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[Comments] (3) Fun with Amazon Wish Lists I: For years I have been waiting for a web application that lets me keep track of my books. So far the best storage mechanism I've found is the Amazon wish list. It's not intended to keep track of books you already own, but it works fine for that purpose.

Unlike trendy repositories like LibraryThing and AllConsuming, Amazon wish lists are free and reasonably fast. I've tried local spreadsheets but wish lists are easier to keep updated, and you can do more stuff with them. Amazon gives each account multiple named wish lists, and it has a (read-only, blah) RESTish API. The features it doesn't have (tagging, mainly) I don't really need, though I would like to be able to comment on a book and retrieve my comment through the API.

Among the wish lists I'm using for nontraditional purposes are the requisite list of books I own, divided into books I've read and books I haven't. I'm starting to maintain a list of all the books I've read, though I started about 23 years too late. I have separate lists for my cookbooks and movies that Sumana and I plan to rent. Et cetera.

Amazon has a horrible interface for showing you your wish list. It's designed to make you buy things from the wish list, preferably things that show up on the first page of results. But its interface for finding something and adding it to a wish list is the easiest I've used. As for looking at the list that's why the Pocket Wisherman was invented (no, really, that's why). The only problem comes when I read a book and need to find it in one list to move it to another.

I have 2 or 3 books that don't have ISBNs and don't show up on Amazon. I don't know how to keep track of those. On the whole it works out pretty well. If you want to keep online lists of books or other cultural artifacts, and don't mind (or relish the thought of) writing the display code yourself, consider using an Amazon wish list. If you also keep a "real" wish list on Amazon, don't give any shipping information for your subsidiary lists. This will make it more difficult for people to use Amazon to buy you things from those lists.

Next time: exploiting price information. (I also cover this in more detail in the Python book.)


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