LSJ Editors' Blog: Is the Book Burro friendly?

22 April 2006

Is the Book Burro friendly?

There is a free add-on to the Firefox browser called Book Burro which does something very interesting: it senses when you are searching for a book on the Web, gives you the prices from several online bookstores, and tells you if the book is available at your library (for now it only works at a select few libraries, but soon ,they promise, you will be able to customize it for your own local library).

Let's imagine I'm searching Amazon and I come across The Enduring Library by Michael Gorman and I think Now there is a book I have got to read. I'm about to Add to Shopping Cart but instead I glance up at Book Burro and I see that the Seattle Public Library has a copy of it. With one click it takes me not only to the SPL catalogue but specifically to the record for The Enduring Library, which confirms that the book is available. So I put the credit card back in the wallet and I head to the library--bad for MG and Amazon, perhaps, but good for me and the SPL.

Seems pretty great, no? But I wonder if there are other implications. What is stopping a reader in Seattle, for instance, from searching Amazon instead of the SPL OPAC? This is, in a way, the opposite of attempts by librarians to catalogue the Web to be searchable in library catalogues. Perhaps in the future we wont even go to the OPAC to find library resources; we'll go to Google OPAC or somesuch. And we'll put up with the advertisements because it will work. Of course none of this would be an issue if OPAC design was not so outdated...but that's a subject for another day.

The Book Burro site doesn't say much about the technology behind it. Anybody care to enlighten me on how it works?


Anonymous kjireton said...

How it works: It uses Dynamic HTML. This is a complicated gumbo, look up DHTML on

There is a "plug-in" called GreaseMonkey which simplified the use of dhtml; now, apparently people are writing plugin that are "stand-alone."

Look at for more information.

Blogger burlapwax said...

Hmmm -- your thoughts on whether this will have an effect on people using Amazon or Google to search the library instead of using an OPAC are leading me on one of my common trains of thought...if the benefits of authority control are as overarching as we catalogers believe, then a more marketable version of OpenWorldCAT might be the logical competitor to GoogleOPAC. The question, as always, is "will it matter?" Will the libraries receive patronage due to either solution? I think library catalogs make sense for research purposes, but for general readership, the GoogleOPAC theory holds more promise. It is, however, subject to the whims and advertising mechanisms of a corporation, rather than the standardization of library institutions. More on the subject later.

Anonymous Jesse Andrews said...


I'm the author of book burro. To clarify how it works:

1) It tries to find an isbn

2) it goes and queries sites & web services that know about ISBNs

3) it presents the details.


As far as searching amazon vs. your own local library, I agree that it might dissuade users from visiting their home libraries site. For instance my local library's web site is horrible.

I've been working on a version that uses Wordcat (OCLC) to return a list of libraries close to your zipcode that have a book. This way you don't have to visit multiple library's web pages.

I'd love to hear more about what people think!


ps. sorry my blog and the bookburro site are down/static, I've been way to busy update them... it's 3am and I'm still working :(

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