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Cataloguing the Library of Babel
happy mac

So I exaggerate - we're not quite at the level of certain other bibliophiles, but we do have upwards of 3-4000 books in Gark Villa. Unfortunately, I also have a poor memory so I'm forever buying duplicate copies of books that I already own, or lending out books and forgetting who to. One of my projects for paternity leave and Christmas was to investigate software for cataloguing our collection, and perhaps make a start on the task. However, the garklet took up more of my time than I'd envisaged (that is, all of it) and I didn't get very far.

perdita_fysh mentioned the software that she'd been using to keep track of her books: Delicious Library. Given that I have a shiny new MacBook Pro, I thought I'd take a look. Five minutes later, I found myself $40 lighter.

Delicious Library is a very slick piece of software that automates much of the tedium of building a library catalogue. It uses the iSight camera to read barcodes, and automatically retrieves the bibliographic information from Amazon. In addition to books, it can also catalogue CDs, DVDs and computer games. It has minimal circulation functionality for tracking loans, but this is nicely integrated into iCal and the address book.

It isn't perfect, and there are a number of areas for improvement, some of which may be dealt with in the next version: integration with online library catalogues is essential for high quality metadata, since the Amazon data is uniformly dreadful (LOC or COPAC would be my choices here, and services like CDDB would suffice for music); it needs to improve the way it handles metadata (representing editors as well as authors would be a good start); it needs smart collections along the lines of iTunes' smart playlists.

There are other systems with similar (or greater) functionality, such as Bookpedia from Bruji or the open source Books, but Delicious Library is better finished and more robust.

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I've used Bookcase on Windows quite a bit, it's simple but effective. Most of that database has been used to seed my Librarything account where I (theoretically) post new books. What I'd like to do is automate syncing between the two, which could be a fun project. ;)

I do seem to have a good enough memory for books, CDs, DVDs etc to prevent me re-buying; I'm probably at around 2000 books, 1500 CDs, 500 DVDs/videos... which means a lot of brain cells are being wasted ;)

Once you've got stuff into Delicious Library, depending on how obscure your collection, it can be very easy to get the bulk of it into LibraryThing, too, because a Delicious Library export can be fed directly into LibraryThing (which will re-look-up the details in a user-selectable list of libraries.) Handy for getting your collection onto the web in a hip 'n' funky way.

Oooh, so what I said was mostly what blue_condition had already said :) Curse my post-before-reading-other-comments mood :)

Yes, I'm already doing that with LibraryThing here.

might I suggest you upgrade your enviasging software - fancy thinking you'd have time for other things.

that's all part of your previous life not present


Lil dear, sarcasm doesn't become you...

Meh - I've packaged up most of my humungous book collection into lots of crates already, in an effort to make the house look presentable. Now, I've worked back from the volume of crates to a figure of over 2k books.... which clearly isn't enough. However, as 2 specialist subjects, it may still be ahead of the game (that is, science fiction and fantasy fiction (and never the twain shall meet)). I had always intended on cataloging it properly, and I made an attempt some years back using a dictaphone, but I've always balked at getting a proper barcode scanner. However, if I could amortize the cost against a small fee for lending it out to all you other bibliophiles, then perhaps I could justify buying one. It took a long while for the websites to publish ISBNs, but now they do, it's possibly worth while.

Given the resolution of most webcams now, you may find that there's PC software that does the trick of 'scaning' a barcode from an image...

As far as I know, Delicious Library uses XML. Copac itself will be released this spring in an XML version, based on MARC21 data. We are constantly adding to Copac, whose backbone is made up of the library collections of 29 of the biggest and most prestigious research libraries in the British Isles. Copac currently contains some 33 million records. Now if users out there need or want this data and if Delicious Library is reading this too, well....;-)

I'm a little skeptical of Delicious Monster's interest in representing richer metadata. They're currently reproducing only what is present in Amazon's listings, and they're scrambling that in places. In an ideal world, they'd open up and provide a search plugin architecture along the lines of that offered by Books, not to mention export plugins to satisfy both the DC-in-RDF crowd *and* the BibTeX mafia.

DL's internal XML format is very rudimentary, with little concession made to extensibility; all the fields for a record are stored as attribute values on a single element, which doesn't allow for multiple-valued fields or any provenance annotations. Given this, I doubt that they'd make particularly good (or any) use of a MARC21-based XML format from COPAC, which would be a shame.

(I assume that you're the Mike Mertens of CURL, by the way...)

Yes, of CURL fame. It is a shame that this data cannot be re-used for public good, since we are ultimately funded by the taxpayer, and that's the purpose (public good effect) of Copac anyway.

I feel the need to point and say "ha ha, Mac boy!". Any day now you'll be wearing trendy glasses and black roll-next tops whilst drinking espresso... Oh.

I await the proliferation of misc Macs littering the Gark household. "If we just had a mini for the TV" etc.

DL does sound pretty good though, great idea.

It was probably only ever a matter of time. I'm too much of a lardarse to wear the black rollnecks these days, so that's some comfort. Perhaps I should get a black beret and grow a ghoti to compensate?

Mac Mini for the TV won't be happening, since I bought a Humax 9200T before Christmas...

Ah yeah, I think I saw you mention you had a PVR, how is it?

I'm not sure a beret and goatee would help. What happened to your pipe mounted laser pointer idea though?

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