I've seen various questions referencing programming books by linking to the book on the US Amazon website. Being based in the UK this isn't much use to me; It's also not great if Amazon ever stop stocking a particular book.

It got me thinking: Is there a better, preferred way of referencing a book? e.g. Perhaps linking to the British Library website or equivalent, where a link is unlikely to ever go out of date ... or perhaps the poster should just be encouraged to always include the ISBN number?

Note: This isn't just about being country-agnostic but also about whether Stack Overflow should be "favouring" a particular book retailer.

... and before anyone mentions it: I know the "British Library" website may not be technically country-agnostic.

What I'm getting at is that it's:

  1. Very stable/complete
  2. Not a book retailer
  • 3
    I always link to the info on author's home page, if there is one.
    – nb69307
    May 12 '10 at 10:31
  • They make money with the Amazon links. Even if it is not that much, why should they stop with making money with it? May 12 '10 at 10:51
  • 4
    @Ladybug Killer: Why should I care if they make money or not, when I choose which link I post? May 12 '10 at 10:55
  • @Daniel: Because you care about SOFU? Because you've understood basic economy rules? May 13 '10 at 19:32
  • @Ladybug Killer: I also care about authors and independent book shops. So I typically avoid linking to one specific book shop like Amazon. May 17 '10 at 9:32

If I know the author and title of a book, I can generally find a copy of the book, if there's one to be found, so I don't worry about what the link is. I don't like links that I have to follow to find out what book they point to, because the poster doesn't bother to provide author and title.

Therefore, I really don't care where the link is to, and Amazon has the advantage of providing customer reviews.

(Does Amazon ever take a book off their website? I've seen lots of books listed there despite being out of print, and some not even listing used sources.)


I always flag anything that links to Amazon as spam, because that's what it is.

If you must reference a book, give the title and the author. If you must link it, link to a neutral third party that does not sell the book, like Wikipedia, or to the author's own website as Neil Butterworth suggests. I see no problem with linking to your home country's public library, either, although I'd suggest that the Library of Congress might be better than the British Library because SO is a US-centric site, even if it has many non-USian visiters.

  • Stack Overflow is not US-centric. Only three of the top 8 users are even in the US. May 12 '10 at 21:49

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