Web Scraping with Capybara


Kazuho Yamaguchi




  • Github: kyamaguchi
  • Freelance Software Developer
    • Ruby, Rails
  • Like / Interest
    • English
    • Sublime Text
    • Data analysis (R, Python)
    • TDD, Pair programming, Browser testing

Tsundoku 積ん読

Do you have Tsundoku?

Tsundoku 積ん読

What is Tsundoku(積ん読)?

buying books and not reading them

Compound of 積む (tsumu, “to pile up”) +‎ 読 (doku, “reading”), punning on 積んどく (tsundoku), contraction of 積んでおく
(tsunde oku, “to leave piled up”).

My problem

Do you read books on tablet?

I have so many kindle books.
(3000+ books including samples, free books)

I have so many unread kindle books.

It’s hard to find books on Kindle UI.

No API for Kindle books.
No OAuth


Build an app to manage kindle books

Main libraries/tools

  • Ruby
    • capybara + selenium-webdriver
    • nokogiri
  • Chrome
    • chromedriver

Scrape it

Steps to scrape kindle books data

  • Sign in
  • Download pages
  • Parse pages
  • Output data

Sign in

I split this part in a library(gem).

Check out amazon_auth gem.

  • Simple and reversible conversion of credentials
    • Store it in dotenv(.env)
  • Initialize Capybara session
  • Basic commands to sign in and common utility

Sign in Amazon

amazon_auth signin

Convert credentials

amazon_auth convert

Scrape it

Steps to scrape kindle books data

  • Sign in
  • Download pages
  • Parse pages
  • Output data

Download pages

I build a library for this part.
Check out kindle_manager gem.

I suppose users update data periodically(daily). This library will

  • Have limit on downloading
    • It isn’t practical to Download all data every time
  • Store(append) new pages to existing download directory
    • ‘session.save_page(html_path)’
    • ‘session.save_screenshot(image_path)’ (Not necessary)
  • Don’t care duplicates of data among pages
    • Output will be the same if there is no update(idempotence)

Fetch kindle books list

kindle_maneger download

Tips for downloading

  • Ensure page loading includeing ajax
    • => use Capybara methods
  • Read text, number, date, links in the page instantly
    • => use Nokogiri methods
  • Expose methods
    • Retry/debug interactively on console
  • Use more sleep (than testing)
    • Good for the site

Ensure page loading

Helper for page loading

def wait_for_selector(selector, options = {})
  options.fetch(:wait_time, 3).times do
    if session.first(selector)
  • ‘default_max_wait_time’ of capybara may be enough
  • It gives more controls
    • Logging
    • Change duration of sleep by action

Session and Document

attr_accessor :session

def initialize(options)
  @session = options.fetch(:session, nil)
  @options = options

def doc
  • Delegate Capybara::Session object
  • No memoization with Nokogiri Document

Capybara or Nokogiri

def number_of_fetched_books
  # Capybara method
  # Nokogiri method
  text = doc.css('.contentCount_myx').text
  • 1st, ensure dom with capybara methods
    • capybara waits page loading in some way
  • 2nd, read dom with nokogiri methods
    • Because it’s faster

Example of downloading

class BooksAdapter < BaseAdapter
  def load_next_kindle_list
    current_loop = 0
    while current_loop <= max_scroll_attempts
      if limit && limit < number_of_fetched_books
      elsif has_more_button?
        current_loop = 0
        log "Clicking 'Show More'"
        log "Loading books with scrolling #{current_loop+1}"
        session.execute_script "window.scrollBy(0,10000)"
      sleep fetching_interval
      current_loop += 1

Implementation of downloading

Code is’t clear because

  • Hard to test downloading part
  • It could fail depending on machine
    • height of browser, network
  • Response time from the site could be random
  • Many code for logging
  • Should use less instance variables

Capybara vs. Direct http requests


  • Much easier to get data
    • Don’t need to know the spec of requests

Direct http requests

  • If the spec of requests is known,
    • Possible to control params
      • page size, offset of pagination etc.
  • Testable with vcr
  • Easier when json response is available
  • (I guess) more possibilities to be banned

Scrape it

Steps to scrape kindle books data

  • Sign in
  • Download pages
  • Parse pages
  • Output data

Tips for parsing

  • Create parser model for page
    • Initialize with filepath or html
  • Create parser model for records
    • Initialize with a node for a record
  • Use memoization
  • TDD helps a lot

Parser model for page

class BooksParser
  def initialize(filepath, options = {})
    @filepath = filepath

  def doc
    @doc ||= Nokogiri::HTML(body)

  def body
    @body ||= File.read(@filepath)

Parser model for records

class BooksParser
  def parse
    @_parsed ||= doc.css("div[id^='contentTabList_']").map{|e| BookRow.new(e) }

  class BookRow
    def initialize(node)
      @node = node

    def asin
      @_asin ||= @node['name'].gsub(/\AcontentTabList_/, '')

    def title
      @_title ||= @node.css("div[id^='title']").text

Scrape it

Steps to scrape kindle books data

  • Sign in
  • Download pages
  • Parse pages
  • Output data

Output data

#=> "B004YW6M6G"
#=> "Design Patterns in Ruby"

puts @parser.parse.to_json
#=> [{"asin":"B004YW6M6G","title":"Design Patterns in Ruby", ...

Print data on console

kindle_maneger output


  • Security of amazon :cop:
    • You could be asked security question
  • Compatibility of libraries
    • It’s getting harder to find compatible libraries for recent Firefox
      • FireFox + gechodriver + selenium-webdriver
    • Just use Chrome & chromedriver
  • Normalization of data (名寄せ)
    • 全角スペース、全角英数 (full-width)
    • Special whitespace characters

Some fact(mystery) of amazon security

  • Sleep on key strokes doesn’t help
  • Security question could be displayed after some tries
    • 3 ~ 5 times of successful signin in a short time
    • CAPTCHA could be displayed 3 ~ 5 times in a row
      • when you click submit button with code
    • CAPTCHA passes when you press submit button manually
      • Do amazon check mouse movement or scroll or something?

Patterns of Security questions

  • Ask characters in image (captcha)
  • Ask registered phone number
  • Ask registered zip code
  • Ask security code through email

Security of credentials

I assume this library is used in private projects/machines.
It doesn’t have strong protection of credentials.

There is a tool called envchain which works with macOS Keychain.
This can be used as an alternative of dotenv.

The app I created

tsundoku result

Tsundoku app can

  • Fetch/import kindle books list
  • Quick search/filter
  • Tagging (free words)
    • Read, Hope to read
    • Sample (automatically tagged)
    • Checked etc.

Official kindle books site

Reading status, rating, public notes

kindle review


  • I have so many half price books or free books
    • 1000+ comics
    • 300+ sample books
  • I’m getting more sample books than before
  • Time for reading books didn’t increase
  • But I learnt Ruby programming more than reading
  • Now I have long list of Netflix

Other usage of capybara

  • Smoke test
    • Daily diagnostic
  • Check sites requiring signin
    • Possible to check GMail
  • Captures, Recording
  • Data collection for data analysis
  • more

General News

  • System test in Rails5
  • Chrome headless
    • phantomjs will be deprecated
    • capybara-webkit continues

Wrap up

  • Try it out / Star it :star:
    • Check out GitHub:octocat: /kyamaguchi
      • kindle_manager
      • tsundoku
  • TODO/Idea
    • Limit fetching of records by date
    • Integration with amazon orders(calculate expenses)
    • Get metadata of amazon products
    • Get data from other sites
      • Pragmatic Bookshelf, Oreilly etc.
    • Remind random books

Bonus (kindle highlights)

The site for Kindle notes and highlights is closing
(August 1st, originally July 3rd)

old kindle notes

New site for highlights

New site for Kindle notes and highlights

new kindle notes

Demo app for kindle highlights

I have an app to collect kindle highlights

Use chromedriver in heroku

heroku buildpacks:add https://github.com/heroku/heroku-buildpack-chromedriver
heroku buildpacks:add https://github.com/heroku/heroku-buildpack-xvfb-google-chrome

Any questions

I have some experience of capybara/testing.
Ask me later if you have questions something like

  • Debug spec which fails only on CI
    • Take screenshots in closed instances(Travis CI, heroku)
  • Keep(save/restore) cookies in different sessions
  • vcr (Record api testing of external services)

URL: http://slides.com/kyamaguchi/capybara

How to keep cookies with capybara

session = Capybara::Session.new(:chrome)
# login
session.visit 'https://github.com/login'
session.fill_in 'login_field', with: ''
session.fill_in 'password', with: ''
session.click_on 'Sign in'
# store cookies
data = Marshal.dump session.driver.browser.manage.all_cookies
File.open('all_cookies.txt', 'wb') {|f| f.write(data)}


Restore cookies with capybara

session = Capybara::Session.new(:chrome)
# First visit is required before restoring cookies
session.visit 'https://github.com/'
# restore cookies
data = File.read('all_cookies.txt')
Marshal.load(data).each do |d|
  session.driver.browser.manage.add_cookie d
session.visit session.current_url

Store cookies into database

  • The data with Marshal doesn’t work with postgres text column
  • Restored hash data from json column needs some conversion
# Store 'session.driver.browser.manage.all_cookies' into json column
cookies_from_db.each do |d|
  # :name needs to be symbol on 'add_cookie'
  # :expires needs to be Time class
  d[:expires] = Time.parse(d[:expires]) if d[:expires]
  session.driver.browser.manage.add_cookie d

Bonus 2 (Orders)

Created a gem to collect amazon orders data

Check out amazon_order

Fetch amazon orders

amazon_order fetch

Load amazon orders

amazon_order load

Web Scraping with Capybara

By Kazuho Yamaguchi

Web Scraping with Capybara

Check out GitHub repositories on kyamaguchi

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