February 12, 2016

Browser Extension Encourages Amazon Searchers to Head to Their Library | LJ Insider

Avid readers who have made New Year’s resolutions to visit their local library more often might be interested in the Library Extension for Google Chrome. The free extension lets users know whether specific books, ebooks, audiobooks, and music CDs are available at their local library while they browse for those titles at Amazon.com.

Created by Seattle-based software developer Andrew Abrahamowicz, Library Extension is easy to set up and unobtrusive. Users simply navigate to the site using the Google Chrome Browser, click the “Install Library Extension” link, select their state, and add their local library or libraries using a dropdown menu.

“I’ve always loved to read, and to take advantage of the great services offered by libraries,” said Abrahamowicz, describing his inspiration for the program.

Catalogers visiting Amazon might have noticed that the print books section of Amazon’s website is organized by ISBN number. URLs typically begin “amazon.com/gp/product/ISBN.” Similar to bookmarklet programs such as LibraryLookup, this Chrome extension works best when it can capture that ISBN number and use it to check a title’s availability in the OPACs of any libraries that the user has selected. The extension then returns the results in a sidebar above Amazon’s “Add to Cart” button. From there, “Reserve your copy” or “Add yourself to the waitlist” buttons will send users directly to the appropriate section of their library’s website.

“The accuracy of the result may depend on the individual library and what catalog they’re using,” Abrahamowicz said. “Some libraries will have lookups by the ISBN, in which case, I can have it do a direct lookup based on ISBN. If a library doesn’t have that capability, or if it happens to not find the ISBN [on the Amazon site], it will try to do a title match as best as it can.”

If a title is unavailable, the program will also offer suggestions for other titles, or in the case of audiobooks, suggest that the user try searching for the title in a different format. Unfortunately, like most reader-recommendation searches that rely on keywords, this feature is not always effective. For example, a recent search for This Is How You Lose Her, the 2012 short story collection by Junot Diaz, helpfully revealed that the Queens Public Library had 5 of 65 copies available. However, the extension noted that the New York Public Library’s copies were all checked out, and suggested that I might also be interested in several books on dieting, or How to Lose the Civil War, a nonfiction title about military mistakes made during the war between the states.

Also, while several searches in the print books section of Amazon’s website reliably pulled results for library print books and ebooks, no results were returned during several recent searches for ebooks in Amazon’s Kindle store. There, ebook titles are organized by ASIN, or Amazon Standard Identification Numbers. Abrahamowicz said that recent changes in the layout of the Kindle store could be causing problems with title lookup in that area of Amazon’s site, and that he was planning to check the program and possibly implement an update. The Library Extension site includes a support link where he encourages users to send feedback, including comments, suggestions, bug reports, or requests to add support for additional libraries.

Matt Enis About Matt Enis

Matt Enis (menis@mediasourceinc.com; @matthewenis on Twitter) is Associate Editor, Technology for Library Journal.

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  1. This has been around for a while, It’s been working with Koha since 2011 http://blog.bigballofwax.co.nz/2011/01/10/half-finished-work/

    • Matt Enis Matt Enis says:

      Thanks for the heads up on that. I wasn’t aware of the connection with Koha.

      Abrahamowicz said that this particular extension is about two years old, but that it only recently started getting attention on social media. It’s only got about 2,000 users right now, so I thought we could help spread the word for anyone who is interested.

  2. Definitely, It is a great extension.

  3. Does anyone know how he makes money off of this extension.. does he make money off of this extension? Or is Abrahamowicz just doing this out of the goodness of his heart?

    I don’t have any problems with him making money off of it, I’m just curious if he is doing something like inserting his Amazon referral code, which might conflict with some Libraries use of Overdrive WIN program which does something similar.