Catalogue your personal library...
April 26, 2001 9:29 AM   Subscribe

Catalogue your personal library... I have a sizeable library, and have long wanted to catalog the whole thing for insurance purposes and for general gee-whiz potential. The prospect of hand entering information for each of the books, though, has kept me from doing anything. Now, thanks to a link at PB's site, I've got the itch again... and something to scratch it.

Note to Mac users: Mac-Barcode has a USB scanner available.
posted by silusGROK (27 comments total)

A really neat project. Alas, it pretty much only works for recent books that have barcodes. If you've been scratching your book itch for any length of time at places like used-book shops and AAUW booksales, you've probably got vast numbers of pre-barcode volumes. I know I do.
posted by jfuller at 9:41 AM on April 26, 2001

Most of my books are of a recent enough printing to have barcodes. Still, every bit helps.
posted by silusGROK at 9:50 AM on April 26, 2001

I had a dot-com startup idea about this back in late 1999. A small group of people interested in helping contributed a lot of ideas to a mailing list, but the idea never formalized and I never got past the design mockup phase. I blame myself for not managing the project, because I know today that if we'd built the site, it would be likely be very popular and possibly have been acquired. Ideally, the best solution for "personal libraries" is for a company like Amazon or Barnes & Noble to offer this kind of feature as a service. There are obviously some privacy issues involved. Do you want these companies to have a record of every book, CD, and DVD you own? I think if the privacy issues are handled properly, storing this kind of data online is an excellent idea. You could even use it as an insurance record in case your house or apartment burnt down or was destroyed, proof that you owned $5000 in DVDs, etc.

Additionally, this is the kind of add-on service that Microsoft may try to offer using it's Passport/Hailstorm profiling. I expect services of this nature, tied to a user profile, to explode within the next year or two. Whether or not it's Microsoft that owns this profile directory remains to be seen.
posted by camworld at 9:50 AM on April 26, 2001

I too would be interested in doing this one day...The thing that I found most interesting was looking through the catalog and picturing in my head what type of person this is. I think that what a person reads definitely gives insight to who the person is.
posted by Stretch at 10:07 AM on April 26, 2001

I had this idea a long time ago too. I wanted to create cheap barcode scanners, and bundle this sort of software with them. When Palms came out, I thought it was a killer app for them. When the cuecat came out, I could finally afford a barcode scanner. (free!) And now I can actually build it if I find the time. I'm glad that people have meticulously documented their efforts, it will make my project easier. And I'll do the same.

Being able to publish a list on your website will have to be part of it. I agree, Stretch, I think others' book lists are fascinating.
posted by pb at 10:12 AM on April 26, 2001

Whatever the project, it should also have to have some type of system for listing the un-cataloged works one might have, a la CDDB.
posted by silusGROK at 10:21 AM on April 26, 2001

This may constitute blasphemy around these parts, but I only own five books. My question, however, is could you hack a cuecat to work with a project such as this? Why get a cheap barcode scanner if you can get one for free?
posted by Danelope at 10:30 AM on April 26, 2001

Okay, yeah. I'm a tard. <pretending this never happened>
posted by Danelope at 10:31 AM on April 26, 2001

Can't you generate your own barcodes for pre-barcode items?
posted by thirteen at 10:34 AM on April 26, 2001

Yes. You can, thirteen... the question is what number would you use if there wasn't an ISBN, ISSN or other such identifyier available for it?
posted by silusGROK at 10:39 AM on April 26, 2001

there's also stuff like thokbook. that and some other projects can be found via the open source systems for libraries site.

Vis10n, without an isbn you can still get a record from the library of congress (or other places). this should help if you're cataloging by LC numbers.
posted by gluechunk at 11:05 AM on April 26, 2001

This sounds like a great application for the CueCat that so many of us have kicking around our desk drawers.
posted by bug at 11:06 AM on April 26, 2001

Anyone want to wager that Amazon won't be selling cheap barcode scanners and offering a Web-based "My Library" function by year-end?
posted by kindall at 11:25 AM on April 26, 2001

I used to use a program called endnote. You could enter in a title or an ISBN, hook up to a major library, and all the information about that book, including interior articles and their authors, as well as the publishing history, would appear. You could also add notes to your entries.

When I was in school, I tried getting similarly-minded folk to share their endnote databases, as it helped in trying to find books others found useful. Alas, I don't think they had an HTML export tool.

Of course, the biggest advantage of this program, for those of you going for the MeFi scholarship, was that it made making and formatting bibliographies for papers a dream.
posted by bison at 11:26 AM on April 26, 2001

This sounds like a great application for the CueCat that so many of us have kicking around our desk drawers.

I picked up a CueCat last year when the hacks were rolling out (and the cease and desist orders were rolling back in), because everyone was talking about how it would be so easy to create a single DB that would catalog ALL your barcoded possessions -- books, CDs, DVDs, appliances, etc.

I did the right thing and never installed their spyware -- I just noodled around on the many programming experiments that were floating around back then.

Since that time there has been a lot of talkin' and not much codin' (and I know I don't have the skeelz to build it).

However, I did get my CueCat to work with DVD Profiler.
posted by Dirjy at 12:00 PM on April 26, 2001

What about the Library of Congress Catalog Card Number as an identifying code?

I assume it's unique, but does the LOC allow the distribution of the database? Has anyone worked on this using that number?
posted by Witold at 12:16 PM on April 26, 2001 already has the ability to add your pre-existing library contents to your account, to "more finely tune your suggestions"

All they need is the barcode.
posted by benjh at 12:20 PM on April 26, 2001

Witold... I don't believe that the LOC number applies to non-US publications. I may be wrong, however. ISBN is still one of the best for "modern" publications or recent prints of older materials... LOC fills in the gaps of American publications of earlier vintage.
posted by silusGROK at 1:10 PM on April 26, 2001

Vis10n... you're right... I think that there's some appication process foreign puglications go through to get a LOC number as I know that some of them do have one...

I guess the best way to implement the above system is to have a combination of these technologies to fill in various gaps.
posted by Witold at 2:15 PM on April 26, 2001


Anyone got the bandwidth for the project? I'll chip in brand development & the like for a stake...
posted by silusGROK at 2:35 PM on April 26, 2001

Readerware already does this... just input the ISBN barcodes using a variety of scanners (yes, including CueCat) and it will automatically go online to gather up the book information, catalog your library, and database it.
posted by SenshiNeko at 9:12 PM on April 26, 2001

Oh my. And Readerware just released a Mac OS X version. I think I've just found my reason to upgrade.
posted by kindall at 9:29 PM on April 26, 2001

Oh, Senshi... I could just hug you!


And Kindall... well, what can I say. You're awsome.
posted by silusGROK at 10:04 PM on April 26, 2001

Aw. Stop it, I'm starting to feel all mushy. I sure do love me some MeFi tonight, though.
posted by kindall at 11:16 PM on April 26, 2001 actual Library question. Speaking as a librarian, here's the rundown on the LOC number, called an LCCN for LOC Catalog Number:

The LCCN is a unique identification number that the Library of Congress assigns to the catalog record created for each book in its cataloged collections. Librarians use it to access bibliographic record in the LOC database or other catalogs. The LOC assigns this number either while the book is being cataloged (or more commonly for books from the big publishers) before the book is published through the Preassigned Control Number (PCN) Program.

Only U.S. book publishers are eligible to participate in the PCN program, but foreign books are assigned an LC number after publication.
posted by sixdifferentways at 12:34 AM on April 27, 2001

Any designers looking for a good (printed) barcode program, I recommend Bar Code Pro. We use it where I work to catalog forms and paper stock. It makes UPC, ISBN, Postnet, and many other barcodes. All of which can be customized by font, font size, barcode size...etc.
posted by 120degrees at 11:47 AM on April 27, 2001

Also, if you are a book snob of any kind [and who else would really be scanning their book collection?] the LCCN is missing out on info [six, correct me if I'm wrong here] like version and publisher and other stuff that ISBN will readily deliver.

I always thought this would be a good weekend work party project "wanna come over and help me scan barcodes?" "only if you come over to my place to scan my CDs next weekend...."
posted by jessamyn at 9:07 PM on April 27, 2001

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