I took a few days off Behold to do something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. That is to become an Amazon.com
associate. I’ve always been a fan of Amazon (in my case Amazon.ca), and I have ordered many books and other items through them. My goal was to integrate my book recommendations into my site, mostly my link pages, with relevant books to the topic at hand. If people do buy books through my links, I will get a very small commission, but I really don’t expect much out of that.
The trouble I’ve had up to now, is exactly figuring out how to set it up so that it really provides useful and up-to-date information about the books to the readers. I saw a few sites that had nice descriptions and info about the books - but I wanted to make this process something that would not take more than a tiny bit of time to accomplish. I also wanted to provide links to the Amazon.com, Amazon.ca and Amazon.co.uk. Being here in Canada, I know I will never buy books through the States or U.K., since customs can be a real hassle and you can get extra shipping charges or duty added.
First step was to sign up to be an “Associate” at the three sites. Then, spend some time reading the rules and learning how links are built. Then do some research on the internet to find methods and programs people used to automate their linking. Looked at some ASP tools which were free and how they did it, as well as some online services. Then I discovered to do this, I had to sign up to use their Amazon Web Services, which is an API (Application Programming Interface) that will allow me to develop programs to access Amazon product information.
To my surprise, the information was provided in XML format (Extended Markup Language) - the stuff that Microsoft has been pushing over the last few years. I wanted to write this with ASP (Active Server Pages which are written in Visual Basic Script) which I’ve worked with in enhancing my Behold Discussion Forum and am now fairly proficient at. But I had no idea how to interface this with XML.
Fortunately, I found an introductory article on the web: Using Amazon’s Web Service in ASP. Part 1: The Beginning, which gave me everything I needed to get started. The biggest problem I had was getting my ASP code to execute when included in a standard shtml page. Also, I had to research some of the XML programming statements in VBScript at the Microsoft website. After just a few hours, I had just what a wanted. A simple way to automatically generate my book listing and links to the three Amazons once I knew which books I wanted to link to. Quite cool. Check it out at the top of my Genealogical Software Links page.
This will prove to be useful knowledge for the future of Behold as well. The XML interface I started learning might be a future addition to Behold, since all the proposed enhancements to GEDCOM are currently being defined in XML.
Tomorrow, I’ll probably add Amazon links on a few other pages on my website, and then I’ll be able to get back to Behold.