Best Source for Book Descriptions?
May 27, 2011 5:06 AM   Subscribe

I'm currently working on a research project that will lead to a written product (an article or report, either published in a magazine/journal, or released online). I want to create an appendix to the report that has the names and descriptions for books referenced in the report. This will be an extensive list, so I don't want to create the descriptions myself. Can I use the product description that is put out by the publisher (the one that is used by Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other book sellers)? If not, what are my options?
posted by NotMyselfRightNow to Writing & Language (6 answers total)
If you're aiming for publication, you'll need to check with your editor - many publications (esp. peer-reviewed ones) will want a reference list or footnotes with citations consistently formatted in a specific style (e.g. APA, MLA, Chicago).
posted by ryanshepard at 7:18 AM on May 27, 2011

Response by poster: This would be separate from endnotes or references. For this, I'm not interested in citation information, but descriptive narrative.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 7:21 AM on May 27, 2011

Is this a scholarly article of some kind? As a journal editor I would find this kind of "scraping" of third-party material unacceptable. It sounds like maybe you're putting together a simplified annotated bibliography, but I would expect it to be presented in some kind of context that *you* provide, not blurb writers.

Not sure about the copyright implications but I think that would be an issue too.
posted by media_itoku at 7:56 AM on May 27, 2011

If the bibliography is going to be published with your project, then you should treat the abstracts of the books like you would any other text--if you use someone else's words, they need to be explicitly cited. Your best is probably to write the descriptions yourself.
posted by devotion+doubt at 8:00 AM on May 27, 2011

Response by poster: As a journal editor I would find this kind of "scraping" of third-party material unacceptable.

Not my intent at all. Let me give a little more background:

I'm examining a very large organization, and how they use recommended and required reading lists as a core element of their professional development program. The heart of the study (and any publications that result) center around this program, it's strenghts and weaknesses, historic and future design, etc.

When I put myself in the shoes of someone reading this work, I can imagine them wanting to see the lists in full, and descriptions of what each book is about. I'd like to have a companion document or website (and maybe the use of "appendix" in the question was a poor choice, given context) that someone could go to and be able to explore the reading lists and the books. I could simply put links to Amazon, etc., but making someone click over there to see that info seems like an unnecessary hassle, so I'd like to have the descriptions included in this doc/site.

The number of books I'm dealing with is massive - well over 1000. Writing good descriptive text for each would be an overwhelming task. So I'm looking for descriptive text that I could use (with credit given to the source), and want to make sure I'm doing that in a way that doesn't violate copyright or is in any other way inapropriate.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 8:50 AM on May 27, 2011

Scraping copyrighted descriptions is going to end up more trouble than it's worth, I imagine, and those blurbs are copyrighted. Some owners of those copyrights are going to consider your use fair; others may not care if you don't ask for reprint permission first. Others will be happy to grant you reprint permission, and charge you a fee.

If you're really going to have 1,000 descriptions at the back of the report, or as a separate document, ask yourself what portion of your audience is actually going to pick their way through all 1,000 descriptions to read the five or six they're actually interested in. Especially if this is going to be online, well, this is what links are made for.
posted by rtha at 10:43 AM on May 27, 2011

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