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Murder by Death

I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.

Adding books to BookLikes update - good news, and maybe not-so-good news

The good news: I can now access the feed for HarperCollins books. The process is still rough, as every publisher formats their feeds differently, so I'm still ironing out the kinks.


The maybe not-as-good news: While I'm enjoying this adventure and very happy to do it, it's a lot of work and NOT just on my part. But let's start with my part. This is going to be a tad lengthy, but it's worth knowing what's involved; I'll put the sub-steps in spoilers to keep things shorter.


Ignoring the time and learning curve involved with setting up each new feed - not because it's negligable, but because it's a one-off expenditure of time - the steps required to get books into BookLikes are:

1. Run a request for a specific set of books (i.e. books published in May by Berkely/NAL). Save the results.
2. Open the results in an editor and run 6 automated scripts to prepare it:

a. 1st script formats the results so they're readable (raw results are delivered in one continuous line);
b. 2nd script pulls out all the stuff we don't use - like BISAC codes (whatever they are), and sales information. About 80% of each record is discarded;
c. 3rd one extracts the URLs for the image files, so adding images later is easier;
d. 4th formats those URLs so that when I copy them into BL, they'll be active links (BL doesn't do this automatically when you paste in a block of links);
e. 5th script goes through and removes any html tags, adds a hard line break between paragraphs of book descriptions, and translates nerdy entity codes into the punctuation they're supposed to be, so, for example, a single quote looks like: ' instead of like: &# 8220;

(show spoiler)

3. I copy the results and paste it into a template I write for each publisher, to create a .csv file, and save it.
4. This file is opened in a spreadsheet application (I use Numbers on my Mac).
5. Start running the program. It:

a. opens a new tab in my web brower and loads the Add New Book page,
b. pulls the data from the first line of the spreadsheet;
c. enters that data into the fields of the Add New Book page;
d. deletes the row from the spreadsheet,
e. starts again from step a.

(show spoiler)


The program leaves the Add New Book page open without submitting. 3 reasons for this: the author field is a search field, so it requires human intervention to choose the author from the results; it gives me a chance to look over everything and make sure nothing got messed up; it keeps the submissions spaced out so I don't overload the BL servers, or get mistaken for someone trying to execute an attack on the server.


I've been able to get this running pretty well - Audiobooks are properly marked, and in the case of Penguin Random House, their running time is included (HarperCollins doesn't include running time.) Books have descriptions. I think I might even be able to do some rudimentary genre selections soon too.


But the two things I can't do anything about are additional authors and covers. Because the author field is a live search, I can't add multiple authors, unless they were shoved into the same field, and I can then do them myself before submitting. Sometimes they are, sometimes they aren't. So often translators, illustrators or narrators don't appear. And covers can't be done beause of the upload process. At least, it's far beyond my capabilities.


This is where other BookLIkers come in and become incredibly important. I simply don't have enough time to add all the books, then go in and add all the covers, though I can supply the links to the covers. So far, Themis-Athena and Darth Pony have been incredible cover-adding machines. Together they've added over 500 covers to books since this project started less than a month ago. That's a low estimate, by the way; it's very likely much more.


This leads me to my point - and the part that might not be such great news. While neither of them have given any indicatoin of slowing down, they can't be the only two people who add covers. It's unfair and unreasonable, especially as they are volunteering to do this in their own time when they could be doing much more important things, like reading.


And I'm not going to continue to add books if people aren't going to be willing to contribute to the process.


There. I've said it. It's a pretty hard-ass thing to say, but there it is. None of us are getting paid to do this; anyone who takes the time to make the database better is doing it because they care about making it better. And the thing is, I'm enough of a capatilist that my untruism only goes so far; I do not believe it's fair in the long run that the many benefit on the backs of a few.


I'm going to continue doing this project - as I said, I'm having fun (so far). But I have the list of imprints that people have said they favor, and, going forward, I'm going to focus on adding only those imprints nominated by people who actively help add covers. It doesn't have to be all the time, you don't have to commit to adding x number of covers every x number of days. But the people who indicate in future posts' comments that they've added covers for some of those new books, are the names whose imprints will get added when it's time to run a new batch. And it's easy to add covers to BL; you don't even have to edit a page to do it; you just have to click "Add Cover" underneath the big green box, choose the file, and voila! It's done.


I'm hoping by doing it this way, the community will continue to benefit by the additional new books in the database, but those who volunteer their time will be rewarded - by having more of the books they read readily available. And I'll continue to try to add new feeds as time and feed availability permits.


A note about kindle and audible books: I will not be adding these. Not only can't I, for a number of very compelling reasons, but I won't. I don't like supporting Amazon, so I won't devote my free time to them.


If you've made it this far and aren't ready to tell me to piss off, please let me know your favorite HarperCollins imprints in the comments; consider it the equivilent of volunteering to be a cover-adder. ;-)