Automatic citations
November 21, 2006 4:19 AM   Subscribe

Ottobib does what it sets out to do very well: take a list of ISBN numbers, the international standard book number system, and generates citations for you. It's as if it is automatically making bibliographies. (ha! get it!) Currently supporting the MLA, APA, and Chicago Manual of Style citation formats.
posted by ztdavis (28 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

Saved me so much time on a paper due today that I made this post instead. Or, at least, that's how I'm rationalizing this as not being procrastination.
posted by ztdavis at 4:20 AM on November 21, 2006

Dammit now I want to go back to college just so I can use this. Fantastic.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 4:31 AM on November 21, 2006

Very nice. Now if someone could do something about citing journal articles...
posted by klarck at 4:36 AM on November 21, 2006

Nice. Why did this take so long?
posted by rokusan at 4:46 AM on November 21, 2006

No ACM? Weak.

I keed, I keed. But it would help immensely if it could also generate EndNote records, since you could then convert the result into any format you want.
posted by xthlc at 5:08 AM on November 21, 2006

klarck, Google Scholar and most journal sites can create EndNote or BibTeX citations. Mmm... BibTeX....
posted by zsazsa at 5:38 AM on November 21, 2006

This service did not exist at a time when it would have been useful to me. I am grumpy now.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:15 AM on November 21, 2006

now that I'm back in graduate school, ottobib has saved me so much time and effort. zsazsa, thanks for the tip about journal article citations
posted by meanie at 6:18 AM on November 21, 2006

Kids these day. My first semester in grad school, the MLA Bibliography was in print only; it took at least a Saturday in the library to get a list of journal articles I wanted to look at. After that, it came out on CD, and I figured out how to download citations to disk, in plain-test format. Oddly, the citations weren't produced in MLA style, so I created a massive Word Perfect macro to convert them. Since no one else in my program had caught on yet (hell, very few of them even ever used word processors), I had the most kick-ass bibliographies in any of my classes. Like ztdavis, I used the time savings as an excuse to play more Tetris.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:45 AM on November 21, 2006

Actually, I don't get it. I mean, it looks like a fine tool, very clever, but where exactly is the joke in making a bibliography automatically?
posted by GuyZero at 7:03 AM on November 21, 2006

GuyZero, you're joking, right? auto (otto) bib (bib).
posted by cog_nate at 7:10 AM on November 21, 2006

It doesn't seem to work for books that aren't on Amazon.

You can already do this on EndNote using the Library of Congress search provider. I think I'll stick with that since it does my journal articles too and supports way more than three styles. Yeah, I know it costs.
posted by grouse at 7:13 AM on November 21, 2006

klarck, RefWorks -- to which my library has a subscription -- has a related tool called Write-N-Cite that allows a user to access saved references and insert citations in a Word document. Then the user can create the bibliography in whatever style he/she wants, and the citations are formatted automatically. It's pretty handy.
posted by cog_nate at 7:16 AM on November 21, 2006

I just used this yesterday to make my Works Cited page!

Well, the entries that were books and had ISBNs, at least. You still have to manually enter everything else. Oh, and it's not that helpful when your book is a compilation of articles by different authors.
posted by roomwithaview at 8:14 AM on November 21, 2006

What does it do if the ISBN has been used by two different books? ISBNs are not always 100% unique after all.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:11 AM on November 21, 2006

ISBNs are not always 100% unique after all.

They're supposed to be, as I understand it. Do you know a circumstance when they aren't?
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:18 AM on November 21, 2006

They're supposed to be, but they frequently aren't. Cheap publishers buy up lots of ISBNs then assign them to one book for the duration of its publication, then to another when they publish a new book. I used to work in a library where we would have problems with this. It's not common, and it's pretty much unknown among American publishers, but it happens quite a bit with Russian/Latin American publishers.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:23 AM on November 21, 2006

ISBN numbers? ATM machine? FTP protocol? Hot water heater? 6 AM in the morning?
posted by oncogenesis at 9:43 AM on November 21, 2006

Gah! YAY! Good Lord I spend more time puzzling out correct bibs then I do writing the damn papers themselves.

I will graduate! I will move on to post-graduate activities! Someday! Thank you ottobib, thank you.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 9:45 AM on November 21, 2006

Sadly, most of the students that I see are using journal articles but this works great (as long as the book has an ISBN). We show them all the different ways to save the citations when they are searching. But of course then never listen and come to the reference desk in a panic as they are trying to write up their bibliography and the paper is due it 20min.

I would think by grad school (if not 4th year) most people could write out a simple 1 or 2 author book citation in their sleep, but that is probably because this time of year half of the reference questions I get are about citing.

I have been saying for years that library catalogues should be able to give you the citation in the style of your choice at the click of a button.
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 11:11 AM on November 21, 2006

I would think by grad school (if not 4th year) most people could write out a simple 1 or 2 author book citation in their sleep

Not me. I have an absolutely horrible memory for such things. The solution? I had/have a document saved with a "basic" example of all the different citation types I occasionally use: book, journal, DVD, online, etc. Then when I need it for my Works Cited I just cut/paste the applicable format and change around the details. It saved me a lot of stress over the years.
posted by The God Complex at 1:14 PM on November 21, 2006

Didn't mean to imply anything about your citing abilities God Complex. I still use pen and paper to keep track of citations when I am working on research. When I have a book or an article I write out the citation in on index card. One side for the full bib and the other for intext citing. I keep them all together and they are easily at hand when I need them.
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 2:00 PM on November 21, 2006

Holy shit! Since, in my life I've had to use MLA, Chicago, and APA on a regular basis, this would have been a godsend. Second me as someone who wants to go back just to use it.
posted by absalom at 4:44 PM on November 21, 2006

I have been saying for years that library catalogues should be able to give you the citation in the style of your choice at the click of a button.

Some of the proprietary periodical databases like InfoTrac OneFile are doing that now, at least in MLA or APA, but half the time they foul up the entry.
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:47 PM on November 21, 2006

FelliniBlank: any database that did not do this now would probably not be used by a university library unless it was an amazing database, it is pretty much not an option anymore. But sadly that is not the case with library catalogues. For a librarian like myself it is fairly easy to import items into a citation manager, but for the average user not so much.
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 5:03 PM on November 21, 2006

Um, am I the only one in the entire universe that can do a bibliography without freaking. It's pretty basic, people. Usually something like:

Last, First. Title Address: Publisher, Year.

Is that really so hard? Now, if it could automatically do journal articles, that'd be useful, or if it could tell you how to do unusual citations -- such as pamphlets published for a conference, or a looseleaf binder of related materials, etc -- then it might be worth using. Looking for the ISBN and typing it in is almost as much trouble as just typing the thing yourself.

In any case, I always use this and this when I'm writing anything that requires a citation and bibliography.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:32 PM on November 21, 2006

Deathalicious: I don't know about others, but I'm in university now and they can get very particular about how you cite things. A missing full stop or a mis-italization could cost you marks.
posted by divabat at 12:44 AM on November 22, 2006

Oh, this is perfect! Thanks for posting this beauty.

Strangely enough, I never had to write bibilographies as an undergraduate but I do now in grad school. Sure, it's not rocket science, but it's a pain and a little time-consuming. I'd much rather cut-n-paste an ISBN, though.
posted by nevafeva at 8:41 AM on November 22, 2006

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