Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Saturday, January 16, 2010

WorldCat, RedLaser, Google Books and much more

In my last post, I mentioned a new iPhone app called RedLaser. I guess I need to be a little more specific. RedLaser is an app that reads UPC barcodes. If you read a barcode from a product in a store (or elsewhere) it will look up the product and search for a price on the Internet. The app has recently been expanded to read UPC barcodes on books. In addition to looking up the book and a price on the Internet, the program also looks in WorldCat to find a copies of the book in libraries, starting with the library closest to your location. WorldCat is a consolidated catalog of over 10,000 libraries world wide and has over 1 billion books cataloged. RedLaser's ability to find products is a little spotty, but with the interaction with WorldCat, there is almost no book it cannot identify as long as it has a UPC barcode.

Here is the description of the app from the WorldCat Blog:

Thanks to some quick footwork by a few of OCLC's staff and the guys at Occipital, the company behind the iPhone app RedLaser, libraries now appear within the mobile apps item search pages.

RedLaser users can scan a book and see the libraries near them that have that book. Then they can click to one of those libraries and get hours, phone numbers and driving directions.

We're putting data to use and putting libraries right in the mobile user's flow.

Occipital is the developer of RedLaser and it is working on additional search techniques, including searching directly from text. This means you would point your iPhone at a section of text and the program would look it up on the Internet, i.e. Google and other search engines. Occipital and its program, RedLaser, work in conjunction with TheFind, which is the fastest growing search engine for shopping with over 400 million products in its search index.

So here is the issue, if you are looking at old books or books that are of limited distribution, it is likely that they do not have barcodes and so you would have to look the book up directly in WorldCat. But maybe I need to remind you that WorldCat now catalogs the digital copies of the books in Google Books and other digitized resources. If you are looking for an older surname book, it is well worth your time to check to see if the book has been digitized. I was interested in purchasing some older genealogy books about my ancestors but became discouraged with the price for an actual copy of the book. I every case, I was able to find a digitized copy of the book on CD, for sale at a very modest price.

I guess the key feature of this new technology is availability. These new programs are making genealogical information available that has been locked away in special collections or available only in a few libraries.

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