The Bell Character

My favorite ASCII character is the bell. This character was used in early five-bit character sets, first developed in the Nineteenth Century. It was used to signal a telegraph terminal to ring a bell, alerting the receiving telegraph operator that a message was coming in. Though it’s just a vestigial remnant of the immediate successor to Morse Code, there is still a slot reserved for the bell in modern character sets.

Your Inkjet printer will not ring a bell when fed a bell character, but many Unix/Linux or DOS-based command prompt terminals will sound a tone when called on to print a bell to the screen.

In your browser, a bell looks (or sounds) like this:

You’re probably seeing a rectangle, an empty space, or an oval with the letters “BEL” inside.

Book Search Aggregators

This entry has been parked in draft for almost four years. It was going to be part of a bookseller debriefing series that I was going to write. I’ve updated it a bit.

Here are some book search aggregators that I used when I was a bookseller. These sites bring book search results from many sources in together.

BookFinder was typically my first stop when shopping for a book or getting a sense for the market price of a title. Though the site was acquired by Amazon (first acquired by ABEBooks, who was then acquired by Amazon) and its founder has left, they still operate under the same model.

I favor BookFinder over Addall and vialibri, though there’s a lot of overlap among the sites that each one searches. BookFinder has some standout features. It include shipping costs in its results. It also filters some clutter by attempting to organize identical listings together when a bookseller has posted the same book on multiple sites.

Google Product Search usually returns fewer results than BookFinder, Addall, or viaLibri. It’s useful though because there’s less overlap between the sellers who list there and those who list on BookFinder. If an obscure title doesn’t turn up on BookFinder, Google Product Search is the next place to look.

More recently, I’ve gotten a lot of use out of Google Product Search’s local results feature. Books Inc., a Bay Area indy book chain, puts their inventory on Google Product Search. When I’m looking for a new book, I check Google Product Search to see whether it’s in stock at either the location near my office or near my home. Google Shopper, the iPhone app frontend for Google Product Search, almost serves as a Books Inc app for me.

WorldCat returns books from most of the US’s public library systems’ catalogs. As a bookseller, I used it to get a sense of how common a book is. These days, I use it to see how long the hold queues are for a given book at the different local library systems, to help me decide where to place a hold.


[Flower blooming]

These were a surprise last spring. They weren’t planted intentionally, but came up after we regraded the garden. I let them grow where they’d landed, but they got a little to much sun. In the fall, I dug up their bulbs and moved them under the lemon tree. I later rethought their placement and moved them again. Now they’re coming up in all three spots. This one, under the lemon tree, is the first to bloom.