Swaroop C H

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isbn.net.in - One Place to find the best online price for a book in India

11 Mar 2010

I had an itch - I wished there was a simple way of deciding whether to buy a book and where to buy a book. So I created http://isbn.net.in

isbn.net.in first version

The initial idea I had was to make a bookmarklet that will do everything - it will figure out the unique book number (the ISBN) from the current book page (whether a publisher's site or any ecommerce site), and then search on all the potential Indian online book stores. I then realized that you can't fetch from other domains because of the same-domain policy of AJAX (I could've used YQL or something like that, but I felt it was a slippery slope).

So I had to create a web backend that will do the searching on behalf of the bookmarklet and changed the idea to simply show a jQueryUI dialog showing the sorted list of prices.

Then I chanced upon http://isbn.nu and immediately said to myself: "I want that with Indian prices". Since I was half-way there already, it took a few additional steps of buying a good domain name and configuring to use the simple URL format they used.

There was one major problem with the bookmarklet - on sites which already have jQuery, it used to conflict, and although jQuery itself can live with multiple versions side-by-side, I could never figure out if jQueryUI was loaded properly or not. I tried various things but had to give up in vain.

Finally, I decided the pop-up overlay thing was not important, and the bookmarklet can just simply take you to the correct isbn.net.in page directly.

So the "where" part of the question was answered.

I still had to answer the "whether" part of the question - that's when a friend told me about Amazon ECS using which I was able to get the very useful Amazon ratings. Then I was able to get the image of the cover of the book and other details.

Then I came across bookseer.com which makes great book recommendations, so I included an automatic link to that on the book page.

So, after much ado, I present http://isbn.net.in to you. All the instructions are on the homepage.

If you have any feedback, please read the disclaimers on the homepage and the About page, and then send me feedback.

Implementation was a lot of fun - I used Ruby, Sinatra, HAML, Mechanize, amazon-ecs, jQuery, Blueprint CSS. It was the first time I had really used any of these.

Disclaimer: I created isbn.net.in because I needed a tool like this. This has nothing to do whatsoever with my employer. It is just a personal side-project.

Updates on Praise, Feedback and New Feature: See isbn.net.in updates article.

Comments

Chandan V says:

I was searching for a book from past 1 week and was unable to find it. Thanks to you, finally I was able get my book at flipkart. It was like, I thought I'll not get that book any where in Bangalore and I open my google reader to see your link. Bingo, I have placed an order and eagerly looking forward for the delivery. Thanks a ton. You do not know how much it meant for me to have that book.

Manish says:

Nice initiative,
There is a similar search engine http://www.iglooo.in/ that crawls the web and helps find out prices of books...

Prathap says:

I have been using http://iglooo.in for sometime. But isbn.net.in has larger list of websites than it. Great job!

Alagu says:

You could also add isbn microformats (http://microformats.org/wiki/isbn) as a fallback for other sites in your http://isbn.net.in/js/bookmarklet_runner.js and instead of adding "Random" query parameter everytime, you could version the javascript files so that they are cached in the browser and you can reduce some load on your servers :)

Shankar Ganesh says:

Wow, that is great. Thanks for the tool!

sashank says:

If i need to search for prices of a book , I have to do two things


Search the ISBN number in google with books name and author
Give the isbn number to your website for getting prices


I want to do it in a single step :)

I know its simplification of developers job if ISBN number is given , but difficult for end users

Calibre ( ebook managment tool ) , on other hand gets the ISBN number from isbn.org based on book name and author name , some thing similar wud have been more useful ! :)

Kartik Mistry says:

Awesome & Thanks a lot!

Sriranga says:

it will be great if you could add even http://landmarkonthenet.com Their prices are simply unbeatable, although their collection is rather limited.

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Harpreet says:

Really nice.
Read this too : http://blog.flipkart.com/first-comes-love-then-comes-marriage

Vikas Gupta says:

Excellent! Thanks a lot!

Swaroop says:

@Chandan Wow, never imagined a small hack could be so useful!

@Manish @Prathap Aah, didn't know about iglooo before.

@Alagu Which sites use isbn microformats? I can version the javascript files but how do I get bookmarklets to upgrade (automatically) if they are hardcoded with the version number?

@Shankar @Kartik @Vikas You guys are most certainly welcome, please do send me feedback on how you use the bookmarklet :)

@Sashank It is NOT meant to be a search engine, that is a completely different level of problem... Can I access isbn.org for free?

@Sriranga LandmarkOnTheNet does not allow searching of books by ISBN, so unfortunately we cannot include it.

@Harpreet Thanks for pointing that out, hadn't seen it. It's a funny response because that kind of data is not available unless they are willing to publish their internal fulfillment records :)

Rahul says:

Wow, this is great.

BTW, it doesn't quite work on books that are pre-ordered.

Rahul

Swaroop says:

@Rahul Thanks for the compliment. Can you give me some examples of where it doesn't work, I will try to fix it.

Avinash Sonee says:

It isn't working for me since Sunday (18th April, 2010)
I was looking @ this ISBN - http://isbn.net.in/0070635935
it worked for the same book on Saturday.
I tried few other books but its working for none.
but interestingly, the book which is given in your intro page @ isbn.net.in, its working > http://isbn.net.in/0805091742
I hope you resolve the problem soon if its at your end coz I'm lovin' it

Swaroop says:

@Avinash Fixed! Sorry, I broke that part when I added Kindle pricing, but it should be working now. Please check.

Samyak says:

Sometimes, the same book with higher price is shown as a cheapest representative of a particular book site.

Swaroop says:

@Samyak Can you please provide instances of this? If I can reproduce the problem, then I can fix it.

Sharath says:

Excellent! I'll use it every time I need to buy a book :)

P.S: I noticed for some books, prices vary a lot over short periods in time. In my case, prices dropped by 30% or so (in a week) after i bought the book. Maybe a good idea to have notifications of price drops? Worth a thought :)

Swaroop says:

@Sharath Glad you like it, it's a dirt-simple but useful hack :)

Interesting idea, I'll see what I can do!

Kartik Singhal says:

I am an avid user and promoter of your nifty tool.

Just recently there has been a change in it, which is welcome, but apparently you have dropped down to comparing only 3 stores instead of 17 earlier. I know it's faster, and you are using all sorts of caches, etc. to make the service fast but why compare just 3 stores?

One good way might be to give user a choice - to search popular stores or wait longer and search more number of stores.

Swaroop says:

Hey Kartik,

The new isbn.net.in is all-new code and I initially kept only 3 stores so that my testing does not get delayed by a ton of stores, as well as, I wanted to start from a good set and add more useful stores only - there were so many stores that would not have most of the books that people searched for, so essentially it was useless keeping them in the list of stores that we search. These are the reasons that there are only 3 stores as of now, I definitely want to add more stores - let me know which ones you would like to see back in the list and I'll add them back :)

Thanks for being a passionate user!

Kartik Singhal says:

Thanks for a quick reply.

Though even I prefer flipkart and infibeam more, but once I had ordered from uread.com simply for their better price. So IMHO checking out prices at maximum number of stores is not a bad idea, even more if it is an automated process.

I am not jut a passionate user, I am a budding web dev too. I was looking through your github repo for isbn.net.in but apparently this new code hasn't been pushed there yet. I would like to help in adding more stores, if you like. :)

Swaroop says:

Hey Kartik,

I'm trying to avoid adding more number of stores than required, preferably only those ones that have been around for a while and people are actually visiting/using.

Look out for a new blog post in the coming weeks when I'll put out the source code as well.

Kartik Singhal says:

Sure, looking forward for that. :)

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