Friday, June 25, 2010

How to check your library catalogue by using your IPhone as a free barcode scanner - RedLaser

Early this year, I blogged about using Zbar iPhone app as a barcode reader to search your library. You scan the barcode of a book with your phone and it would extract the ISBN and search the library catalogue. You could put a setting in the iphone app and it would work for almost any library catalogue.

Its uses are many, but one way I use it is when I visit a bookstore, and I want to quickly check if a book is available in my library, I pull out my phone , scan the barcode and I see the results/


The main virtue of zbar compared to Redlaser app (which did the same) was that  back then while zbar was free Redlaser wasn't. As such obviously Redlaser wasn't ideal to promote to users.

But as you will see later, arguably Redlaser allows the user to setup a customized library search in a much simpler way. In any case, Redlaser recently was bought by ebay  and went free. So I downloaded and tried it.

To setup a custom search for your library catalogue first go to http://www.redlaser.com/apps .

Then fill in the required fields (self explanatory) and click "Build App". 


BTW I'm not sure if there is a need to check the "convert to UPC" seems to make no difference for books I tried anyway.

Then You will be given a url. As shown below, I was given the following url for the catalogue at my institution

http://www.redlaser.com/CustomApp.aspx?name=NUS+Libraries&url=http%3a%2f%2flinc.nus.edu.sg%3a2084%2fsearch%7eS16%2f%3fsearchtype%3di&param=searcharg&checkupc=true 




 So all you need to do is to instruct users of your libraries to first install the Redlaser app, and then go to that url on their mobile phone browser.

The url string is pretty long to type in their mobile phones, but they can email it to themselves, use the app pastefire , or perhaps they can use a url shortener like bit.ly to make it easier to type it in.

Once they have visited the url, they will see something like this



Then the user creates a web app on their homescreen.




Then click on that icon. I actually think it works also if you click on the Red Laser app itself.

It will open their camera, and allow them to scan barcodes.





I found it a bit difficult to position the camera at first but eventually succeeded and the result is shown below.



They can also email themselves the link to this.

As mentioned earlier, this is probably easier to "sell" to users of varying expertise, because compared to zbar they don't have to manually figure out how to configure everything. Just type in a link to their mobile browser and their app will be setup correctly.


I was thinking of possibly improving this.  I wondered if I could set it up but using the mobile version. Surprisingly it seems that for airpac which is from Innovative Interfaces  there is no way to search ISBN in the mobile version, so I can't set up the app?? Is this the same for other mobile library catalogues?

Also, I'm not so sure if the autodetection for mobile devices will kick in, when I access the catalogue the normal catalogue this way with Redlaser.

Dear readers what do you think? Is it worth promoting such apps to your users? After all if you promote QRCodes readers why not this?

One app that does both QRCodes and normal barcodes like above would be a killer. There are probably some out there.. another know?
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