January 15, 2006


In the elder days—when men were real men, when computers were real slow and when software was real software—I used to catalogue all my books in a spreadsheet. Open Office format, not Microsoft Office. I entered the book’s name and author there, and kept fields for whether I had lent the book to someone. The books were few, the process was simple, I was happy.

Then the times grew dim. My collection, modest though it was, became unwieldy to catalogue. I ran out of physical space to keep the books, and I ran out patience in entering all the information manually into the ever-growing spreadsheet. Discipline grew lax, and I committed the greatest sin any organizer can commit: I put off entering more information for later, when I would have more time.

Listen: that’s a common trap. Once I begun to put off work, it grew to monstrous proportions. Every new book that I didn’t enter added to the ever-growing pile of stuff I had to do later. I frankly did what any man would have done—looked into the eyes of the beast of my own laziness and ran as hell. In other words, I gave up.

But wait, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Just as the times were looking grim, I stumbled upon a link to a site named Delicious Monster. They built a great product named Delicious Library. I literally drooled looking at it. It made everything so effortless. And it had bookshelves! Virtual, but it’s better to have virtual bookshelves than to have none at all. The next house I’m living in, if I have enough money, I’m going to line at least two walls with book shelves and spend all my waking hours there.

Alas, it was not meant to be. The software was made for the Mac, which a lowly student leeching of his parents could not afford to buy in many a year. I digressed, stopped thinking about it and was content for a while.

In my mind I had already built up the perfect software for me. So when I met different web apps that promised to do something similar, I was naturally disappointed.

First to come to my notice was Colib: not yet released and with no indication of being released still. Then I noticed different sites like Reader2, Listal and LibraryThing. I tried some, was disappointed. This software was fast becoming Holy Grail-esque to me.

The software I had in mind was just perfect. None of these were. And worst of all, I didn’t see any options to export all my data in some standard format.

You see, things had got to such an impassé that I would not use a software unless I had confidence of using it for a long time. I didn’t want to be stuck with a crappy solution when a better one came along, so I didn’t use anything at all. The more I waited, the more my expectations grew.

I recently chanced upon MediaMan after hearing some controversial things about it. Sure it was a Delicious Library clone for Windows, but that was no longer enough for me. Plus the fact that it costs $40 does not help it’s cause.

So now what? I’ve decided to go with the craftsmanship option: build something myself. It’ll suck, but I’ll use it just due to the fact that I built it myself. Not a full featured app; I just plan to get all the metadata for my books using Amazon et al. and store it in a database (SQLite anyone?). And I hope to use other apps to make the data useful. Time will tell.

I already know a really simple way to query Amazon. I also heard of a simple service to use for those pesky cases when a book’s information is not available at any of the Amazon sites. Now all I need is some free time, and lots of coffee. And the will to complete that which I have started…

Update: Tim over at LibraryThing sent me a nice mail a few days ago, telling me about a few features that I missed on. The main thing for me is the ability to export my data—which I can now use with any other app if I feel so. Book import is nicely done, it recognised almost all of my books, except the ones by Indian publishers.


Ankur said...

ha dude .... sqlite is a piece of cake to learn (thou the fact that it supports only a subset of SQL is a nag .. no autoincrement and a whole lots of features are missing) for web services oreilly books are compact and good enough ... to borrow frm nike - Just do it ... will ya

Sunil Natraj said...

Nice post buddy. Now after all that work, its time to work on that blessed project given to us.

Barry Queen said...

Here's also an article to show you how to organize music.