Digital Book features in link resolver and opac

I’ll give a tour of some new features we have deployed (yes, these are live) in our link resolver and opac.  These are features related not to just public access digital full text of books, but also “search inside” features, and limited preview/excerpts.  I kind of put in search inside and limited preview on a whim, and it wasn’t until I had implemented them and was looking at my demo that I realized how incredibly useful they are. I expect them to be some of th most favored of the new features by our patrons—a surprisingly large number of books in our catalog end up having limited preview and/or search from Google and/or Amazon, even without full text.

These features have all been implemented in the Umlaut link resolver, but then ‘vended’ to the catalog, providing an example of the ‘service oriented’ approach to a link resolver in library infrastructure that I wrote about before. The OPAC uses Umlaut’s javascript helper code to embed Umlaut content in a very easy to implement way.

Thanks to Jason Ronallo who significantly helped with the development effort on these features as part of a summer internship.  (Jason is currently in the job market looking for a job).

Services used for these features are Amazon, Google Book Search, Internet Archive and HathiTrust.  For cover images, Amazon, Google Book Search, Open Library, and CoverThing are all consulted. I’m not going to go into the details of connections to these services in this post, there’s enough here already, but feel free to ask and I’m happy to talk about it.  All of these services posed certain challenges, and all of my code could be improved further. In particular, some of these services have new APIs that didn’t exist when this code was written, and Umlaut should be updated to use them.

Because the features rely on external services which may be slow, it can be slow waiting for all potential content to load.  On top of that, our server seems to be getting a bit overloaded and pokey with this new rollout–I’m afraid it is intermittently being awfully slow. Growing pains. Anyway, a snazzy ajax background loader works to keep the initial page loading fast, with updates as they are available. So wait for it while you still see a ‘spinner’.

So, on to the exciting features.

Open Access Digitized Books

Find It will look for open access digitized books in Google Book Search, the Internet Archive, and HathiTrust. It will show Full Text links for content found. (HathiTrust not shown unless no GBS full text found. HathiTrust is somewhat more generous with their public domain determination).

GBS and Internet Archive both have fulltext opac link resolver Google has been rate-limiting me sometimes. If you don’t get a Google hit there, try the same item in my test (rather than production) setup, which hopefully won’t be rate limited.I need to fix my code to use the properly authorized GBS API. It was written before that existed. Also, as I’ve been testing over the past few weeks, I swear I notice a significant number of items that USED to be available from GBS in partial or full, now are presented in the api as no/snippet. Hmm.
internet archive only opac link resolver Internet Archive search uses author/title keyword, unlike GBS which uses identifiers (lccn, oclcnum, isbn). I need to fix the IA plug-in to use the OpenLibrary API, which wasn’t yet available/complete when it was written.
HathiTrust and IA No match to HathiTrust in opac link resolver Google decided this book was not public domain, HathiTrust decided it was.JH does have a record in catalog, but does not match to HathiTrust since JH record does not have an OCLCNumber, LCCN (or obviously ISBN) and HathiTrust matching uses identifiers.Internet Archive matches are still found (are they correct?) because IA match is on keywords. However, this means that IA matches may sometimes be an alternate version/edition.

Search Inside Feature

As with all features, search inside functionality on the Umlaut page is only be provided after Umlaut has actually confirmed that the particular title is searchable in one of these services.

HathiTrust search inside tool is provided, if available, even if Google search inside is also available, because some may prefer the HathiTrust interface. Although lately, HathiTrust is unbearably slow. HathiTrust search is also provided for in-copyright books (with page numbers only, no excerpts), whereas the Google API doesn’t allow me to discover whether search-inside will be available for a “snippets” book–I only provide a GBS search inside if I can confirm it will work.

GBS search inside opac link resolver again, maybe rate limited by google. Try test environment opac. Note when multiple providers exist (Google and Hathi in this case), a select menu is provided to choose which you’d like to search.
Amazon search inside opac link resolver
HathiTrust link resolver note that nobody else has search at all, but HathiTrust has search with excerpts. Actually, GBS may have search, but their API doesn’t reveal it.
HathiTrust limited results opac link resolver For in-copyright materials, HathiTrust search has page numbers only, no excerpts.

Limited Preview/Excerpt

Both Amazon and Google Books sometimes provide excerpts of books even when they do not provide full text. Excerpts usually (but not neccesarily always) are front matter, back matter, and a few random pages. They usually (but not always) include table of contents and index, when the book has them.

Find them under the Limited Excerpts heading, with a cute little open book icon (thanks famfamfam!).

Limited preview from Amazon, but not google opac link resolver
Google and Amazon opac link resolver Okay, why has this one stopped getting a hit from Google at all, the ISBN has no match at all in GBS, when it used to give me limited excerpts. Huh?
Amazon and Google for real opac

Author biographical info

A bit out of place with the others, this is sort of an extra bell/whistle using the OCLC Identities service. If found, a link will be included to a biographical (or biblio-biographical, really) page on OCLC Identities, providing interesting information on works by and about the author, among other things. OCLC Identities matching is actually by OCLC bib number.

OCLC Identities also sometimes provides a link to a wikipedia page it has identified as belonging to the specified author. Originally this was included in Umlaut, but my local team vetoed it. It’s still available as a feature in Umlaut, just configured off in my instances.

Look under “See also”, for “About… from OCLC Identities.”

These are available for a large number of records in our catalog, some of which the OCLC Identities page isn’t all that exciting. There are also many records where I’d think an OCLC Identities page would be available, but it isn’t, not sure why.

OCLC Identities opac link resolver Link made by sending OCLC bib number to OCLC Identities. Only works right now with OCLCnum in OpenURL, but it could be enhanced to do keyword lookups too.


Internet Archive also provides some public access audio files of audio books of many texts. Find It is currently including them too, just because I thought it was neat and it came along more or less for free with the Internet Archive digitized text search.

Links to audio books, where available, will show up in the “see also” section.

IA audio books opac link resolver While in general I want to switch Internet Archive plug-ins to use the Open Library API, instead of the weird semi-public Internet Archive search API it’s using now, audio books availability is not provided through Open Library, still would have to use this one for that.

5 thoughts on “Digital Book features in link resolver and opac

  1. Thanks for the comparison – I would like to add another hint to an integrating Firefox addon.
    The Google Book Search results appear on _every_ page that shows an ISBN.
    ..and sorry – yes, I’m the author :-)

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