You know what WorldCat is, right? It’s a Web site that allows you to search over a billion items in over 10,000 libraries around the world. It’s at http://worldcat.org/ .
Do you know what the WorldCat xISBN service is? I didn’t either. It’s a service WorldCat offers that allows you to enter an ISBN and get related ISBNs. You access the data by building a URL. For example, say I wanted to use the xISBN service for the book Huckleberry Finn. As you might imagine there are about a zillion editions of that book available. If I take the ISBN 1580495834 and add it to an URL like this:
I’ll get a XML-formatted list of other ISBNs for other editions of Huckleberry Finn. Make sense? (If you don’t like the format of the result, you can change that &format=xml to &format=html. It’ll give you a plain list of ISBNs. You can also use this same service to list metadata about an ISBN or covert a 10-digit ISBN and vice-versa — see http://xisbn.worldcat.org/xisbnadmin/doc/api.htm for details.
Now the xISBN service has been hooked up with Wikipedia! That means you can enter a URL and have xISBN generate a list of related URLs, and then check those URLs against the ISBNs on Wikipedia. Here’s the base URL to use:
Replace ISBNGOESHERE with the ISBN in which you’re interested. For example, let’s say I was looking for citations of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Here’s the URL:
What you’ll get is a list of several different affiliated ISBNs on at least three different Wikipedia pages.
Now why in the world would you want to do this? It would be interesting to know if a particular book is quoted or referred to in Wikipedia for better or for worse. If I were a college student and wanted to a get a meta-view of my textbooks, I might take each ISBN and enter it in this service to see what any affiliated Wikipedia pages had to say. If I wanted to do a subject overview, I could go to Amazon, pick the ISBN of a top-seller in a fairly narrow field, and run it through this service to see what Wikipedia pages I might want to browse. (Try this with Golub and Van Loan’s Matrix Computations, ISBN 0801854148.)
You’ll notice that the URL you use to build this query uses &library=wikipedia to specify searching Wikipedia. I can’t wait to see what other libraries are added to this search!