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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.)


Posted by Tim at Tue Oct 11 2005 04:56

So, you can't tag, can't comment, you have to write all your own code, you can only get in-print books from one Amazon and must endure their cataloging errors. This is better than LibraryThing, where you can tag, comment, not write your own code, mash-up all the Amazons, search 30 of the worlds largest libraries—including the actual largest—for any printed material from books to maps to serials of any age and in any language, and fix errors to your heart's content?

There is the $10 price for more than 200 books. Send me a note. I'll give you a free account.

Posted by Susie at Tue Oct 11 2005 10:13

I started keeping track of the books I've read about a year ago, upon discovering I'd read The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potters, and The Work and the Glory in the previous six months. Mostly to see how many pages it was. It is very revealing to see how many pages a girl can read.

Posted by Rachel at Tue Oct 11 2005 10:32

I'm keeping track of the books I read, just by writing them in a word document, with stuff like comments (or links if I wrote about them) the duration of reading time, who lent it so me, etc. Sadly, I often forget to do this, and scramble every several weeks to catch up. Which reminds me....

I love me my books without ISBNs. I think the cut off is around 1965 or 1970. I have sooo many... well maybe not sooo many but there are so many I want! I remember that hing you showed me for Macs that you can keep track of your library, DVDs, CDs etc. That looked pretty cool. I've wanted something like that. I made an Access database for our sources at work, so I could do the same for me except haha they don't have Access for macs and I can't figure out the database thingie that came with Dave and quite frankly can't be bothered. I'll just wait till I have so many books to project becomes such a headache I'll never do it. Yes? yes.

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