Searching for books with viaLibri

viaLibri searches for old and rare books offered on 35 different multi-dealer websites and over 100 individual dealer websites. Together these sites aggregate the inventory of over 20,000 antiquarian booksellers world-wide.

A simple search form appears by default on the home page when visiting vialibri for the first time.  It allows searching by author and/or title as well as within the full text of the descriptions of all these books.  Additional search criteria are available when using the advanced search form, which can be reached by using the link next to the red Search button located at the bottom of the form.  To search for a book  you must enter something into at least one of the Author, Title, Publisher or Keywords fields. When multiple terms are specified within a single field, or across multiple fields, only books that match all the specified criteria will be found.

The viaLibri search process works in two steps. The primary step occurs at the level of the individual listing sites and duplicates the returns that would be obtained by searching on each site directly. However, some search criteria cannot be handled directly on some or all of the listing sites. For these, a secondary filtering of results is conducted on our own site. The final list of matched books will reflect the results after both steps have been applied.

It should be kept in mind that there is a fixed limit to the number of books that can be matched at one time from any of the listing sites. This limit will sometimes be exceeded when searching with keywords or for works by popular authors. When this happens viaLibri provides an option to continue searching until all available matches have been returned. A button marked “Continue searching” will be displayed if there are more items to find. Clicking on it will produce a new set of matches. This process may be repeated until all possible matches have been found.

Phrases

You may use viaLibri to match phrases as well as individual words. A phrase is specified by placing the phrase terms within double quotes (” “).

For example:

Keywords / ISBN  “round table” 

will return all books which include the phrase “round table” in their title, publisher or book description, but will not return books when the words only appear separately.

PLEASE NOTE: Phrases are only recognised when entered into the Keywords / ISBN field. They can also be searched for in the title, imprint and description fields, but will be treated as unrelated words. If you want to restrict your results to books where the phrase only appears in the title or publisher fields you must enter the terms without quotation marks in the field you want searched and also enter them with quotation marks in the Keywords field.

Exclusions

The viaLibri search function also provides multiple methods for filtering from search results unwanted items which meet specified search criteria. There are several methods for doing this.

  1. The search form includes a field labeled: “Exclude”  followed by a text entry field. Enter here any names or words you want to use for excluding items from your search results. Below this there is a drop down menu you can use to specify which part of the book description the exclusion should apply to. Selecting “Author,”  “Title” or “Author & Title will apply the exclusion only when the term is found in one of those field. The default is “Keywords”and will filter out any entries that include the specified word or name anywhere in the description.
  2. An exclusion can also be specified by placing the term or terms to be excluded within square brackets.

For example:

Title:    mockingbird [kill] 

will return all books which include “mockingbird” in the title except those that also include the word “kill”.

Bracketed exclusion terms like this may be used in the Author, Title, Imprint or Keywords fields.

An exclusion term may be the only term used within a particular field, as long as at least one “inclusion” term is also used in one of the first four fields in the form. When multiple exclusion terms are used a matched book will be excluded from the results if any one of the exclusion terms is found. The exclusion process usually takes place as part of the secondary filtering process. Thus, in the above example, 100 matches for books with “Mockingbird” in the title might be returned from the primary search, but the final results could easily result in less than half that number.

Bracketed exclusion terms are especially useful because they also make it possible to exclude a phrase. For example: [book club] or [print on demand] will exclude listings which match these phrases, but not other listings which only include the separate words. When excluding phrases quotation marks should not be used.

Permanent Filters

Registered users are also able to set up general exclusion terms and phrases which will automatically be applied to all searches. To set up a general exclusion you need to follow these steps:

  1. Login to your account. (If you do not already have an account you must register first).
  2. Click on “Account” at the top of any page. This will take you to your account details.
  3. Enter any exclusion terms, including brackets, in the field marked “Exclusion Filters:
  4. Click the red button labeled “Save Changes“.

Exclusion terms must always be entered in paired brackets using the syntax described above. All records which include any bracketed keyword or phrase as part of their title or description will be filtered from all returned results. Multiple filters are allowed, although an excessive number may impair search performance. To use this feature your browser must accept cookies.

PLEASE NOTE: Great care should be taken when setting up exclusion filters to make certain that wanted books are not also filtered out in the process. ALL items with text that includes the specified character string will be excluded. For example: using [POD] will filter out items with descriptions, titles or booksellers that include terms such as “podium”, “spode” etc. This feature is most accurate when used with phrases that are regularly found as standard descriptions for types of items that are not wanted, but will not be found with other types of books. When a book does not show up in search results even when you are confident that it should be there you should check to make sure that the missing entry is not being filtered by a permanent exclusion filter.

Excluding “Print On Demand” items and new reprints

You can exclude from your results most “Print On Demand” titles and new reprints by checking the box marked “No PODs”. Excluded from results will be items whose description includes any variation on the term ‘printed on demand’ or includes other keywords, phrases, or publisher names that can be used to identify PODs. Checking this box will also exclude any books offered by booksellers who regularly offer PODs without identifying them as such. Items which are identified as “BRAND NEW” will likewise be excluded from search results when this box is checked.

Excluding books with ISBN numbers

You can exclude from your results all books that are listed with ISBN numbers. This function is very helpful for searches where only antiquarian items are wanted. The general use of ISBN numbers did not begin until the 1970s, so it is fairly safe to assume that any book which has been assigned one will not have been printed before then. Most online second-hand booksellers are careful to include ISBNs, when known, as part of their descriptions. By checking the box marked “No ISBNs” you can thus filter out a large number of modern reprints, ebooks and print on demand versions of older titles. The filtering is not complete due to the fact that there are still many booksellers who do not use ISBN when cataloging their books, but the number that can be eliminated in this way is significant. When used along with our “No PODs” check box you should be able to avoid much of the annoying chaff that would otherwise clutter your searches for old and rare books.

Excluding books from specific sellers

It is also possible to exclude all books from specific individual booksellers.  You can do this by clicking the “stop” symbol (a circle with a slash) when it appears next to the name of a bookseller whose books you want to eliminate from all your future search results.  In many cases we are able to identify that the same bookseller actually appears on multiple sites using a different name.  In that  case we will attempt to exclude that bookseller  from  all results.

When booksellers are excluded using this method their names will be added to a list of all the sellers you want to exclude.  The list appears  as part of your “Search Preferences” page  which is included with your Account Settings in the footer at the bottom of each page. You can return a bookseller to your searches by removing their name from your excluded booksellers list.

Refining your search results

When a search produces a large number of matches it is often helpful to have a  page that only shows items you have manually selected from the results of a search. You can do this by using the check box labeled “select” in  the lower left-hand corner of each book description.  When you have checked all  the items you are interested in you can press the “show selected items” icon which will open a new page that displays only the items you have manually selected.

Wants and Libribot matches

The viaLibri Wants Manager allows users to store specific search criteria and then repeat the searches again in the future.  The Wants Manager remembers all the matches that have been made in the past and can execute a new search that will return only items that have been uploaded to the internet since the last search was performed.

New wants can be added to your wants manager by clicking the “Add Want” button located in the upper right corner of the Search Manager page.  That will take you to a form that is similar to the Advanced Search form found on the home page.

However, the easiest way to add a new want is to click one of the links marked “Add as Want”  that you will see at the bottom of each search results page.   That will let you create a new permanent want using the criteria of the search you have just made.  Thus, when you have made a search that produced no results, you can easily add it to your want list and let Libribot continue trying to find it for you.

After a want has been saved in the Wants Manager Libribot will continue to search for it and notify you when any new matches have been found.  The complete description of the individual item will be saved to a special Libribot list that can be accessed by clicking the Libribot menu item at the top of the page.  New matches will also, optionally, be reported by email.  Email notifications and other search settings can be turned off in your search preferences, which are located under Account settings in the page footer.

Items from your Want List which have been found by Libribot are saved for later examination. Access to the full descriptions for these matched items can be consulted by clicking the Libribot menu tab at the top of the page. The most recently matched items will be found at the top. Found items will be saved for up to one year. Items may also be copied to your Clipboard, in which case they will be saved indefinitely.

 

Using the Wants Manager

Saved search criteria appear on the Wants Manager page in the form of  a chart. The chart includes separate columns for all the search criteria that have been recorded. Each listing is accompanied by 3 buttons marked “Libribot Matches”, “New Matches”, and “All Matches”.

Clicking on the first button will retrieve a list of all items matching that want that have been previously found by Libribot. This may include items which are no longer available.

The second button will execute a search for currently available items that have been posted to the internet since the last time a search was performed. (This function is currently enabled only for the following sites: ABAA, AbeBooks, Biblio, antikvariat.net, antiquariat.de, booklooker.de, Bibliophile Bookbase, Bibliophile, Bokbörsen, Books and Collectibles, Bookzangle, Catawiki, Chrislandssearch, eBay, Livre-Rare-Book, MareMagnum, NVvA,  PBFA and ZVAB in addition to over 100 individual bookseller websites.  Other sites will be added when technically possible.)

The third button will execute a search that will find all items from the sites listed above which match the displayed criteria.

Another row marked “Last Search” shows the date and time for the most recent search performed using those criteria. The final column displays the date and time of the last search for this want along with a button to click if you want to edit or delete the want record.

The rows of wants displayed by the Wants Manager chart may be sorted by Author, Title, Keyword, Publisher, date created and Last Search. A drop down menu in the upper right corner can be used to select and change the criteria used for sorting. A search box on the left side can be used to find specific wants.

Registration is required if you want the Wants Manager to remember your wants. After registering, you should click the checkbox marked “Remember me on this computer” at least once when logging in with your login name and password. After that viaLibri will remember you each time you return and will retrieve your want list automatically. If you return and find that your saved searches are NOT being displayed, then logging in again should retrieve them. Any searches which are displayed at the time of registration will be associated with that login and will be available when using it during subsequent sessions.

Deleting unwanted Libribot matches

Items you no longer want can also be easily be removed from the list of your Libribot matches. To do this you must first select the item(s) you want to remove by putting a checkmark in the check box located in the lower left-hand corner of each description frame.  When items have been selected a set of icons will appear in the tool tray located in the lower right corner of the screen. These identify the various actions that are available for selected items. To remove the selected Libribot matches you need to click on the red trash bin.

Clipboard

The Clipboard is designed for saving book descriptions that you want to keep for future reference or purchase.  They  can be saved directly from  search results, Libribot matches, or items copied to a separate page for selected items.  At the top of the Clipboard there is a form you can use to search for  items previously saved in the Clipboard.

Clipboard items can be removed in several ways.  At the bottom of each clipboard item there is a trash bin icon that says “Remove From Clipboard.” Clicking it will remove that item from the clipboard.  If you want to remove multiple items from the clipboard you should first check the “select” check box for each of them. You should then go to the the red trash bin icon in the in the tool tray that appears in the lower right corner.  Clicking this will remove all the checked items from your clipboard.

You can also  click the red “Share” icon  to generate social media posts or and link urls for all the items you have checked.

Quick Query Library Search

In addition to searching  for books on sale from booksellers, viaLibri also has a useful tool for finding books in the online catalogues of 78 important international research libraries and union catalogues.  Unlike standard multi-library search engines, our search results link directly to the complete catalogue entries of  the individual libraries we search.   You only need to fill out a single query form with author, title and/or keyword.  You can then repeat the same search on different libraries without having to re-enter the search criteria.  The results will display as they do on the library site itself rather than as an extracted short title list.

You can also mark frequently used libraries as “favourites.”  To do this you need to mark a red star next to the search buttons for your selected libraries.  Those libraries then appear at the top of the list for easy access.

The library search is especially useful for following up when researching books for sale.  This is simplified by clicking the “Search Libraries” button located at the bottom of each search results page.  That will take you directly to the  Library Search page and automatically fill in the search form with the criteria you had been using for your search.

Search criteria

Author Search

Author searches are executed exactly as they would be on the individual listing sites.   If a site uses algorithms to return “loose” author matches then our results will usually produce the same, sometimes incorrect, results.

We recommend that you should normally only use the author’s last name. The first names used on the title pages of different books written by the same author will often differ from one edition to another.  Often there will be initials rather than a full first name.  For example, searching for “Charles Dickens” will produce significantly different results than searching for “C. Dickens.”  If you want complete results the best thing to do is to just search for “Dickens” and ignore the rest.

Title Search

Title searches are generally  executed exactly as they would be on the individual listing sites.  Typographical errors are common, especially when a bookseller is cataloging a book written in a foreign language. It is equally easy for typos to be made by the buyer searching for a book.  The best way to avoid search errors is to use the fewest title words possible, especially if you are also including an author’s name as part of the search. There are extremely few cases where two different books have the same title and author.

Publisher Search

Publisher data generally includes the publisher or printer and the place of publication. Not all listing sites include this as a separate category of information. For sites which do maintain separate Imprint (or “Publisher”) fields our search will be executed as it would be on the source site. For the listing sites which do not provide separate imprint data we try, instead, to find this information at the beginning of the description field where it is usually found. In these cases some imprint information may not be found, and occasional false matches are possible.

Keyword Searches

A keyword search will look for books in all available text fields including author; title, description and publisher.  Searches are generally executed exactly as they would be on the individual listing sites. There is, however, some variation in the way this is done on different listing sites. In most cases, keyword searches will match author, title and description fields. In the case of sites which offer more than one way to search for keywords, viaLibri will use the method that is likely to produce the largest number of results. Keywords are usually the most useful method to use for searching randomly for early or rare books on a given subject. However, common keywords which match a very large number of book records may have limited usefulness. These can also sometimes be slow. Some of the sorting and filtering criteria described below can be useful in separating the wheat from the chaff, but for the most part they will not increase the speed at which results can be returned.

Less is More:

The most productive way to search for a book you want is to  limit your search terms to the fewest words needed to make a unique match on the book you are looking for.

Sorting

viaLibri can sort its search results, ascending or descending, by any of the following criteria: Year of publication; Price; Author; Title; Bookseller; and date added. The default sort – by publication year beginning with the earliest – is likely to be the most useful for book collectors. After they are first compiled, the results may also be re-sorted by any of these criteria. The publication year used for sorting is often not specified as such in the book records retrieved from the various listing sites. Instead, the year that is used is one that we are able to extract from these records by parsing the descriptive text included with them. The results obtained in his way are almost always accurate, but occasional misdating is inevitable. Further details below.

Printed After… Before…

A specific range of publication dates (after, before, or both) may be specified as part of search criteria. Although several of the listing sites include their own features for specifying date ranges, our experiments have shown that for most of them a substantial number of books will often be excluded from results whenever any type of date filter is applied. For this reason we perform filtering by publication year as part of the secondary search executed on our own server and use a publication date assigned to the book on the basis of our own data extraction techniques.

The best way to limit your search to items published during one year only, is to enter the same date in both date fields and in the keyword field.

Price Above… Below…

This feature can be used to set a minimum and maximum price for the books that will be matched. The criteria are applied to the search as executed on the individual listing sites. Even if you are interested in looking for books from all price ranges, it is sometimes useful to set a minimum price threshold when using search terms that are likely to return large numbers of results. This will help prevent better books from being crowded out by cheap and common ones when sorting by criteria other than price.

You can also select your preferred currency from a choice of 12 major currencies. This will be used when setting your price limits, and will also be used for the prices displayed with your search results. The prices shown will be calculated on the basis of published conversion rates updated daily. These prices are given for information purposes only. The actual prices are the ones shown on the listing sites themselves. Because books can be listed in various currencies on different sites, some prices may undergo multiple conversions before being displayed as part of our results. When different prices are shown for multiple listings of the same book it may be a result of conversion discrepancies and not an actual difference in price. You should always check all the prices on the different listing sites before ordering.

First editions

Checking this box will restrict your results to books identified by their listing sites as first editions. The reliability of these results is variable, both for what is included and for what is not. It can be useful, however, as a blunt tool for eliminating many irrelevant results for items which are common in their later editions.

In many cases a more reliable method for isolating first editions from reprints is to have the sort function set to “Year (earliest first)”. This should display the results with all printings from the year of publication shown first. The two features can, of course, be used in combination, making it even easier to quickly separate first editions from later printings.

Signed copies

Checking this box will restrict your results to books that are identified by their listing sites as signed or inscribed or, when that data is not provided, books that match keywords commonly associated with signed and presentation copies. The reliability of these results is often questionable, both for what is included and for what is not.

Dust Jacket

Checking this box will restrict your results to books identified as having dust jackets. The reliability of these results is often questionable, both for what is included and for what is not.

Prioritising “Rare Books” or “Bargains”

Use this feature to specify whether your primary interest is finding rare books or inexpensive copies of common books. Your choice here will only affect the results you receive if more matching books are found than can be shown in the first set of results. This is most likely to happen when searching for works by popular authors, or when searching with common keywords. A search which specifies “Rare Books” will take its first set of results from the most expensive items matching those criteria. A search for “Bargains” will take its first set of results from the least expensive matches. After examining the first set of results you can still continue searching until all the possible matches have been shown. The only difference will be the order in which they are processed. (A few listing sites do not allow this distinction and their results will be unaffected by the choice made here).

On Using viaLibri

The viaLibri search engine has been optimised as a finding tool for old and rare books rather than as a comparison bargain shopping guide. When given the author and title of a common book it can, of course, easily locate all the available copies on the sites it includes. This is a relatively simple task. But its most useful features are those created to help a collector or researcher locate books that meet a more topical interest, where a pre-determined title may not be the natural point of departure. Keywords are generally the most useful approach when searching for subjects or other interests unrelated to a specific author.

Frustration comes when interesting results are lost in a flood of irrelevant matches. We have designed viaLibri to help alleviate that frustration. The tools we provide should help to filter out much of that irrelevant noise.