Friday, March 02, 2007

Calling 978 

Update on the ISBN-13 difficulties. The issue is about building links on Locus Online from book titles and cover images to pages on Amazon, so that anyone ordering a book during a visit to Amazon from a link on Locus Online generates for Locus Online a small commission for their purchase. Late last year I realized Amazon wasn't handling the new 13-digit ISBN numbers. I managed to contact someone at Amazon, and was assured they would support ISBN-13s after the first of the year, when they officially went into effect.

Amazon's links didn't seem to work with ISBN-13s, even after the first of the year. I made a point to track down ISBN-10s for books being posted, so the links would still work; meanwhile Locus Magazine has gone over to use ISBN-13s wherever possible. Finally this week I dug through Amazon's help and FAQ files until stumbling upon an ISBN-13 FAQ, which explained that Amazon uses 10-digit ASIN numbers to identify their products, which just happened to correspond to the old ISBN-10s. And they will continue to do so. On the other hand...

Anyway, cut to the chase: there's an alternate Amazon 'search' link in which I *can* embed a 13-digit ISBN number, and I've reprogrammed my database to generate those kinds of links whenever I have a 13-digit ISBN, and the traditional links when I have a 10-digit ISBN. For examples, see the just-updated Forthcoming Books page -- the Eliot Funtushel title has the 'search' link using the ISBN-13. Clicking it takes you right to the page, the way the traditional links have, so the difference should be transparent to website visitors. But I thought I'd point the difference out, for those of you sufficiently interested in the underpinnings of this website to be reading this blog...
Having long-since memorized the start of the major SF/F publishers' ISBNs, back in the Stone Age when I was typing Books Received, I feel awkward with the new versions, but I guess I'll get used to them eventually (now that I'm supposed to use them for review info).

Also, take note that today's SFGate Book section has Michael Berry's column on several new genre books, including Tim Pratt's (see http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/03/04/RVGAOO8OPH1.DTL).
There is growing interest in the addicting LibraryThing which uses ISBNs on Amazon or Library of Congress to pull information into your own virtual library. Have an advanced card catalog of your books or your group or your magazine's books online. It might even bring back the CueCat.

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Mark R. Kelly

The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of Mark R. Kelly, and do not reflect the editorial position of Locus Magazine.
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