Sources of Bibliographic Data

For the app to work well it needs to reference reliable sources of bibliographic data. Already in progress is some code that is capable of pulling bibliographic data from the University’s library system Aleph via the XService API. But more are needed.

The question we need to answer is which sources to concentrate our efforts on in terms of 3rd party services to lookup ISBN numbers.

Initial feedback from members of the team and other developers in the University are as follows:

“I would rank Amazon below COPAC and British Library for bibliographic record accuracy as it is primarily for buying books which are in print, and the older out of print records are often sketchy ‘marketplace’ records.”
“Some 3rd party options.”


“I used COPAC and Amazon. However you ought to be able to use the British Library national bibliographic records now they’re open.”

These initial recommendations have given us a good starting point. We’ll discuss, test and feedback on findings in a later post.


  1. In case this is helpful:

    COPAC supports SRU/SRW as an API for search, and returns data in XML – more details at

    Some other potential external sources:
    WorldCat – biggest library catalogue aggregation in the world afaik has API you can sign up for – I’d guess Bristol is a member of OCLC

    Open Library – wiki approach, but with lots of contributed records from libraries to seed data. API at Was used by the Jerome project at University of Lincoln

    CrossRef – mainly journal article stuff, driven by DOI registration for each article, although you also get DOIs for books and book chapters. Some API stuff at

    In the TELSTAR project at the Open University that I worked on we used WorldCat for books and CrossRef for journal articles – that seemed to get good results and coverage – code is available at (and related files) if that’s helpful

  2. Thanks Owen, that’s great. I’m currently looking at the SRU search interface as I type 🙂 – it was mentioned by the librarians on our advisory group. I also need to have a look at ZETOC. I’ll look at the links that you’ve posted .. thanks again!

  3. ZETOC trickier in that as far as I know there isn’t currently an API you can use to search for specific articles. This might change but I think that’s the current situation.

    You could also look at JournalToCs – API for article search is detailed at

  4. I wasn’t having much luck finding a ZETOC API, so thanks for the reference to JournalsToCs.

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