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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2009
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    5

    Unanswered: How do Google, Amazon, and EBay do it???

    Please pardon my silly questions because I know absolutely nothing about databases, but I'm trying to figure out how the sites in my title all have that capability where users can type, say, a book title (or ISBN or author) and search some magic DB where a pic of the book cover and all the relevant details are automatically populated into a listing (for when that user wants to list theirs for sale).

    Any idea how this is done and is there a way for me to tie into that same kind of DB (or even the same one(s) they use) for a site I want to do for a used book store??

    Any help is GREATLY appreciated!!!!! And if you could write it as simply as you can as I would like to understand your response(s), please.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
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    Provided Answers: 54
    There's some relatively sophisticated programming behind this majik, so its tough to explain simply. No two methods (vendors) are exactly the same, but the general gist of the story is similar.

    The first stage of the quest involves a search for the ISBN, which is sort of a "universal locator code" for publications like books, magazines, etc. This is generally done using KWIK (Key Word IN context) indicies, often wrapped in a SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) package so that the consumer doesn't need to code the lookup. The hits are usually scored using some kind of system that helps sort out "good" matches from "poor" matches, and if there isn't a wide enough gap in score between the top match and others nearby then the program has to ask for human intervention to choose the most appropriate one.

    Once you retrieve the ISBN, things get procedurally simpler but practically more complex. Depending on how much legal/copyright entanglement your business can tolerate you can go to many sources to get cover images, synopsis, and sometimes even sample text. The ISBN allows you to determine the publisher, which is the most work but has the fewest restrictions on what you can do with their content. The ISBN also allows you to determine what book wholesalers handle that ISBN, which gives you access to their content which is generally easier to use but has more restrictive usage requirements.

    I don't know of any two book sources that use exactly the same process (other than when one is a subsidiary of the other), so there are literally dozens or hundreds of different ways to retireve the data that you're looking for, and no single standard for the process.

    -PatP
    In theory, theory and practice are identical. In practice, theory and practice are unrelated.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2009
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    5
    Thanks heaps for your reply!!

    Now that you've pointed out that this is rather sophisticated "magic" (DBs - and you who understand them - really *are* cool), might you (or anyone who happens upon this thread) know of someone who offers a product or way to easily plug this capability into my hoped-for site (or link to someone else who does it for me)? If not, what kind of person (skill-wise) would I have to try to hire to do this for me and how difficult is it to do if one knows what they're doing? The store who's asking me for help only because I'm a friend who's done a few simple sites is a Mom-and-Pop, bricks-and-mortar book store who wants to enter the world of the "interweb" - I'm just trying to help.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2009
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    5
    Thanks heaps for your reply, PatP!!

    Now that you've pointed out that this is rather sophisticated "magic" (DBs - and you who understand them - really *are* cool), might you (or anyone who happens upon this thread) know of someone who offers a product or way to easily plug this capability into my hoped-for site (or link to someone else who does it for me)? If not, what kind of person (skill-wise) would I have to try to hire to do this for me and how difficult is it to do if one knows what they're doing? The store who's asking me for help only because I'm a friend who's done a few simple sites is a Mom-and-Pop, bricks-and-mortar book store who wants to enter the world of the "interweb" - I'm just trying to help.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
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    Ask the folks how they buy their books. My guess is that they use one or more of four national distributors, and possibly a few of the regional distributors. Very few small shops deal directly with publishers.

    Assuming that they deal with one of the major distributors, check with the distributor to see what services they offer. You might well be able to simply set a "referrer" cookie and/or use a "secret squirrel" URL and tap into what that distributor already has working. Both Ingram and Baker & Taylor have such web services readily available to the bookstores that use them.

    -PatP
    In theory, theory and practice are identical. In practice, theory and practice are unrelated.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Posts
    5
    Thanks very much again for taking a moment to help, Pat. The bookstore my friends have is a used-book one, so they don't work with anyone else besides the general public to obtain their books, unfortunately. I wonder if I can get some sort of "Search Powered by Google" drop-in?? Kind regards.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Posts
    7
    Better hire a freelancer and get the work done.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Posts
    7
    Better hire a freelance and get the work done.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Posts
    5
    Per my email conversation with Baker & Taylor, it'll cost me "many thousands of dollars a month" to get access to their databases. A freelance web designer will only cost me more on top of that! Thanks for your response, though.

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