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Catalogue your Books with Book Catalogue (the Application)

android Maybe you’ve had this experience: On a whim, you visit a bookstore (local, chain, obscure, used, whatever), and you peruse their offerings. You enter the store with a vague sense that you need some specific texts, but you left that list is at home. But it’s a bookstore, and you purchase several books. You get home, and you realize that the books you bought were not the ones you needed but were, instead, duplicates of books you already owned. In fact, you already have multiple copies of some of those books (some are in your office, some are under the couch, others who have lent to friends or students).

Or maybe that’s just me, but I do purchase the wrong books all the time.

Mark Sample’s recent guest posts about hacking your library (part I and part II) have given me a lot of highly useful information about how to manage the books I’ve borrowed from the university library, how I can find more resources in this library, and how to manage these texts.

In the process of playing with the apps Mark suggested, I stumbled upon Book Catalogue, an Android app that has made managing the books I already own much easier. It didn’t take me long to be enamored with its functionality, its ease of use, and the wonderfulness of having access to all my books on my phone.

This free application is very easy to use and offers many benefits to a user. The application will download all book data, including author, title, publisher, publication date, or cover art.

Main Menu
main menu

When you access the main menu, you can add books and you can manage the books you have already saved. The “Expand All” key lets you see, at a glance, all the books by a solitary author (Faulkner, As I Lay Dying, Light in August, Sanctuary, or The Sound and the Fury). You can sort your books by author, title, or even by those who have borrowed your books. You can add a book manually, add it by its barcode, or you can add it by its ISBN.

Add by Barcode
add by barcode

Using the “Add by Barcode” function is the easiest way to populate your bookshelves with the Book Catalogue app. Scan the barcode, and the book’s information is automatically placed into searchable fields. The newest update to this app included the automatic ability to scan Amazon for book information and thumbnails of the book’s image. If you haven’t yet downloaded Barcode Scanner (or a similar product) from the Android Market, you’ll want to do this before you use Book Catalogue, as this will save you much time.

Add by ISBN
add by ISBN

If your barcode scanner doesn’t work (or the image isn’t readable), you may need to input the book’s ISBN number. The catalogue will search the Internet for the book’s information (including thumbnails of the book itself). Occasionally, the ISBN cannot be found, and you can enter the book information directly into fields. However, close to 95% of my books were scannable. Those that were not were books that had the book’s original barcode obscured by a bookstore’s own barcode (once removed, the book could be scanned and read) and older books that did not have barcode information. An added hint: good lighting helps the barcode scanner read the barcode.

Manage Your Library
manage your library

When you have added more than a few books, you will probably need to manage that library. By accessing the “Administration” key on the main menu, you can “manage your bookshelves.” I needed to think about how to categorize my books before I started this, so I added the books to the default library, and then moved them. You will always be able to access your entire library (as default), but it’s also helpful to find books within categories. This becomes even more important the larger your library.

Managing Loaned Books
managing loaned books

The “loaned” feature of this app is one uncommon to most tools. It’s also one that I’ve found valuable. This application allows me to add comments about a book to the application itself. I can rank the book, too.

A Few Drawbacks

  • I haven’t figured out a way to connect this type of smartphone application to my university library (so I can track the books I’ve borrowed).
  • When inputting book information manually, the program doesn’t always skip to the next empty field. It would be nice to see these fields at once, so tabbing between fields becomes easier.
  • Additionally, I haven’t yet found a way to connect this database to EndNote. (Someone will eventually pull my ProfHacker license, as I’m not crazy about Zotero (see our posts here and here). However, you can export your book data to an SD card and that data, if formatted properly, could import to Zotero or EndNote. I have not tried this feature, so I don’t know if this is possible.

But the biggest benefit to me? I can now walk into a bookstore and scan a book before I’ve purchased it, thereby checking to see if I already have a copy. Already, this has kept me from purchasing multiple of copies of books. (I might forget a shopping list, but it’s rare that I leave the phone at home.)

How about you? How do you manage your at home library and your office library? Please leave hints, tricks, comments, or suggestions below.

A Note on the Images: I am very fortunate to work with a marvelous community of writers and scholars here at ProfHacker. These folks are generous with their time and their talents, and they embrace a wonderful sense of community. That said, I wish to offer a special shout out to fellow ProfHacker writer, Amy Cavender, who supplied these Book Catalogue screen shots for me. She took the time to download the app, scan a bunch of books, and work through the program just to get these shots needed for this post. Thanks, Amy!

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