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[The book printer - Amman]

Making Custom Books
-Processing the Cusomer's Order

Step 2: Customer Order arrives at Portable Poetry

After the customer presses "Submit", their order is transmitted to portablepoetry.com and from there is sent by e-mail to Portable Poetry. We won't go into the details here but basically to do this it uses something called the Common Gateway Interface (CGI) and a programming language called Perl. When the completed form arrives at Portable Poetry as an email, it looks something like the one shown below:

ALT="[example e-mail]"

fig 3: a customer order in email form

Most of the fields are self-explanatory. A few (for example Browser and Browser Version) are not entered by the user but provided by the user's browser (we use them for statistics and sometimes debugging JavaScript problems!). The abstruse letter/number combinations in the Selected Poems field are, as you might guess, each poem's reference id (all poems in the database have a unique id based in part on the poet's initials). For example, "The Good Morrow" by John Donne has the reference "DJ11". Using these references (as opposed to say the actual poem titles and poet names) makes the data in the customer order a lot easier to manipulate.

Now that we have the e-mail, we have to enter the customer order in the system. This is described in the next step.

Step 3: Customer Order is Entered in the System

This part is done manually. A script could have been written to do this automatically but it doesn't take much time - besides, there is also a Portable Poetry paper catalogue and orders received that way have to be entered into the system by hand manually anyway. Speaking of the system, I use an Apple Powerbook G3 233 MHz with 128 MBytes of RAM running MAC OS 9. I also use Linux to develop Perl scripts for the site but that's a more recent development. The details from the customer's order have to be entered into a Word file that respects a particular format. You can see what it looks like below:

[customer order]

fig 4: Customer Order as Entered in System

Now that the order is in the system in the format shown above, it can be processed to produce a print ready file that will subsequently become the custom book. We'll explain how this is done in Step 4.

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The Portable Poetry Company