Thursday, May 22, 2008

What to show when you have no book cover images?

Whipping up a new (test) face for our OPAC brings many things to the table: researching wanted functionality, usability in interface design, and of course--looking great. ("Look" impacts users' perception of site credibility and ease of use, here)

So, of course, trying to put cover images was a must. For our current OPAC, which we share amongst 30+ libraries, has lot of book covers, thanks to cover digitizing being done in several libraries. But, we don't have cover images for all books. Those books either didn't get the process done, or didn't have book jackets--just a plain-color hardcover.

So, our super-duper social-powered wall of books ends up looking like this:

...which is not super at all.

So, fishing around I found my answer: make book covers on the fly. Library Thing and Google Books are doing this, with different methods (it seems!)

Google Books' looks like this: [link]
and Library Thing's like this: [link]
So, how are these made?
  • a background image with a blank cover. I'm thinking it would be cool if, say, a book from 1950 had a worn-out cover, a classic novel with a stylized cover, etc.
  • overlaid text (html) with the title and author.
So my strategies will be:
  1. keep digitizing or getting book covers from our vendors
  2. add some code to provide blank-book images when we don't have a local image, and count views of books with no local image (so you can prioritize the first strategy).
The dirty tech aspects will be the subject of a future post =)

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