This site, however, looks somewhat amateurish. I have seen a few similar attempts (SF-specific though) that are quickly reduced to anarchy by duplicate submissions, inaccurate data etc.
    3. As I mentioned in the previous point, there are many such attempts already, often having more features. How is this particular one any more special so that it should be advertised on /. front page?
    4. It doesn't survice the /. effect. Enough said.

    All this being said, I wish you luck. If you manage to keep the site growing, consistent and high quality (you need full time dedication for it!), it never hurts to have more information available.
  • by stienman ( 51024 ) <adavis.ubasics@com> on Friday March 07, 2003 @01:05PM (#5459847) Homepage Journal
    As nice as the IMDb is, there is one major difference between what you are doing and the IMDb:

    The sheer volume of material.

    There are far more books now than movies, and you had better start considering how you are going to apply categories and searching to it. The sheer volume also means that most of the good information is only going to reside in 'popular' books, while the rest, if it is ever added, is going to be dilute and useless.

    I wish you luck in your endeaver, I'm certian others will aid you in its progress. I can't see it becoming very popular unless you somehow leverage existing (possibly for-pay) data sources, such as Amazon, and that path requires you to take your site to a proprietary level (as CDDB and IMDb did), which will upset those who freely added material in the 'early' days.

  • Others have mentioned Amazon and some other genre specific sites. Perhaps having a site that does consolidation like Rotten Tomatoes does for movie reviews. If you could get Amazon and the other web owners to agree, you could integrate their reviews and rankings and make your site a meta site. One advantage for Amazon could be that you could provide a "buy it now" link (not saying that this is a "worthy" thing, just that it might take something like this to get them to agree).
  • free database? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by agilliland ( 657359 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @01:05PM (#5459849)
    I think what would set this apart is the fact that the data is freely available to anyone that wants it. Sure, IMDB is a great database, but the data is not free for people, and neither is Amazon's data of course.

    I am a strong supporter of FREE data the way that freedb.org gives away their database. I think that is the featrue that will make this database worthwhile. Otherwise I agree that Amazon seems to be doing a pretty good job.
  • 1. Doesn't epinions.com suffice as a general ratings/review site with a major section on books?

    2. I haven't found anything on the policy for collection, ownership, and usage restrictions of data that is gathered from this. I will be damned if I post information to be shared only to see it be used for commercially licensed purposes only like CDDB down the road. I need to know that the information submitted by "volunteers" will be freely accessible and usable by everyone else, or if not, have that policy stated clearly.

    Before everyone goes to help any kind of "community" project like this, I think the legal stipulations need to be upfront and clear.

    The other problem is, maintaining this kind of information is a large undertaking (at a scale where it can be useful, at any rate). It's a nice idea, but what will keep it running so that it will remain useful for a long time, so that we are not just wasting our time here?

  • I tried to add my book [greatmindsworking.com], but there was no submit form - even after I created an account. Got a PHP error message so maybe its just /.ed.
  • by Masem ( 1171 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @01:07PM (#5459871)
    ...at least in terms of a quick way to get pertinent data on a book (title, author, publication date, etc) via it's ISBN, ideally in an XML-type format. Sure, I know you can scrap that info from Amazon, but a simple database would be nice. I know there exists a similar XML-based database for DVD releases, and the various CD music databases already exist, but otherwise, the only place I could find a ISNB lookup outside of Amazon was one that simply returned a title for the ISBN.

    I'd also like to see something on the order for computer and video game software. Again, everything tied to the ISBN with some necessary database details to file in.

  • the best out there

    WTH does "best" mean?

  • by pummer ( 637413 )
    So, are we going to have interesting biographies on such compelling figures as Bilbo Baggins or Harry Potter??

    [/blatant sarcasm]
  • BookCrossing (Score:5, Informative)

    by ciurana ( 2603 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @01:10PM (#5459905) Homepage Journal

    For what is worth, there is a similar effort out there called Book Crossing [bookcrossing.com]. Essentially, you put books in circulation by leaving them in cafés or other public places, for people to find and comment on. I put a couple of books (my most recent one today!) out. Anyway, this creates a virtual roaming library that now has global reach.

    Check out their web site; Book Crossing has some neat ideas that could be applied to this project.



  • Help out Humanity: Add a Book!

    For you, my friend, books, I have two! Here [apple.com] and here [apple.com].
  • merely because it's a database-driven site that (so far) seems to have withstood a slashdotting.

    good show!

  • by GothChip ( 123005 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @01:15PM (#5459983) Homepage
    This is a good idea. I have often thought that IMDB is the best site on the internet since it was ran from Cardiff Uni (Despite the US-centric reporting and rampant commercialism on the frontpage).

    The main think the IMDB has over a similar book site is the interconnectedness of movies. With actors often appearing in more than one movie, the IMDB is just as much a database for actors, crew, writers, producers and composers as it is for movies.

    With books all you can really index are the titles and the authors - and crossovers are rare.
    You could still list the characters appearing in a book but due to the majority being one of appearances it's usefulness is definately restricted.

    No playing six degrees with books. and no thinking "I really like that character. What else have they been in?"

    All in all it's a nice idea but I can't see it reaching the same level of usefullness of IMDB.
  • Free labor again? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sohp ( 22984 ) <snewton@iERDOSo.com minus math_god> on Friday March 07, 2003 @01:15PM (#5459984) Homepage
    Wow, so we can have another site, like imdb and cddb, where thousands of volunteers can create a huge and valuable database, which is then claimed as sole property by a single company which then proceeds to make money for itself by charging for use? No thanks. May I suggest the Library of Congress card catalog instead?
  • Good idea, but it's missing ISBN numbers on some of the books, publisher information (Which I KNOW can be several publishers for the same work)

    I have to suggest that somebody go on a major ISBN harvesting mission for this site....

  • Trivia and Goofs (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dmorin ( 25609 ) <dmorinNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday March 07, 2003 @01:16PM (#5459993) Homepage Journal
    Are you planning to add my two favorite sections, Trivia and Goofs? I tell ya, I could spend many hours (often have) just randomly clicking through the trivia and goofs for movies I wouldn't otherwise care about. I mean, how could I go through life not knowing that the lesbian scene in American Pie 2 was shot across the street from Ferris Bueller's house? [imdb.com]

    We could even make stuff up, like, "Reportedly Douglas Adams was enjoying a tuna sandwich with pickles when the idea for 'So Long and thanks for all the Fish' struck him."

    Major time waster and brain filler : Turn on the tv. Find movie. Look movie up. Read Trivia, Goofs, Memorable Quotes, Alternate Versions, and Movie Connections in that order. On Movie Connections, click another movie that looks interesting. Repeat. My wife wonders why I'm always saying I'm going to go pick up my office but it takes days.

  • when the best book isn't the bible :-)

    Cudos though. I really think it can be successful as long as the insensative clods in here start telling real people about it.
  • In the case of public domain books, having a link to the appropriate files on Project Gutenberg [promo.net] would be nice
  • by rjnagle ( 122374 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @01:18PM (#5460018) Homepage
    I wrote an essay about what such a book database would look like.
    Books, Ontologies and Shared Dictionaries [idiotprogrammer.com]

    Interestingly, many of the book reviews from the major sites (nytimes, ny review of books) charge for access to archived articles. When writing my longish longish essay on Gao Xingjian's novel Soul Mountain [imaginaryplanet.net], I had to go through hoops to figure out how to reach cached copies of these articles. Although dozens (if not hundreds) of people had reviewed this same book, only a handful were publicly accessible.

    Unfortunately, this sort of project would be successful if the major book publications agree to open their content. i would argue that access to old movie reviews (like Roger Ebert, etc) on imdb hasn't hurt the respective publications. Perhaps if the project gains enough momentum, the major publications will see value in providing their content for free.

    I hope this project succeeds (and more importantly finds funding), but I have to wonder what is so wrong with depending on newsgroups (easily accessible from google groups) to find reviews. It's free, easy and threaded, so conceivably people could reply to a thread on a specific book.

    Robert Nagle
  • By the time the server recovers, I'll have another book finished and ready to review! What an innovative concept!

    First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. -- Gandhi

  • This sounds like a great idea. However, many users have been burned by the CDDB debacle when the operator of that database changed its licensing terms. Will this database be available through a free, as in libre, licence?

    Two suggestions for enhancing the site:

    • Add links to Gutenberg etexts
    • Add biographical information about authors

  • by Quixadhal ( 45024 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @01:25PM (#5460078) Homepage Journal
    Everyone who's chiming in with "What about Amazon" is missing the point of having an independant database whose purpose is to collect and distribute information.

    Amazon is only interested in marketing books so people will buy them. They aren't going to carry information about things they can't sell.

    The Library of Congress will carry information about the book, but no commentary or reviews... and even they won't store data on books that may be centuries old, or only available outside the United States.

    As far as legal concerns... remember that little principle called "Fair Use" that all the big companies want to take away from us? Printing a self-compiled catalog of book titles, even with small excerpts, should be covered under fair use. Reviews of said titles should be 1st amendment. Of course, IANAL.

    This is a great idea!
  • by LowneWulf ( 210110 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @01:30PM (#5460150)
    The book database looks like it's pretty heavily geek-weighted right now. Not saying they aren't some of the best titles, but the top fives seem all to be your standard geek picks for books snd suthors.
  • by Brad Lucier ( 547713 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @01:32PM (#5460167)
    Check out "The Assayer" [theassayer.org] for online book information.
  • lots of work (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Hubert_Shrump ( 256081 ) <cobranet@gmail.c3.14159om minus pi> on Friday March 07, 2003 @01:33PM (#5460178) Journal
    Before I go itemizing all my rare/out-of-print/hard to find books, I'd like to know what's going to happen to the data.

    Is this going to turn around and go commercial, or (as we're led to believe) be project Gutenburg-ish?

    If it's going to be open, can we get the DB on DVD, I'd certainly pay for a million-plus library of books that other people cared enough to index.


  • LOC Blog (Score:3, Interesting)

    by blair1q ( 305137 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @01:34PM (#5460192) Journal
    Why don't we just lobby for the Library of Congress to put its catalog online with voting and posting?
  • Library of congress? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by k98sven ( 324383 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @01:41PM (#5460278) Journal
    Why not get a copy of the library of congress records?
    They've got quite a lot of books in there and they're public, so you should be able to get them at the cost of reproduction.
    (although, given the sheer size, that might mean some money)

    Seems to me to be a good 'skeleton' for a database like this.
  • What is the point? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Greedo ( 304385 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @01:45PM (#5460315) Homepage Journal
    If you just want to get reviews of books you might find interesting, check out other online sites like Amazon. Or (gasp) join a book club. Talk to friends. Read reviews in the newspaper.

    And if you want to create an uber-list of all the books in existance, I'm afraid the Library of Congress has probably beaten you to it.

    What makes the IMDB useful (for me, at least) is not their reviews, but the way I can see who was in a particular movie, and what other movies they may have been in. Or to look up who played the part of that really cool character in such-and-such a film.

    There are no comparable "searches" you could do on a IBList-type site. The LoC (among many other places) could give you the list of all the books by a particular author. And if you are looking for "If you loved Dickens, then you'll also like ..." type suggestions, that's where your book club/reviews/knowledgeable bookstore staff will help.

    Oh, and by "knowledgeable", I suggest you ignore your big-box Chapters, B&N or whatever, and visit your local, independent bookseller (if they haven't been driven out of business yet). In my experience, their knowledge and service far outweighs any minor price discount from Big Book City. Often, the independent is cheaper too, especially on new hardcovers.

  • by reve ( 59221 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @01:50PM (#5460381)
    Hi. I'm employed by a library and am working on a masters in library science, but IANAL(ibrarian).

    That said, I spend a lot of time around databases of books. And I'd like to respond to a couple criticisms that have been raised in previous threads as well as make some suggestions.

    It is true that are reference resources for books -- Books in Print with reviews, for example. And to an extent, BIP has been replaced by Amazon -- Because BIP costs money, whereas Amazon is fast and free. Librarians in general arn't happy about an entity with a stake in selling books controlling the reviews. They'd like to see a good, free resource develop.

    But then we're vexed with the question of data format. We're developing free resources which we want to be interoperable, right? There is an internationally-accepted standard (data format) for electronic storage of bibliographic records -- it's called MARC. (http://www.loc.gov/marc/) Any new system storing records of books really should use MARC -- or at least be able to export to MARC, like allmusic/allmovie.com do.

    Again, on the standards front -- what about subject tracings? Yeah, in the current database there's a place for genere, but books often cross those lines -- especially when you're dealing with nonfiction books. Library of Congress puts out a massive list of approved subject headings called (approperately) the library of congreess subject headings (LCSH). Wouldn't using those be wise? Plus you could get the records from the LoC already classified, saving a lot of work and arguments as to how to classify "the diamond age."

    But downloading all those records manually would suck. Luckily, there's also a standard protocol for moving bibliographic records from one place to another -- z39.50. The advantage of z39.50 here would be that the maintainer of the site could suck zillions of bibiographic records from libraries, the LOC, whoever -- as well as share their records with libraries, schools, etc. They (for the most part) wouldn't have reviews, but they would have accurate summaries and bibiographic (size, publisher, isbn, pages, etc) information. To me, that seems like it would be a good way to start getting records for the userbase to augment. Plus, there's a z39.50 perl module available for your fun and entertainment. (http://perl.z3950.org/)

    I think a database like this is ABSOLUTELY needed, and hope the creators will take these standards into account as their resource develops.

  • by Cire ( 96846 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @02:23PM (#5460722)

    The basic problem is that there was no online database for movies before imdb [imdb.com].

    But these people are re-inventing the wheel. There are tons of people who have much more experience with this stuff, who've spent years getting masters degrees in library science. These people have spent a lot more time trying to figure out out to categorize books already.

    Plus, there are already numberous search tools available, like the loc [loc.gov] and Amazon [amazon.com].

  • by osgeek ( 239988 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @02:37PM (#5460888) Homepage Journal
    (I wish I could see what the site has, but it's /.'d)

    When it comes to books, I tend to want to read the ones that are recommended by other people who share my tastes.

    No system like this will ever be complete(useful?) without a way to filter out the opinions of people with whom I'll probably never agree.

    A big problem with IMDB is that you have so many widely varying opinions, that it's a pretty useless way to find movies that I might enjoy. It's only really good for seeing who starred in what, really.
  • by wytcld ( 179112 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @02:42PM (#5460943) Homepage
    Isn't discussing books online a violation of Amazon's recent patent. Granted, that only applies in contexts where the books are also offered for sale. But if you offer them for sale at anywhere other than Amazon, they can come after you, as long as that silly patent holds up. Meanwhile, I'd suggest that sites which do both discuss and link books consider bn.com - as complete a catalog as Amazon, no bad patents. Let's keep Bezos busy making more enemies.
  • All Consuming (Score:3, Informative)

    by evand ( 2571 ) <esd@NOSpaM.cmu.edu> on Friday March 07, 2003 @02:43PM (#5460958) Homepage

    While the Internet Book List looks like it might eventually become a worthwhile alternative data source to Amazon.com [amazon.com], I've been using All Consuming [allconsuming.net] for a little while and find it to be an exceedingly useful resource for book information.

    While it does use Amazon data (the merits of which are discussed in other replies to this article), All Consuming provides a clean interface and metainformation to the base data, as well as nifty features like weblog scanning (to find mentions of books), the ability to track a book collection, and a "friends" network that keeps one up-to-date with other members' various literary excursions.

    As I put it [recombinant.org] on my weblog [recombinant.org]: "If you read, join All Consuming [allconsuming.net]."

  • Science Fiction already has two sites (though not with rankings) with tens of thousands of book and story titles already listed. They are:

    The Locus Index [locusmag.com]; and

    The Internet Speculative Fiction Database [isfdb.org].

    The Locus database covers SF/F/H/etc. from 1984 on fairly comprehensively, while the ISFDB covers a wider timeframe, but isn't (yet) nearly as comprehensive. ISFDB was also suffering under some badwidth caps earlier in the year, but expects their problems to be solved (via hosting through the Texas A&M library system) very shortly. Both are well worth bookmarking and using.

"The Avis WIZARD decides if you get to drive a car. Your head won't touch the pillow of a Sheraton unless their computer says it's okay." -- Arthur Miller