Book cataloging

One of the things I've been doing now and then over the past couple weeks, usually when I should've been doing other stuff, is finally entering my paperbacks into Delicious Library.

Not all of my paperbacks, mind you. But all of the mass-market paperbacks on my main mass-market-paperback bookcase in my living room.

I had already done all the easy ones a while back, which is to say all the ones that had ISBNs in barcode form. For those, I'd held the barcode up to my computer's camera, and DL had interpreted the barcode and downloaded all the relevant info about the book from Amazon, including a picture of the cover.

But quite a lot of my mmpbs were published in the late 1960s and early 1970s, before ISBNs existed or at least before they really caught on.

And, frustratingly, DL can't look stuff up by Library of Congress catalog number, nor by publisher's catalog number. And even though a publisher's three-digit ID code followed by the book's five-digit catalog number looks like an ISBN (at least, it does after you add a leading zero and a trailing check digit), in most cases that turns out not to be the book's ISBN. (One publisher did seem to convert their catalog numbers to ISBNs in this obvious way, but I forget which publisher; and most didn't.)

So for most of those older books, I ended up doing the following in DL2:

  1. Press Command+N to get the book-lookup/creation dialog.
  2. Type in the book's full title followed by the first word of the publisher's name.
  3. Scroll through the results to find a copy that was published in the same year that my copy was published in.
  4. Select that copy and click the Add button.

In most cases, the results were fairly good. However, that fairly often resulted in the books being labeled as having the format "Paperback"; DL distinguishes between "Paperback" (by which it means trade paperback) and "Mass-Market Paperback," but most Amazon sellers apparently don't make that distinction. So to make the books look right on DL's virtual shelves, I had to go through and change any incorrect ones to say "Mass-Market Paperback." (It would've been possible to do this all at once using Select All, but I'm always a little wary of making that kind of change to everything at once.)

I also had to drag-and-drop a few cover images from Amazon (from a web browser) when the copy I'd selected didn't have a cover image attached.

And, of course, I ended up with all the junk info that's attached to Amazon's books. For example, maybe one in ten of the books I got info for had something wrong with the author or title: the title or author in all caps; extra words (like "LAUREL LEAF LIBRARY") added to the title in parentheses; authors and illustrators and editors and authors-of-stories-in-the-anthology all run together on the Author line; author and editor names mangled, entered in last-name first-name order, and/or with extra words (like "editor") inserted in the middle; etc. Amazon is intended as a marketplace, not a bibliographic database per se, so acquiring bibliographic info from Amazon has its pitfalls.

It also means that almost all of the books ended up with wacky "current value" numbers attached (presumably based on the value of whatever specific copy I selected, which often had nothing to do with the copy I own), wacky "genres" labels/tags (like "Subjects / Mass Market / Printed Books", or "Non-Classifiable Nonfiction - General" for Bradbury collections), and other incorrect or irrelevant data. I didn't bother changing any of that info. And most of the info about series was either missing or wrong, so I had to clean up a bunch of that data.

But still, it was all a lot nicer and faster and easier than having to enter authors, titles, publishers, and publication years by hand.

And the upshot of all this is that I now have a catalog of my paperbacks available online, in a format that I can easily view on my iPhone while I'm (say) at a bookstore. At some point, there may be a DL-for-iPhone app that lets me carry the data around on the phone without having to open a web page, but this'll do for now. (I actually like DL's other default publishing template better, but the one I used puts everything on one page, and scrolling through 419 book entries on one page in my iPhone browser seemed like a bad idea. There are third-party templates that may be better, but I haven't had a chance to try them.)

Over time, I'll be cataloging my trade paperbacks (including graphic novels) and hardcovers. And I already entered a bunch of my father's books that I don't want, a couple years ago; at some point I'll put that list online, and anyone who wants them can ask me for them. (But just to be clear, the paperbacks that I linked to above are all books I want to keep.) At some point I may also export my DL lists to one of the online social networks for books--Google Book Search, LibraryThing, Shelfari (just acquired by Amazon), aNobii, GuruLib, All Consuming, Squirl, Douban,, etc. But for now, it's just this set of DL-generated catalog pages.

Note that the prominently displayed star ratings on my catalog pages are Amazon's average reviewer rating, not my rating. I haven't rated any of these books.

Oh, and note that most of the books I've bought in the past few years have been trade paperbacks, so this doesn't really give a very good overview of the state of my books.

I'm really unclear on the status of the site--I'm guessing it's going away at some point, since .Mac has been replaced by, but I'm not clear on how all that fits together. Anyway, don't expect my library page to be there indefinitely. But thought it would be fun to link to it for now.

One other interesting side effect of all this cataloging is that I realized that I have a lot of old and worn-out copies of various books. At some point, it might be nice to (for example) replace my whole Bradbury collection with a more recent edition that matches. Assuming all those books are still in print. But that's another project for another day.

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