Revamping the List-o-Books, Part One


English: One of Rube Goldberg's inventions

One of Rube Goldberg’s inventions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The internet is a house of cards, a Rube Goldberg contraption held together with baling wire and duct tape.  Once you get used to things working one way, someone “enhances” something and you are back to square one.   I woke up to that fact when I tried to update my blog with an updated List-o-Books™ for 2012.

When I started putting together the first List-o-Books, I wanted to have the books I’ve read listed with titles, authors, and a link to Amazon, where an interested viewer could purchase the book.  The first time I did this, after a laborious effort hand coding HTML , and then a few nights killed writing a Perl script to generate the HTML based on a list of ISBN codes, titles, and authors, I managed to produce a semi-useful version of what I had envisioned.

The task became simpler when I got Windows Live Writer and the Amazon Book Linker plugin written by Brian Di Croce, two elegant little tools.  I could search for books easily and compile the list without knowing an ISBN from an ash can, and compose the output as a nicely formatted WordPress page, complete with cover images of the books.   LiveWriter is impressive, and I have raved about it in this blog.  But I really used Live Writer mostly to create these lists, not needing an offline editor.

Unfortunately, the Amazon Book Linker no longer works.  After contacting Mr. Di Croce, I’ve learned that Amazon has changed it’s service policies and Di Croce hasn’t had time to update his nifty software.  And who can blame him, he’s a photographer who happens to do some software development.  Keeping a little tool like the book linker up to date can take time, more time than most people have for  a side venture or hobby.

To add insult to injury, from what I’ve gathered reading Amazon’s site, Amazon only wants registered affiliates using their web services, but as a North Carolina resident,  Amazon bars me from becoming an affiliate, according to Section 2, Paragraph 4 of the Amazon Associates Program Operating Agreement.  I won’t pass judgement on Amazon or the N.C. State Legislature for setting up this arrangement, there are good arguments on both sides of this issue: affiliates aren’t really employees, but states do need tax revenue.

But, I was never an Amazon Affiliate, nor did I set out to become one.  I just linked to books on their site because it was convenient and easy, and if Amazon made a buck from the miniscule minority of Internet eyeballs that read this old guy’s blog, lucky for them.  Amazon, Live Writer and the Amazon Book Linker made it easy to create attractive looking List-o-Books pages.  My fleeting brush with Internet popularity was because of the my book lists, and I like to think having an attractive book list helped.

Trying to put together the lists from scratch, or to resurrect my old Perl script, would be a lot of work, and let’s face facts:  I’d rather be reading.  So, I went searching for a better option, and vaguely remembered that IndieBound, the Internet site for independent booksellers, offered an affiliate program to rival Amazon’s.  IndieBound doesn’t have the financial or technological heft of Amazon, but give them credit for chutzpah for even trying to nip at Amazon’s heels.  They have a pretty simple to use tool to create links to books, and philosophically I’m much more attuned to the idea of supporting local bookstores than supporting an Internet behemoth.  I own a Kindle, I love it, but I still browse for and buy  lots of dead-tree books, in stores near my home and when I travel.  There is no better way to learn about a place than to visit a good indie book store where you can find out what the locals are reading.

So, with that preamble, I’m pleased to announce a work in progress, my 2012 List-o-Books, now linking through IndieBound to your favorite local book stores.  IndieBound also facilitates purchasing through some large independent online booksellers, like Powell’s.  I’ve also painstakingly reworked most of previous years List-o-Books entries, and will be complete the rest soon.  If you buy through this site, I will get a trifling but well-deserved cut of the deal, which I promise will be well spent.  Now, go get reading!

Note:  Look for a follow-up article soon, explaining some techie details of how I created the IndieBound links.

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About Chris van Hasselt

I eat, sleep, play guitar...but wait, there's more!
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