OCLC refines its ISBN-clustering service

Python hacker and OCLC chief scientist Thom Hickey has updated me on the xISBN project:

Just thought I'd let you know that we've put up a new version of the ISBN database. We've done a lot of work to pull works with variant titles together (which helps with The Innovator's Dilemma) and made the retrievals consistent, so that any ISBN in a group retrieves that same ISBN group (which also helps with I's D). We've learned a lot about how ISBNs are used (and misused).
Thanks for the update, Thom. Sure enough, my original examples now work as advertised. Here's what Thom was referring to:
There are a few caveats here. First, the one-to-many algorithm doesn't seem to be fully bi-directional. In the example above, we'd like to get from 0066620694, a paperback, to 0875845851, a hardcover. But although we can get from 0875845851 to 0066620694, we can't get from 0066620694 to 0875845851. [Jon's Radio: Multi-ISBN LibraryLookup]
Those two links didn't used to yield the same set of ISBNs. Now they do. Cool!

My adaptation of LibraryLookup for xISBN, by the way, is here. An improved xISBN service makes it more interesting, but the real bottleneck will be the OPAC systems themselves. The LibraryLookup idea -- which gets a nice mention in this month's Technology Review (thanks, Rael!) -- works by splicing two Web contexts together. From a page at Amazon or B&N or AllConsuming, you go to a page on your library's Innovative or Polaris OPAC system. Now, with xISBN, you can present the OPAC with a list of ISBNs. Unfortunately, OPACs have no idea what to do with a list of ISBNs. The multi-window solution I tried is kind of lame.

I'd love to see the various OPACs take note of xISBN. We can imagine all sorts of fancy integrations involving Web services or WSRP, but the simplest thing, really, would be for OPACs to silently expand an ISBN to an ISBN group, search accordingly, and return a combined result.

I'll be on a panel at SXSW Interactive in March, entitled Streetwise Librarians and the Revolution in Public Information, which should be a great venue in which to explore these kinds of issues.

Former URL: http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/2004/02/13.html#a916