ISBN Lookup Questions (Programmers & Librarians)

I just fielded a call from a family member and thought I would turn to the Teeming Millions for help.

My sister-in-law is part of a home school program (co-op, consortium, whatever). They make use of a shared resource in the form of a library with about 2,000 books in it. However, due to a marital spat between the owner of the library and her husband (the programmer), they no longer have the library software. Thus, they have 2,000 books with no easy way to stick them all into a database.

Since I am a programmer, they asked me what would be the easiest way to get the book information back into a database.

Does anyone know of any free (or low-cost) ways of using an ISBN to get back Author and Title information?

I am trying to eliminate as much manual copy-and-paste as I can. For example, I know that I can just do a Google search for “ISBN 1-234-56789-0” and get an idea of the book title and author, but then someone would have to copy-and-paste the information into a database or spreadsheet.

I would prefer doing this programmatically as much as possible. The WorldCat Web Service looks promising, but their free stuff is limited to 500 requests per day. That wouldn’t be too bad. WorldCat also has a model where you submit a data file to them and then you get the results, but I don’t know how much that service costs.

Anybody done anything like this or have experience with WorldCat?

You could get a copy of “Readerware” on 30 day free trial.

Combine that with a bar code scanner and you’ve made life much easier. The program only costs $50.00 for the “books only” version (also comes in a Books/DVD’s/CD’s version).

OpenBiblio is a free PHP based library automation program that you might be interested in (I just started using it for a home library):

It’s not the best in the world, but I’m used to a professional program that I used to support years ago, so I may be more picky about some things than other people. However, for free, it’s really quite good – and I come from 17 years in the Library Automation field.

As for finding data, go to the Library of Congress: does carry MARC data as well (but it’s not the best quality data around):

And, I just found out about this one yesterday out of Canada:

Of course, I’m assuming you’re interested in working with MARC records (MARC stands for MAchine Readable Cataloging) for getting your data into the program.

If you’re not familiar with MARC records, this is a fantastic primer:

I worked with the woman who wrote this. She is the one who taught me about MARC records.

If you need more information, there are lots more helpful links here:

I’ll second Readerware; use it myself. It provides several sources that can be used for looking up data on a book based on ISBN (which it picks up from the barcode scanner, if you use that option. ISBNs can also be manually typed in.)

The author of the program has always been very quick to respond the few times I have sent an email with a support question.