Amazon Kills Pocketpedia

For a while now, I’ve been using [Bookpedia][1] to catalog Prairie’s and my book collections, and [DVDPedia][2] for our movie collection. One of the handiest things about the system was the ability to sync our libraries to my iPod through [Pocketpedia][3] and have them available at my fingertips whenever we were out and about. No more trying to remember whether or not we’d picked up a particular book from a particular author or series, just check the iPod. It was one of my most-used iPhone apps.

[1]: http://www.bruji.com/bookpedia/index.html “Bruji: Bookpedia”
[2]: http://www.bruji.com/dvdpedia/ “Bruji: DVDpedia”
[3]: http://www.bruji.com/pocketpedia/ “Bruji: Pocketpedia”

Unfortunately, that’s not an option anymore: Amazon recently changed their [API Terms of Service][4], and included the following clause in section 4(e):

[4]: https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/gp/advertising/api/detail/agreement.html “Amazon: Amazon.com Product Advertising API License Agreement”

> You will not, without our express prior written approval requested via [this link ][4.1], use any Product Advertising Content on or in connection with any site or application designed or intended for use with a mobile phone or other handheld device.

[4.1]: http://affiliate-program.amazon.com/gp/advertising/api/detail/contactus.html/ref=amb_link_84099551_3?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=assoc-center-1&pf_rd_r=&pf_rd_t=501&pf_rd_p=&pf_rd_i=assoc-api-license-text “Contact Product Advertising API”

Since the update to the TOS, Amazon has been aggressively enforcing that clause. I saw the writing on the wall a couple weeks ago when [Delicious had their iPhone app pulled][5], and now [Pocketpedia has been killed as well][6].

[5]: http://www.tuaw.com/2009/07/07/delicious-library-for-iphone-runs-afoul-of-amazons-api-terms-p/ “TUAW: Delicious Library for iPhone runs afoul of Amazon’s API terms, pulled from App Store”
[6]: http://bruji.com/articles/2009/07/17/bye-bye-pocketpedia/ “Bruji: Bye-Bye Pocketpedia”

> This morning we received an email from Amazon requesting the immediate removal of Pocketpedia from the App Store since the program is in violation of their license agreement. (A clause we’re pretty sure didn’t exist when Pocketpedia launched with the App Store in June last year but TOSBack only tracks Kindle and MP3 music service terms of use.)
>
> We’ve logged a request with Amazon that Pocketpedia be exempt from the mobile clause (this is stated as a possibility in the license agreement) but it seems others have tried this before and were shot down so we’re not holding our breath for a favourable response. Hopefully the future will bring a positive change in their policy and we can all go on competing in the App Store.

Pocketpedia Not Available

Unsurprisingly, I — and a [number of other][7] previously-happy customers — are none too thrilled with Amazon about this. I’m hoping that some workaround can be found, and that Pocketpedia can continue on (even if that means gutting it to remove all data ever retrieved from Amazon). All I can do now (aside from dropping Amazon a quick complaint e-mail, which I’ve already done) is wait and see what happens next.

[7]: http://www.bruji.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=3277&start=15 “Bruji Forums: Amazon Killing Mobile Apps That Use Its Data”

**Update:** Hooray! As of today, Nov. 10th, 2009, [Pocketpedia is back][8]! You can download the new, Amazon-free version [right here][9].

[8]: http://bruji.com/articles/2009/11/09/and-its-back/ “Bruji: And it’s back!”
[9]: http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=337304806&mt=8 “iTunes: Pocketpedia 2″

0 thoughts on “Amazon Kills Pocketpedia”

  1. That is amazingly messed up!!! And not just because I hadn’t heard of this application and was hoping to use it until I got to the next paragraph!!!!

  2. What Amazon data is used in the app? Is it standard book cover/ISBN/etc?

    Seems like the app would be better served to swap out Amazon for a less restrictive source of that data. Or is there some key Amazon functionality that’s required?

    Somewhat related: what’s your workflow with the app?

    I’ve been thinking about doing something similar to this with an Android app, Use the camera to snap a barcode, it looks up the UPC/ISBN, displays all the particulars, and then allows you to add it to whatever.

    Would a web version of what *pedia does be a useful thing? Like, instead of being tied to an app that resides on your machine it’s in a web interface you can access anywhere, and export to whatever format you’d like?

  3. What Amazon data is used in the app? Is it standard book cover/ISBN/etc?

    To a certain extent, everything. The Pocketpedia app itself is little more than a front-end, read-only version of the database managed by the Bookpedia/DVDpedia software. However, the desktop software uses Amazon’s database to auto-populate its fields when adding a book via ISBN or title search, so aside from manually entered items, virtually all the data originally comes from Amazon.

    Seems like the app would be better served to swap out Amazon for a less restrictive source of that data. Or is there some key Amazon functionality that’s required?

    I don’t think it has to be Amazon, and I believe that one of the possibilities they’re looking at is using another source. Unfortunately, I have no idea of what other sources there might be, or how much information they would provide. Both Goodreads and LibraryThing have built up huge databases of book information, but I don’t know how extensive their API for retrieving data is…and as they also depend on Amazon’s databases for initial book entry, I don’t know if that might effect third-party use of that data.

    Somewhat related: what’s your workflow with the app?

    1. Bring a big ol’ stack o’ books home.
    2. Enter them into Bookpedia:
      1. Enter the ISBN (or if it’s an old enough book that that’s not available, the title and author).
      2. Bookpedia searches through online databases, beginning with Amazon and falling back to others as necessary.
      3. I confirm that Bookpedia’s found the right book, and it’s added to my library.
    3. Once all the books have been added, I sync the update to Pocketpedia.
      • Because Bookpedia uses iTunes-style ‘smart searches’, the sync not only includes our full library listing, but a number of author- or series-specific listings so we can quickly skim through and verify whether or not we have a particular book.

    Would a web version of what *pedia does be a useful thing? Like, instead of being tied to an app that resides on your machine it’s in a web interface you can access anywhere, and export to whatever format you’d like?

    Absolutely, and I already do something along those lines…twice, in fact. A fourth step in the above workflow is exporting the most recently imported books to .csv format and importing that file into Goodreads and LibraryThing.

    It’s a little cumbersome to be maintaining our library across three systems, but:

    • A purely web-based solution wouldn’t have easy iTouch sync capabilities. Even if there was an iPhone-formatted listing, that would depend on having WiFi available for access. That “access anywhere” idea is nice, but as I’m an iTouch user, I don’t have the always-on cell network at my disposal.
    • A desktop/iTouch solution is great for personal home use, but I’m cloud-connected enough (and like bragging enough) that I like being able to display our library to the world.
      • Bookpedia does include HTML export to produce webpages, but I’ve found I like the social aspects and integration possibilities of Goodreads and LibraryThing.
      • Plus, having our library duplicated online meant that when my system crashed recently, I was able to export the library from the websites and import it into Bookpedia. Even though I didn’t have a backup of the data on my hard drive, I did have the web based data available. Far easier than re-importing all 1,600+ books!
    • I originally just used LibraryThing, but lately have been using Goodreads more often, as I’ve grown to prefer their interface, organization, and social site integration. I’m not quite ready to leave LibraryThing yet, though, so for the moment, I’m at least trying to keep the basic data synced on both Goodreads and LibraryThing, using the Bookpedia data as the ‘master’.
  4. Oh absolutely I’d want an app on the device to sync so you don’t rely on data access, I was just proposing a web entity as the place to sync it from.

    So LibraryThing and GoodReads: can they import huge-ass the huge-ass .csv file that BookiPedia surely generates? I’m just sort of mentally troubleshooting what’d need to happen to have this centralized ‘book repository’ auto-sync data to those other services.

    What Amazon’s doing is more of a bitch than I originally understood. Likely many of the sources to which this sort of data can be grabbed are filled to the brim with data harvested from Amazon. That’s really worrysome.

  5. So LibraryThing and GoodReads: can they import huge-ass the huge-ass .csv file that BookiPedia surely generates?

    Very easily, and they’re both very good about accepting whatever data gets thrown at them. They both give samples of ‘recommended’ .csv files that theoretically will give the best possible import, so I keep two ‘export to…’ collections in Bookpedia that have the display columns (and, hence, export settings) set up for the respective target site.

    Actually, because Bookpedia only exports those columns that are on display in the current view (as implicated by my having those two ‘export to…’ collections), the exported .csv files aren’t necessarily huge. They certainly could be, if you exported everything, but I just did a test export of the bare minimum for my entire library (1,657 works, title/author/ISBN for each) and it’s only 112k.

    Importing is one area where LibraryThing has an edge over Goodreads: Goodreads will ignore entries that don’t have a good ISBN to match against Amazon’s database, but LibraryThing just does its best to import whatever data it can recognize. This is a large part of why my total book counts don’t match for the two sites, we have a lot of old editions that don’t have ISBNs that Goodreads then ignores on the import. I’ve entered some of them manually, but not all.

    Another advantage of LibraryThing is that they support more import formats. Goodreads will accept .csv/.xlx/.txt, Librarything will also accept “a number of specialty formats, picking out specific fields, like tags and reviews, from Vox accounts, and from files exported from Anobii, Shelfari and Goodreads.”

  6. I use this app on my iPhone, and have been wondering why on Tuesday (the day new DVDs come out), the day I usually add new media, the search feature was no longer working. Would you recommend finding a new app for this function, which would suck or waiting and seeing if the create a work around, which would also suck? Either way thanks for the post, it explained what was going on.

  7. I’m thinking waiting may be the only option right now. To my knowledge, there were only two possibilities for Mac-based cataloging that synced to an iPhone list — Bookpedia and Delicious Library — and they’ve both been given the smackdown by Amazon.

    If you do want to look for a workaround, since you’ve got an iPhone, it might be worth exporting your collection from Bookpedia and importing it into a Goodreads or LibraryThing account, and then accessing the mobile version of the website listing while you’re on the go. It’s not quite as handy or as slick as Pocketpedia, but until this situation gets figured out, it may be about the best mobile option.

  8. Bookpedia has a couple of very nice iPhone targeted templates to put up on a web server while Pocketpedia is missing in action. It does mean you need web access from your iPhone as you would with LibraryThing to use Safari and is not as snappy as the native app.

  9. i am SO pissed–pocketpedia was literally my most-used app. i had a number of collections for books, dvds, and games just waiting to be read, watched, or played. i would spend forever in bookstores and game stores looking up reviews on amazon through pocketpedia–the convenience was amazing! and now the app won’t work at all. it’s INFURIATING. amazon, you suck.

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