Book-catalog software for Mac + iPhone

I've been a big fan of Delicious Library ever since it first came out. It looks very pretty, and it lets you add books to your library by scanning their barcodes with your Mac's camera.

It also lets you export your library to a set of web pages (which you can host, for example, in your MobileMe account). But viewing those pages on a mobile browser is, in my experience, fairly annoying—and, of course, requires that you have an Internet connection on your phone.

What I want is to have a searchable copy of my book catalog on my iPhone, so that when I'm in a bookstore, or a convention dealer's room, I can quickly and easily find out whether I already own a given book, even if I can't reach the Internet from there.

So I was delighted last summer when Delicious Monster released a version of DL for iPhone. And I was really annoyed when Amazon made them take it down before I could download it.

DL gets a lot of its book data from Amazon. (Which is too bad, given how wildly inaccurate a lot of Amazon's book data is.) And Amazon changed their API terms of service at some point to prevent any mobile app from using data that came from Amazon.

I don't think anyone knows why Amazon did this. The Kindle may've had something to do with it, or may not. There's been speculation that they're going to release their own mobile device of some sort, but nobody knows.

The DL people asked Amazon for an exception. Amazon said no.

So the iPhone version of DL got yanked from the Apple Store.

It seemed to me that this was obviously some kind of mistake or miscommunication, and that sooner or later things would get worked out. But I've waited for a year now, and as far as I can tell there's no sign that Amazon will change its mind, or that there'll be a version of DL that uses non-Amazon data.

So about a month ago, I stopped waiting and started looking, desultorily, for an alternative.

A friend pointed out that DL stores its data in an sqlite database, so anyone could write an app that would extract that data and display it on the iPhone. That's great, but I don't really want to have to write any code for this. (Though I suppose it would be a nice easy way to get my feet wet with app-writing. But I'm not sure whether I could legally distribute such an app.)

Another friend pointed to online book-catalog sites like LibraryThing. Which are all well and good, but again, I don't want to have to have Internet access to view my book list. And I have an unreasoning gut prejudice against storing stuff in the Cloud anyway.

I think you can still sync DL to iPod notes, but (a) that's a very primitive kind of sync (one big flat text file), and (b) iPod notes are different beasts from iPhone notes.

So last night I was about to post an entry asking if any of you knew of any Mac desktop book-catalog applications that synced nicely with iPhone apps. And then I thought I should check the DL support forums first to see if there was any word on a new iPhone version.

There isn't. But a couple of people there linked to a couple of other applications that seemed relevant.

So after a little further research, here are the options I know of:

See below.
In theory this should work fine, but it's overkill; it's a general database app, not a book-catalog app. There is a book-catalog template available from a third party, but I suspect getting everything running the way I want it would be a fair tad bit of work.
Bookpedia and Pocketpedia
This sounds like it was a good option—until Amazon forced Bruji to pull the plug on Pocketpedia. Feh. Boo, Amazon!
There are various book-catalog applications on the Mac (like Librarian Pro, which also works on Windows), and various apps on the iPhone, but I don't know of any other cases of paired Mac and iPhone apps that work together for this purpose.

So I took a look at Booxter. There's a free downloadable trial version for the Mac; I downloaded it and ran it, and a minute later I had imported my entire DL catalog into it—over 1200 books. It's not nearly as pretty as DL, and I suspect it doesn't have some of DL's features, but the import seemed to work well and it does do the barcode-scanning-via-video-camera trick. (Not in the downloadable demo version, though.)

The Booxter iPhone app is free, and it syncs with the desktop version. You have to save your Booxter library on the Mac first, though, or the iPhone app will show a library with 0 items. If you have trouble importing/syncing, try turning off sharing in the Mac version and then turning it back on. (I had to have an email exchange with Booxter tech support before I got this to work properly; their response was fast and reasonably helpful.)

The Booxter iPhone app has some significant shortcomings: in particular, it doesn't appear to have a Search function, and there doesn't appear to be an alphabetical-by-title view, so if you don't know a book's author, you may have trouble finding it. Still, much much better than the available DL-related options.

I'm not sure why Amazon hasn't shut down the Booxter iPhone app. Maybe they still will; if this sounds potentially interesting to you, you might want to grab the free iPhone app now just in case.

While I'm here, anyone know of a good publicly editable book-info database that doesn't rely on Amazon data? Seems like there must be such a thing; and given how often Amazon's data is wildly inaccurate (especially regarding authors), I suspect it would be at least as good as Amazon.

3 Responses to “Book-catalog software for Mac + iPhone”

  1. Jennifer

    Try BookBuddy! I find it quite easy to use, and a great problem-solver.

  2. LZS

    What about MyLibrary or iBookshelf?

    • Jed

      I’m guessing that by “MyLibrary” you mean the iPhone app My Library?

      That and iBookshelf appear to be two book-catalog apps from the same company (I can’t find easy info about the differences). Neither one appears to have a Mac desktop version, nor to sync with Mac desktop software, so they’re in my Other category.

      Which is to say, they aren’t what I’m looking for.


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