AAUGH.com Peanuts shopping site, AAUGH.com
Peanuts book collecting guide
Abusing Amazon images
by Nat Gertler,
Created May 21, 2005. Last updated July 2, 2005.
Amazon.com feeds out a lot of product images, putting out the same book
cover (say) in a variety of sizes and formats. By experimentation, I
found that they don't actually have all the sizes and formats stored.
Instead, they have a system that generates each requested image. The
details of size and format are built into the image's URL. What that
means that, if you want, you can create URLs that generate odd and unlikely
Amazon images (you can see my gallery of images here).
The proper combination of product choice and added elements and effects
could create an interesting visual. What you see here is my best understanding
of things based on trial and error and messing with various example URLs I've
Let's take a look at an example
The first part - http://images.amazon.com/images/P/ -
doesn't vary. That points to the right place on the Amazon servers. The
rest is a series of variable fields, each field separated from the next
by a period (or, for those who live solely in web URLs, a "dot".)
- 0762423374 is
the ASIN, the identifier that Amazon uses for every item
it stocks. For books, this is the ISBN, stripped of its
dashes. You can find the ASIN in the product details
section of any Amazon product listing.
- 01 is
an odd duck of a field. For American items, it selects the image and the
format of the percentage off bullet.
The basic. This is also what you get if you put
just a single digit in, without the leading zero. (This can sometimes be followed
by a dash and then a fairly long alphanumeric string, then a .PT01. - this
is for products that have alternate views. Changing that .PT01. to .PT02.
gives the next view, and so forth.)
Slightly different bullet design.
This is the cool one to me - this is the original
solicited cover, which as you can see in this case
was quite different from the later update. I've found another example where
the 01 and 03 images are the same, but the 02 one appears to be a different
scan. I'm not sure if the number placement of this is constant, and many items
this value. Doesn't carry the percentage bullet. (This seems to be the prefered
value at Amazon.de.)
numbers all look like this for this book. I'm not
sure if there is standardized, or whether there
is some variation of what is in each slot from
book to book, but higher two-digit numbers don't
generate a percentage bullet. However, Japanese items use 09, and don't generate
an image for lower values.
- _PE20_SCMZZZZZZZ_ gives
information on the size of the image and adornments added
to the image. I've found three formats that this field
- THUMBZZZ -
just the size code. This works only for certain
- 20SCZZZZ -
the percent discount followed by the size code.
This only works with certain size codes. Using
00 will generate an image without a bullet, while 1C presents a special one
cent bullet. (The one cent bullet is only available if the image-and-bullet-type
field is set to 01.)
- _PE20_SCMZZZZZZZ_ -
a string of options separated by underscores, including
lead and end underscores. A list of known size
codes and options is below.
- jpg -
This can be jpg, jpeg,
Oddly, it doesn't matter. The file will be a JPEG format
graphics file no matter what extension you use. You can
even get away with using no extension, with or without
the leading period. However, you can't just put random
characters for the extension.
The size codes that I've found all seem a mite odd to
me. They all end in a number of Zs, and I imagine there
is some significance to the number that I've not found,
but you can't just mess with them
- THUMBZZZ -
small size. Only works in options format 1.
- TZZZZZZZ -
default image size. Only works in options format 1.
- SCZZZZ (or
any otherwise-meaningless six character alphanumeric
string) - default image size. Percent bullet goes in
the lower right. Only works in options format 2.
- SLZZZZ or TLZZZZ -
default image size. Percent bullet goes in the lower
left. Only works in options format 2.
- SCTZZZZZZZ -
small size. Only works in options format 3.
- SCMZZZZZZZ -
medium size. Only works in options format 3.
- SCLZZZZZZZ -
large size. Only works in options format 3
The options (for use only in format 3) I've found so far
- PE55 -
Puts a percent discount bullet on the lower right of
the image. Value can be 01-99; 00 means no bullet, 1C is a one cent bullet.
(The one cent bullet is only available if the image-and-bullet-type field
- PD55 -
Same as PE except the bullet is on the lower left.
- PB -
Put a drop shadow on the image, down and to the left.
- PC -
Put a drop shadow on the image, down and to the right.
These are only designed to look like a real shadow for
rectangular items such as books. If you want it to look
like a real shadow, make sure to put this option before
any PE, PI,or rotate option. Ooh, here's a neat little
feature:if you add an argument to it (such as PC,4) the
total image size is reduced.
- PA10,6,-8,20 -
This is a more complete drop-shadow tool. The first number is the number of
pixels added to the image in each dimension, generally just adding blank area.
The second is how far the shadow's edge is from the item's edge horizontally
in pixels (positive values go to the right, negative to the left). The third
is how far the shadow's edge is from the image's edge vertically (positive
values go down, negative values go up.) The final number sets how sharp and
dark the shadow is - 0 would be perfectly square, while higher numbers make
the shadow ever fuzzier and lighter.
- PF -
Puts a half-disc image sticking out of the side of the
product.Adding a value after this decreases the size of the existing image
and adds space between the existing image and the disk image.
- PU45 -
Tilts the image to the left. Number is number of degrees.
Default (no number) looks to be 5. Range is 0-99. (Greater
rotations can be done simply by using multiple turn commands.)
- PV45 -
Tilts the image to the right.. Number is number of degrees.
Default (no number) looks to be 5.Range is 0-99.
- PT85 -
Tilts the image to the right. Number is number of degrees.
Default (no number) is 0.
- PIsm.arrow,TopLeft,-2,-19 -
Adds another sort of bullet to the image.
- sm.arrow -
the type of bullet. So far, the bullets that I've
- dp-schmoo2 (and
if you're wondering,"schmoo" is
likely a misspelling of "shmoo",
a white bulbous creature from the Li'l Abner
comic strip that the little figure here somewhat
- TopLeft -
where the placement of the bullet is measured from.
TopLeft, TopRight, BottomLeft and BottomRight all
work. TopLeft is the default,if you enter meaningless
- -2,-19 -
the placement of the bullet. The first number is
horizontal - positive values place to the right,
negative values to the left. The second number
is vertical - positive down, negative up.
- AA25 -
This resizes the image to a fixed pixel dimension (setting its larger dimension,
with the smaller one set in proper proportion). It seems
like you can set any number up to the actual size that
the image is stored at Amazon; above that, this adds
white space to around the borders of your image. Expanding
to the point where you're adding white space also appears
to shrink the bullet. (I need to do a little more exploring
here to get the details worked out.) Values from 1 to
at least 5000, by which point your so far beyond the
size of any actual image at Amazon that there's no point
in thinking about it.
- BO10,155,0,145 -
Adds a border around the picture. The first number is
the border thickness in pixels, and can be up to at least
four digits long, which is more than you'll ever need.
The remaining three values are the border color in decimal-represented
RGB. For those of you who aren't so versed in geekspeak,
what this means is you're mixing a color together using
red, green, and blue. There's a number for the amount
of red (running from 0 to 255), followed by one for the
amount of green, followed by one for the amount of blue.
- ZAText%20stuff,5,15,100,100,times,20,255,40,240 -
Adds text. That's a long option, but it has a lot of
stuff. When writing out the text content, you may run
into problems if you use characters that are not letters
or numbers (such as spaces, commas, and so forth), because
they may be misinterpreted in a URL. Instead, you have
to use encoded ASCII values. Use %20 for a space, %2C
for a comma, %2E for a period, and go here to
look up other characters. The next two fields (5,15)
are the position of the upper left corner of the text
area, measured from the upper left corner of the image.
In this case, it's 5 pixels down, 15 to the right. The
next two figures show where the bottom right of the text
area is, 100 pixels to the right and 100 down from upper
left of the text box. This is important because word
wrap will be done based on where the right edge of the
text box is. After that is the font, and so far I've
identified two: times and verdenab (which
is presumably some sort of misspelling of verdana,
a common font). Next (20) is the font size, and then
a three-digit RGB code for the text color. (You can see
RGB codes explained in the BO option discussion.)
- ZC -
The same as ZA, except that it places the text box so that the longest line
of text in the box is centered on the image. This is good centering if you
have only one line of text. It doesn't center each individual line so the
left edge of shorter lines will still lign up with the left edge of the longest
- BL10 -
This blurs the image. The number appears to be the blur raidius,
so the larger a number you enter, the blurrier your image will get..
cool thing (if you want to generate unlikely Amazon images)
is that you're not limited to one use of any of these options.
You can have multiple discounts, multiple shadows, multiple
bullets, generating images that Amazon would never have
on its site. However, every additional option you add generates
another 10% to the image dimensions, adding white space
around the image. And that 10% compounds; add a lot of
bullets, and you'll find that you have a small image in
a large blank space. Note also that the options are interpreted
in order, which can have an impact on what overlaps what.
The foreign Amazon sites all seem to use the same method;
the only difference is that instead of starting with the http://images.amazon.com/ domain,
the amazon.jp images start with http://images-jp.amazon.com/ while
the amazon.co.uk and amazon.de images start with http://images-eu.amazon.com/ -
Amazon.ca uses the same domain as Amazon.com.
I cannot yet explain why this particular book, image type
1, option style 2, gives a smaller image when the percentage
is set to 34 on a size of TRZZZZ or TLZZZZ than it gives
for other percentages. (Added later: well, whatever was causing that has now
been changed, as these are now all the same size. I have a theory: on the
day that I found this, Amazon had entered a new larger scan of the image.
However, they probably keep commonly-requested image/option combinations buffered,
so the images I was getting for the then-current discount of 34% were still
of the old scan.)
Are there other secrets, other options, other things to
be discovered about the Amazon product image system? Almost certainly.
Note: all of the product images on this page are coming
directly from Amazon. If you don't quite get the URL information
being discussed, right-click (Windows) or ctrl-click (Mac)
on the image, and chose your browsers command to view the
image, or to copy the image address which you can then
paste into the address field of your browser. Your address
field will have the full URL for you to study!
Check out my gallery of cool abused Amazon images!
Abusing Amazon images for decorative art on your own web
pages makes use of Amazon's processor and bandwidth. While Amazon is generally
good about letting people use their systems for interesting projects,
it should be remembered that they make access available in order to ultimately
sell more stuff.
My recommendation for those who want to use Amazon's services
without being a total leech is to either save a copy of the resultant
image and host it directly, or be sure to include a link to the Amazon
sales page for the product depicted. For example, all the images on this
page are for Peanuts Guide to Life, a
collection of quotes and images from the popular comic strip.
If you're using various overlay images, particularly percentage
bullets, include something like:
Warning: the discount percentages and other feature
blurbs depicted on this page are being used in a purely decorative fashion.
They don't represent any discount or feature actually being offered.