Essay: Amazon ISBN Bookmarklets

2002,

If you’re as much of a bibliophile as I am, chances are that whenever you finish a book, you desperately want to talk about it.  Alas, even people with the most exquisite selection of book-reading friends can suffer from the unbearable sadness of being an Only Reader.

Fortunately, Amazon.com can provide (at least until their bankruptcy) more than five year’s worth of various reader comments on an astonishing variety of books.  To access those, though, you will have to use Amazon’s frustrating search engine.

Enter the bookmarklet.

Bookmarklets are a neat little hack combining direct-access URLs and some JavaScript that effectively allow you fast access to database-driven content on the web without the hassle of other people’s bizarre interfaces. Most famously located at http://www.bookmarklets.com/ , these little snippets of code can prove to be invaluable search tools.

I looked everywhere on the web, but couldn’t find a bookmarklet that would take me directly to a relevant page by ISBN.  A curious void, but not an eternal one:  Five minutes later, I hacked the code of an existing bookmarklet (from bookmarklets.com) in order to do exactly that. It’s useful to me, and it might be useful to you. So here goes:

How to use: Right-click on these bookmarklets and pick "Add to Favorites" (or "add to bookmarks")  Ignore the nasty pop-up message. Whenever you will try to access these bookmarklets, a window will pop up asking you for an ISBN number.  Type in the 10 digits ISBN number (without dashes!) and there you go…  The [Text mode] will take you to the quicker text-only equivalent page without all the silly Amazon graphics.  The (user comments) bookmarklets will take you to the user comments page rather than the at-a-glance page.

Caveats for these Amazon ISBN lookup bookmarklets:

  • Worth repeating: Don’t use dashes!
  • Your browser must be able to run JavaScript (Or, in the case of Mozilla, be allowed to run unrequested pop-ups)
  • Won’t work with non-ISBN number.  (duh!)
  • Given that it depends on the American Amazon’s database, the bookmarklet is of limited usefulness for non-US or pre-1995 books.  (Though you can always hack the bookmarklet to use amazon.co.uk for British books)
  • If ever Amazon ever fiddles around with its URL scheme, that’s it; the bookmarklet is useless until the code is updated.

Last Updated:
October 2002