Slashdot: News for Nerds


Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Solving the Home Library Problem?

Cliff posted more than 8 years ago | from the dewey-decimal dept.


zgrossbart asks: "My wife and I have about 3,500 books. We can't find anything. All the books are in random order. We want to find a solution for organizing our books. We have a barcode scanner, but I'm not sure the best way to use it. I want a solution that is easy to maintain going forward and makes books easy to find. I also want the data in an open format. I'm think about using MySQL right now, but I'm open to other suggestions. What software do other people use to organize their home libraries?"

cancel ×


BookCrossing (5, Interesting)

Pete (big-pete) (253496) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972171)

If you love something, set it free [] !

-- Pete.

Re:BookCrossing (3, Interesting)

the grace of R'hllor (530051) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972327)

Soooo many books that are probably being tossed in the garbage at McDonalds, I want to scream.

Well, I work at a Helpdesk, so me wanting to scream is nothing special, but still.

Anyway, the idea of keeping your books is that, if you desire something to read, you can reach into a shelf and there you will find treasure. As well as being able to look upon a story with either new insights into the story (multi-volume fantasy epics like Steven Erikson's, frex) or new insights into yourself.

Re:BookCrossing (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972713)

I tried to throw away some piers anthony books my housemates didn't want and didn't want to deal with once, and they took them out of the trash because they thought it was "wrong" to throw away a book. Next time I'll burn them... or just take them to McDonald's.

Throwing it ALL away... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14972821)


It IS wrong to throw away anything that still has a useful life.

But you're so fucking self centered and selfish, that you can't see all the embodied energy that went into the production and transportation of that book to the final reader.

So thats right, throw away a perfectly good book, and the rest of the planet with it.

Short sighted fool!

Re:BookCrossing (4, Funny)

goodEvans (112958) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972354)

I prefer the Dead Milkmen's solution here:

"If you love somebody, better set them on fire..."

Government Solution! (5, Funny)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972175)

Dear Mr. Guy Montag [] ,

It has come to our attention that you have a surplus of books stored at your residence.

We have already dispatched firemen to alleviate you of this horrible affliction--fire trucks will be there within the hour. For you see, special-interest groups and other "minorities" objected to books that offended them. As a result, books all began to look the same, as writers tried to avoid offending anybody. This isn't enough, however, and society as a whole decided to simply burn books rather than permit conflicting opinions.

There are other unpleasantries that books cause but there is no need for me to go that far into detail.

As you can see, your search for a digital Dewey decimal system is unneeded. And it is quite peculiar that anyone should have as many books as you do. Do not worry, though, we are a free public service!

Thank you again in your cooperation and trust that our services will be a valuable solution to your growing literary problem.


Karl Rove [] Senior Advisor & Chief Political Advisor The Bush Administration

Re:Government Solution! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14972349)

Isn't Wikipedia fantastic? You mindlessly [] link to it and suddenly the inane is hilarious, the vapid is profound, the pointless is well-informed and some jackass linking to TEH FLYING SPAGETTI MONSTAR is a scientist!

Closed Source but reliable (3, Informative)

dada21 (163177) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972176)

I bootlegged a copy of AV Cataloger [] and liked it so much that I bought it. I recommend it to all, but it is a Windows-based program.

I'm sure you can write your own, but AV Cataloger hits all the sites to gain information -- even Amazon for books. It also helps to keep track of what you loan to people (my mother is the worst thief my latest report shows!).

I know /. readers don't like closed-source Windows-only software, so I'd welcome an F/OSS solution just like this. Until then, this is a worthy purchase.

Re:Closed Source but reliable (1)

commanderfoxtrot (115784) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972647)

I wrote a library system many years ago for school (I was about 12) which worked well for their volumes (many times more than yours).

For only 3500 books though, digitalising it is probably a complete waste of time. And even if you do, you will still have to put them in some sort of order on the shelf.

Just label the shelves and shuffle the books around so you end up with category and then author name.

If you want to play with tech, try taking a hi-res photo of the bookshelf and using OCR on it.

Re:Closed Source but reliable (4, Informative)

peragrin (659227) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972788)

Closed source but for The Apple platform []

It does everything for you. It works with either a scanner or you cna manually enter numbers.

The big solution though is physical sorting of the books. You have to keep them in place and return them to that place, being as anal as your old high school librarian about where the books/dvd's/etc are returned to.

Um... (5, Funny)

DorkusMasterus (931246) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972184)

I think you lost most of the slashdotters when you started with "My Wife..." People are googling this "wife" to see what they can find out about the phenomenon. Once that dies down, then maybe you'll get some results.

The Dewey Decimal System (4, Insightful)

Shimdaddy (898354) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972193)

Seriously, the Dewey Decimal System has always worked for me. Unless you're running an actual "Go-ahead-and-check-stuff-out" library out of your home, the barcodes and MySQL seem like total overkill.

Re:The Dewey Decimal System (5, Insightful)

TheWanderingHermit (513872) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972399)

This is a good point. There's no reason in going hi-tech with scanners and bar codes when simpler solutions can do the job. Maybe that's the problem -- you're looking for a hi-tech solution to a lo-tech problem, so you're forgetting things like sorting by category and alphabetizing by the author's last name. I don't use the Dewey Decimal System, but I sorted my books years ago. I have fiction divided into several groups (sf & fantasy, literature, drama...) and the rest are grouped by subject matter and eact section is sorted by author's last name. I made sure the shelving arrangement allowed for adding a lot of books along the way. When done, I also had a good sized pile of books that were left over from college or from my ex-wife that were ones I'd never need or want to read, so I took them to the used book store for credit and that helped, as well.

Who needs scanners and bar codes? Libraries have kept much bigger book collections organized for centuries with less tech than that.

Re:The Dewey Decimal System (5, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972690)

The problem with using the Dewey Decimal system in a residence is that home users may not have room to line up books by author. Books come in multiple sizes, but an individual shelf only holds one [maximum] size of book - and is inefficient with anything smaller. Thus, most home book collections are organized by available space.

People without more shelf space than they can use are much better off just labeling everything where it sits, and returning books to the hole from which they came. The book information can go into a database, and you can search/browse them that way. Some clever software even steals book covers from amazon so you don't have to do it manually.

My final suggestion is to put a barcode on each shelf. You could put one on the bookshelf too, but that's redundant. Scan the shelf, then scan all the books on the shelf. You can accomplish all this with a very simple untethered barcode reader (read: inexpensive.) When you bring the reader back and dump the data, all you have to do is maintain a teensy bit of state (remember the bookshelf info from the scan) and then just stick records in the db as you go. Each book will be recorded as being in the last location scanned. When you get a new location, overwrite the old variables, and keep going. When you get to the end of the data, you go home a winner. Snarf the data out of amazon or similar using one of the many APIs available (up to and including the official one) and you're done.

Re:The Dewey Decimal System (3, Informative)

RevDobbs (313888) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972561)

So, did you purchase your Dewey Decimal licence, or do we have to send the Library Police after you?

Hint: the Dewey Decimal System is not free to use...

Re:The Dewey Decimal System (1)

dolphinling (720774) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972693)

Heck, that's only if they're non-fiction. For all the fiction ones, you just alphabetize them.

And besides that, barcoding and sticking them in a database won't help you anyway, if what you want to do is find where they are in your house!

Dewey is for general libraries (4, Insightful)

oneiros27 (46144) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972711)

If you have a specialty library, it can be completely useless -- imagine going into a library where every book was filed under '005' (computer programming). If you don't have a general library, Dewey isn't going to be as useful for sorting -- you'll want to look into a specialty thesaurus or ontology for your holdings.

As generalized libraries go, if there's a chance of moving it to a database, I personally prefer UDC [] , due to the way in which is handles sub-topics. (if you had something on the History of British Railroads -- where does it get filed in Dewey? History, European Countries, or Transportation Infrastructure? UDC maintains each of the facets, without needing 3 books of indexing instructions)

Re:The Dewey Decimal System (2, Insightful)

poot_rootbeer (188613) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972790)

The Dewey Decimal system works well for "I have a general idea of the subject I want, so let me browse around and find a book that looks interesting", but if you're going to do all your searching at a computer instead of "in the stacks", and storage efficiency is a concern, the Library of Congress system may be a better choice.

Delicious Library (4, Informative)

jnd3 (116181) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972199)

If you've got a Mac (a big IF, I know), Delicious Library [] is the way to go. I've not seen its equal for Mac or PC. Barcode scanning (I use a modified USB CueCat), auto-querying for book covers and other information, borrowers, and so forth. Works for books, CDs, video games, DVDs, whatever. Worth every penny!

Re:Delicious Library (2, Informative)

bjpirt (251795) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972259)

I would second this - it works fantastically for my DVDs

Although, I'm unsure how well it would work with generating locations for the books - would you have to decide where to put things on your shelves or would it classify it according to the dewey decimal system and then you'd know where to put it on your shelves.

Works ok for my DVDs because we can just store them alphabetically.

( opening up Delicious library to have a look...)

Re:Delicious Library (3, Informative)

phillymjs (234426) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972423)

Another vote for Delicious Library here.

As for locations, I just made shelves in DL that represent my different bookcases in different rooms in my house, and dragged the appropriate books into each. I'm eagerly awaiting a version of DL that supports 'smart shelves' so I can just use the location info in each book's entry and have those shelves dynamically update.


Re:Delicious Library (1)

mbadolato (105588) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972485)

There's also Media Collector [] , which looks great (for books, dvd's etc). I haven't used it yet but I've been meaning to get a copy one of these days.

Win and Mac, and works via Bluetooth (or usb, iirc)

Three answers (2, Insightful)

gowen (141411) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972201)

Pick one of these methods of classification.
i) LoC classification.
ii) Dewey-decimal.
iii) Alphabetised by author.

I'd recommend (i).
Given the small number of fields (Author, Title, Year, Publisher, LoC shelfmark), you can store the information in a flat text file.

Re:Three answers (4, Insightful)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972294)

With any of those options, and such a small number of books, why not just organize the shelves. Seperate the shelves by category and then organize each shelf by author. That way a quick visual scan of the shelf will give you the book you want in less time than it takes you to query a database, or sit down and open a text file. If you can't remember which title goes with wich author, you certainly don't need your own database for that. There are plenty that exist already and are internet searchable.

There are libraries in the world with hundreds of thousands of books, and you can walk right in and find a book you want. The technical aspects of this are just pure unnecessary geekery.

Re:Three answers (1)

Richard Steiner (1585) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972754)

That's exactly what my wife and I do -- the books are categorized by general type (fiction, cookbooks, reference, etc.), and within each category we sort by author. More or less.

It seems to work quite well. :-)

I use the same method for my CD collection. Three groups (Rock, Rock Collections, and Classical), each sorted by performer or composer.

Re:Three answers (4, Informative)

jmilne (121521) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972490)

My wife's a librarian, and she would laugh at the idea of using LoC numbers for a collection this small. Dewey's far simpler to figure out mentally for a collection that isn't the size of your local state university's. Heck, for a collection this size, you could go with the standard used book store layout. Just use general catagories and label the shelves so you know what they are. History (maybe break down into Ancient, European, American, etc. if you have a lot of history books), Religion, Science, Math, Art, etc. Fiction could be seperated into genres like Mystery, Fantasy, and Romance, or just organized alphabetically. The beauty is, you probably already know where these books should be catagorized, and you could probably do it all in the span of a few hours. Trying to do anything else, including assigning Dewey call numbers, is going to take a lot more time and effort for not much more benefit.

Start with Fiction Vs. Non (3, Insightful)

StandSure (778854) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972210)

Crazy High Tech Solutions pale in comparison to old - school ones. Divide your book cases up Fiction and Non and categorize from there. Put the books most commonly read on easy to reach shelves. My parents have easily that many and don't run into any problems looking for the book they want to read. It is enough to have a vague idea of where the book is, History of Computing - Non Fiction around shelf 3 and call it a day. How do people find books at a bookstore anyhow?

Re:Start with Fiction Vs. Non (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972269)

How do people find books at a bookstore anyhow?

You don't. It's really hard. If you know the author and which section it's in it can be done, but I find that finding a book by title, in a large bookstore (Chapters (i'm in canada)) can be quite difficult. Maybe they should have a computer system that tells you where the book is in their store instead of just being hooked up to their website.

Re:Start with Fiction Vs. Non (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972513)

You don't. It's really hard.

Ummm. I guess some of us are more capable of sorting through the alphabet or finding the right category than others...

Re:Start with Fiction Vs. Non (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14972732)

But with access to their website, can't you search for the book and find the author, then check the shelf? I can't see how this is hard.

Re:Start with Fiction Vs. Non (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972803)

It doesn't tell you what section of the store it's in, or even if it is instock at that particular location.

Just a single text file (1)

Bromskloss (750445) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972226)

With just a few thousand books I think a simple textfile might do. One paragraph per book. One line per data field (author, title, ...). Easy search in firefox with find-as-you-type.

easy (1)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972242) []
Should cover every thing you need.
Be sure to print a number under the barcode so you can visually see a book that is out of place. Color coding labels by major subject doesn't hurt either.

Category - series - author (1)

DamienMcKenna (181101) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972260)

Do what the book stores do, start with the master category (scifi / fantasy, gardening, geek stuff), then break it down by series or sub-category where needed, then by author. Should work for 90%+ of books, and the rest you can fudge.

My wife has several shelves of her books with different categories in different locations. She also has one shelf dedicated to Anne McCaffrey and one for Mercedes Lackey. I've got all my geek books on one shelf, and my general "to read" pile on another. It works fairly well for us, but we don't have 3500 books to start with.

That's exactly what I'm doing! (5, Interesting)

RhettR (632157) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972266)

I'm actually working on a project that EXACTLY fits your problem. Please check it out at homelibrary [] at sourceforge. I've only just started the project, it's not very easy to install right now, and there are a few bugs, but I started it with the exact problem in mind.

Re:That's exactly what I'm doing! (5, Funny)

Scaba (183684) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972598)

I'm actually working on a project that EXACTLY fits your problem. Please check it out at homelibrary at sourceforge. I've only just started the project, it's not very easy to install right now, and there are a few bugs, but I started it with the exact problem in mind.

The word "sourceforge" in the second sentence makes the third superfluous.

Re:That's exactly what I'm doing! (3, Funny)

Monkelectric (546685) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972909)

I wish I had modpoints for ya :) Source Forge: The largest repository of software that only works for the author.

Re:That's exactly what I'm doing! (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972623)

What does it do that Alexandria or Tellico don't already do?

Re:That's exactly what I'm doing! (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972895)

It's Web-native. Tellico is a KDE app, and Alexandria runs on Windows.

easy (4, Insightful)

Eil (82413) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972270)

Do as the librarians do: divide the books into major subjects and then alphabetize by author. If you need to search by something else, Google is your cross-reference.

Re:easy (1)

hackstraw (262471) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972925)

Do as the librarians do: divide the books into major subjects and then alphabetize by author. If you need to search by something else, Google is your cross-reference.

Or, just use Google first: q=book+isbn+barcode+scanner []

Which yields: [] []

and []

The last one seems pretty complete.

I believe [] should just redirect to []

oss4lib (4, Informative)

croddy (659025) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972279)

There is quite a large amount of open-source software available for library management. A full-blown ILS might be overkill for a personal collection, but I'd suggest checking out Koha [] and the listings at OSS4Lib [] .

Finding books.. (5, Insightful)

onion2k (203094) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972280)

We can't find anything. All the books are in random order.

Have a catalogue on your computer isn't going to tidy up and organise your bookshelf. SQL queries don't work on shelves. Unfortunately.

Re:Finding books.. (1)

LiquidAvatar (772805) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972517)

I'd imagine that the goal is to label the shelves and use the computerized database to record the proper location for each book (as well as other vital info, such as title, genre, author, publisher, state ("loaned to on ")). With a scanner, it sounds to me like all you really need is a small database for storing/organizing your information.

It would be nice to have all of this info on hand, in an organized manner. Make it nice and easy to figure out exactly how many of your possessions aren't in your possession.

Re:Finding books.. (1)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972881)

Organize them autobiographically [] .

Re:Finding books.. (1)

localman (111171) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972935)

Actually, with a barcode on a section of shelf, and a barcode on the book, you can leave things in random order and find them very quickly once everything is scanned into the database. I've used warehouse systems like this and they're pretty neat.


Why software? (5, Insightful)

smoor (961352) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972301)

Unless you have a massive reference collection or are checking books out to friends, why bother with software? The solution to your problem is physical organization. Even if you can't have all the books together, you could organize them using LOC or Dewey, or something and label the locations.

Having to update software everytime you move a book or add a book is just one additional step that doesn't seem to add any value.

When I was 12 I put all my books into PFS:File on an Apple //e. Printed little labels and everything. Why? Because I was 12 and had time to burn... I never looked at it again.

Re:Why software? - insurance (3, Interesting)

From A Far Away Land (930780) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972375)

The only advantage I can think of is for insurance purposes. You can backup the file offsite, and keep a list of your library to be replaced in case of fire or flood. A simpler way would be to take high re pictures of your bookshelves, which is what I did with my CD collection.

Really the best way is by author and then google the title or author when doing a search on a subject in a book he thinks he might have on his shelves. Then just find it by the author.

Re:Why software? (1)

Carik (205890) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972529)

There's another good reason: I lend out my books a lot, and I frequently can't remember who borrowed what, or tell by a quick glance at my shelves what I actually own.

Also, if you make it accessible over the web, you can tell people "I want any book by this author that I don't already have," and they'll be able to look up what you have.

Re:Why software? (1)

elmegil (12001) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972611)

So I guess where the parent poster said "unless you're...loaning out books to friends" whizzed right past you, I guess?

Re:Why software? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14972868)

Unless you have a massive reference collection or are checking books out to friends...

There's another good reason: I lend out my books a lot...

Who needs books if you can't read?

Re:Why software? (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972664)

I am certain there is some cataloging software available for free, online and off. Some use SQL, some just use some other internal storage system. If you maintain a software catalog, then you also have to be sure that the locations you mark in the program are always updated when a book is moved.

Have kids and you won't care anymore about trivia (5, Funny)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972334)

"My wife and I have about 3,500 books. We can't find anything. All the books are in random order."

Have a couple of kids and you'll find that trivial stuff like this will be the least of your concerns - most of your possessions will be in random places.

"We want to find a solution for organizing our books. I also want the data in an open format. "

Dewey decimal system? Maybe one of you should pick up a degree in library science.

"We have a barcode scanner, but I'm not sure the best way to use it.

Aim the red light (the "la-ser") at the "zebra stripes" and wait until you hear a beep.

"What software do other people use to organize their home libraries?"

Hell, I read books to get a break from computers. I think if I had that many books I'd donate most of them to the local library. I know I don't have time to reread 3,500 books - there's millions more out there I haven't read yet!

Anything else I can help you with today?

tough one (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972342)

Hmmmm. If only some highly organized groups of people would tackle this problem, then there might be a few possible solutions. I guess that's just wishful thinking...

Just use the standard system: (5, Funny)

SeeMyNuts! (955740) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972350)

Shelf 1: Romance Novels
Shelf 2: Thermodynamics Textbooks

With all that steam, you can also use that room as a sauna!

Nanoscale Woodworking []

Use shelves. (3, Interesting)

david.given (6740) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972361)

And put the books in alphabetical order.

It's as easy as that. I have about that many, and I can always find things. My mother has about twice as many, and she can always find things. You don't need high-tech solutions, all you need is a certain level of self-discipline.

High-tech solutions are also very brittle. If you have to tell the system whenever you take a book off the shelf or put it back on, then you'll lose books, because at some point you will forget, and the system will have an incorrect view of where the book is. Alphabetical ordering doesn't suffer from this nearly as much.

Plus: alphabetical ordering lets you browse. I don't know about you, but I don't want to figure out what book I want to read next by looking at a database. I want to do it by looking at the shelves, and taking them down, flipping through, looking at the cover, putting them back, etc. That's what books are all about. This is your home, not a warehouse...

Re:Use shelves. (2, Insightful)

richg74 (650636) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972488)

I agree, I don't think that using a high-tech solution adds much in this case. I have ~3000 books, and I keep them organized on different shelves: technical books in my office, general fiction in the den, cookbooks in the kitchen, and so on. Then I may have subcategories (e.g., mysteries, science fiction) depending on how many books there are. It's easy enough to find a particular title within these smaller groups. I also have more than 1000 sound recordings, which I organize along the same lines.

This problem really is essentially the same as organizing paper files. The key thing is to decide on a classification scheme that makes sense to you, and the to go with that. The only software you really need is what came pre-installed inside your skull.

Use an Open Source Library System (1)

diogenesx (580716) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972370)

I'm in essentially the same boat, thought I only have around 1500 books. I've started a project to catalog and catagorize all of them. I would suggest using Koha [] . It's an open source ILS (Integrated Library System) built on perl and mysql. It's being used worldwide (originally developed in new zealand). My library system (which i work for) is transfering the whole county to it, and I'm using it for my personal library at home.

software? we dont need no steenkin software (2, Insightful)

nuggetman (242645) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972378)

I'm going to have to echo the "why do you need software?" calls.

Fiction vs Nonfiction
Break fiction down into scifi, fantasy, historical, or whatever else applies
Break nonficiton into computers, biography, history, math, science, etc
Then alphabetize categories by author, and label your shelves.
Use some cardboard to make book-sized dividers and write A, B, C, D, etc on them

Space? we dont need no steenkin space. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14972801)

" I'm going to have to echo the "why do you need software?" calls."

I could to keep from buying duplicates. I have lots of books, and limited space, so a physical organizing scheme wouldn't do me much good. A digital scheme however would work great.

Readerware (2, Informative)

Tryfen (216209) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972401)

I use Readerware [] .

Spent a couple of evenings scanning in my books, it then went and got all the details from Amazon etc and I ended up with a nice database of all the books.

It was a bit slack on some of the old and obscure stuff - but if it's in an online bookstore, it will usually pick it up.

I haven't tried it for CDs or DVDs - I use DVD Profiler [] for that.



Did you think about trying (0, Redundant)

MisterMoney (615506) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972433)

this [] ?

Dewey already figured it out for you.

Bits or bytes? (3, Interesting)

oren (78897) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972458)

There are a lot of replies about what software to use to track the books on a PC. That's cool and all, but it is very little help when you have to find a book on the shelves. I happen to own about 1700 books - roughly half the number you have. I think people underestimate the magnitude of the task - assume roughly 1m shelves, 3500 books of 2cm each require 70 shelves - that's over a dozen packed bookcases!

To keep things sane, I added a colored sticker (yellow in my case) to the spine of each book, marked with the first letters of the author's first and last name. Actually I cheat a bit, there are a very small number of categories I use - cookbooks, references - where I put a category icon instead. I put the books on the shelves ordered by the marker. This is loose enough that I don't have to think too much when returning a book to the library, but tight enough I can easily find anything I want. Another side benefit is that when I visit old friends (or mothers :-), my books immediately stick out amongst the pile of books in their own sizable library.

Go to the library (1)

Programmer_In_Traini (566499) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972506)

As silly as it sounds....go to the library.

They have far more books than you'll ever do.

Look at how they've done it and do the same.

Basically, small PC, small DB, then get your stickers out, put a sticker on each book to be classified, on the sticker, write info such as Row and Column, enter it in the DB and place the book at the right place.

Run magazine (1)

Jarlsberg (643324) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972536)

Run magazine used to have type-in listings for cataloging software. This was one of the reasons for buying one of those new fangled computer thingies in the 80s. I suggest you get hold of a C128 and a few select copies of Run magazine. :)

Failing that, if you've got the space, why not designate a room in your house the library and have nothing but books in it. You can sort books either using known systems, like Deweys, or simply by alphabetical order (yeah, I know, that sucks).

have you tried Library Thing? (4, Informative)

Glog (303500) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972560)

Here is the link: [] . This will help you with the cataloging of the books. As far as organizing, hrmmm, why not organize by color - that's how some women I know would do it :D

Re:have you tried Library Thing? (2, Interesting)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972685)

LibraryThing costs money if you are cataloguing a collection of any meaningful size. There are better options, such as Alexandria under *nix, that do the same gratis.

Re:have you tried Library Thing? (1)

Christopher Cashell (2517) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972963)

How is this a troll?

The guy suggested a legitimate tool to help the submitter manage their books. There was no demand that it have to be 100% free. The only requirement was that it be easy to use and support an open format. LibraryThing is easy to use, and allows you to export your data as CSV.

It's true that it won't help him "find" his books, but realistically, the only thing that'll help him with that is for him to get off his ass and apply some logical organization. It's as simple as dividing fiction and non-fiction (insert additional major categories as needed), and then arranging them alphabetically within their disciplines.

Delicious Library (1)

frankm_slashdot (614772) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972607)

I know its already been said (at least once with about 3 people backing it up in that thread) but for the hell of it ill say it again. []

requires a mac of course, but then again - you know youve wanted to get a mac-mini just so you can keep your itunes library and all your book collections sorted on one machine :)

Re:Delicious Library (1)

peel (242881) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972843)

I would like to add some more support for this product as well as some tips that address some of the tHings in your post.

Delicious library allows you to sort by a lot of different pieces of information. One you have it sorted how you'd like, simply arrange the books on your shelf to mimic the virtual bookshelves in DL.

Open Format:
DL actually saves everything out as XML so you should have no problem pulling all of your info out of it should you decide to give it up. This also allows for people to make helper apps/plugins to be used with the DL data file. One example is an export to the web feature.

The only major issue is that you need a Mac. I believe that everyone should have a mac even as a second machine. The mac mini or an old G4 on ebay would work great.


How can software help you find that book? (1)

TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972667)

I have heard of lots of little applications for helping to organize your books and records and such, but I never understood how cataloguing your collection in a computer really helps you find that book in real life.

You can waste your time scanning in bar codes or typing in book and author names and such, the best way to organize large collections of books is just to take the time stack them alphabetically on shelves. If you find you don't remember what books you have, you have too many books, period. Give some away or sell them to a book store, you probably will never look at them again if you can't remember anything about them.

I don't think your solution can be found in software. Sure, you might be able to search for and find a book your looking for in a nice slick piece of software, but then where you last left that book somewhere in your home is the problem your having that software can't solve.

Sort-Merge (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14972692)

When you're doing the organizing, remember you don't have to empty all the shelves at once. With 3,500 books you won't be able to move.

You can sort each shelf, or group of shelves, individually. Then you can merge them together by comparing the first book of each group and putting the first in the order on the shelf.

Organization comes first. (1)

Carik (205890) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972699)

I wrestled with this problem for a while myself, and came to two conclusions:

1) No software currently on the market did exactly what I wanted, and I should write my own.

2) Having a master list doesn't help in the slightest unless you can organize things without a database.

I suggest the following order of work:

1) Work out a category list. Do you want sci-fi and fantasy together? Where are you going to store cookbooks? How about technical manuals, encyclopedias, biographies, or textbooks? You can't make a good start at getting organized until you know what you're trying to organize.

2) Think about where you want to store things. Cookbooks should be near the kitchen, programming books should be near the computer, coffee-table books should be on the coffee-table, and so on. This will help more than anything else. Also consider shelf size: I built my own shelves, with some sized purely for paperbacks and some for hardcover, oversized, and trade paper. It's a lot more efficient than trying to fit everything together, which matters a lot with the volume of books you're talking about.

3) Find some software. Figure out what you want, what information is important to you. Personally, I mostly care about genre, binding, title, series title, number within series, authors, how much I liked it, and who I loaned it to (and when). I know someone else with something like 75 fields, including cover artist, publisher, who recommended it, number of pages, and so on. What you want to know about your books is pretty personalized, so you may not find anything perfect. That's why I wrote my own.

3.5) If you're going to write your own, set up at least the database and an entry system. If you're going to buy/download one, do so, and get it working. I hear a lot of good things about Koha [] , but I wanted to write my own.

4) OK, you've got your databasing system set up, right? You're sure it works, you have a place to keep off-site backups, and you're ABSOLUTELY SURE YOU CAN USE IT WITHOUT LOSING DATA? Re-entering more than a thousand books sucks, a lot. Yes, I've had to do it.
    Well, this is the part that sucks. Take absolutely every book in your house off the shelf and pile it up in fairly empty room. Every book. Set up a computer near the door, and start scanning. If you can manage it, stack things in the room by category before starting ("OK, sci-fi/fantasy gets that wall, cookbooks can go in the corner, and we'll glue the romance novels to the ceiling"), and go by category. Once you've entered a managable number of books, go put them on the shelf they're going to stay on. Don't worry too much about where you put them: you're going to be shifting them around a lot. As you put each book on the shelf, make sure it's in the right spot relative to other books, but don't worry about which shelf it's on.

5) NEVER, EVER, I mean absolutely never, put books on the shelf without entering them. If you do, your carefully built database, built with your blood, sweat, and tears is totally worthless. If you must put them on the shelf, stack them sideways on top of the other books, in roughly the area where they ought to go. It makes it easy to tell which books need to be entered.

Anyway, that got a little longer than I intended, but I hope it helps. Sadly, the version I've been writing really isn't ready for an audience bigger than me, or I'd offer to give you a copy.

Use (2, Insightful)

himself (66589) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972705)

Just use

      Make a free trial account, enter a few ISBNs, and once you're hooked shell out the few dollars for a full account and get rolling.

      Tim that author is adding lots of data import filters and tagging options and other very geeky features, and an actual librarian has joined the project. (I know, I know: it's amazing seeing a non-commercial software service with a real-live subject matter expert! Just goes to show the author's not a real geek: he admitted that someone else's specialized knowledge might not be replaced by his own prejudices and SWAGs.)

      Go, librarything, go!

Next steps... (1)

nigelc (528573) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972739)

As various astute posters have observed, just having a list on your computer/pda/Windows TabletPC doesn't help you find a book; but it can add to the frustration of "I know I have a copy, but where is it?".

One solution would be to put an RFID tag in each book, and then scan for them...

A more /.-friendly solution would be to interface your library software with your RoomBa, so you can sit at your computer, pick a book from your on-line catalog and then have one of your legion of house robots retrieve the book and bring it (along with a cup of coffee and an oatmeal cookie) to your comfy chair.

I've gone through the first stages of this project a couple of times (used to work in the RFID business) and the project always went awry at about the step of "Take all the books off the shelves and sort them."

One of these days (probably right after I lose weight), I'm going to drag all the books off all the shelves and sort them.

Anyone want to buy any computer science textbooks from the 1970s?

Catalogs are like Code Comments (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972778)

You need to take care that they stay in sync with what they describe. It follows the most important thing is to physicall arrange your books. It does not good to be able to find the book in your catalog, but lose it in your house.

So do what libraries do: adopt a standard system for sorting books onto shelves. You don't need the Dewey Decimal System. I'd say the best thing is KISS: all fiction goes alphabetical by author, then title. Non-fiction goes into groups that make sense for your collection, e.g. If 1/3 of your books are about computers, then you create subsections of Computers for Algorithms, Architectures, C, Hardware, Java, Languages (misc), Networking etc.

What you are designing is a hash lookup system with linear search to resolve key collisions. Since you're brain can't handle too much data (otherwise you don't need a system), you want the smallest number of categories that are nonethess large enough (in population) that you can put your finger on a particular book quickly. So, supposing 2000 of your books are non-fiction. 20-40 categories with an average of a fifty to one hundred books in them means you can find what you're looking for in about a minute.

After you've done that, you can create a databsae to cross reference (e.g. "Algorithms in Pascal" is under "Algorithms", but could be cross referenced to "Languages (misc)". However, I wouldn't do that in your situation. Instead, I'd shelve the book in "Algorithms", then take a piece of card stock, say a file folder ripped in half, and write on it: "Algorithms in Pascal, Dr. Bobby Bitbiter -- See "Algorithms").

Systematically... (1)

CarrotLord (161788) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972786)

Subject groups (tech, fiction, business, etc)
    topic (programming languages, hardware, databases, discussion)
        subtopic (C, java, perl)

Leave room in each section for additions. Keep sections well separated. Move whole sections at once if you run out of room. Put large books somewhere else with a similar sorting method -- I have a separate shelf with large volumes in the same basic order, but all on the one shelf. I also used to have a separate shelf for O'Reilly books, as I had a collection of them which I would refer to more regularly.

When you put books back, if you don't have time to replace them correctly, leave them somewhere else, and wait until you have time, then reshelve them all at once. Basically do it like they do in a bookshop.

Unless you're lending books all the time, I can't really see the need to use a dewey system or some database, unless you really want to learn about library management for its' own sake.

One other solution I've used for my significantly smaller collection is to keep them in approximate acquisition order. If there's a specific book I'm looking for, I usually know approximately when I bought it. Doesn't work so well as books get older and less used though.

Of course, the other suggestion is to rationalise ruthlessly. Sell them, give them away, whatever. Even if you refer or read a book a day, that's 10 years worth of books, which could be used by someone else...

Why would you want to waste your time with this? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14972810)

This is one of the more idiotic ask slashdot questions. It's like typing up a grocery list on your computer, a complete fucking waste of time.

Why don't you just alphabetize the damned books and go on with your life? It's just like a dorky geek to waste countless hours unecessarily using technology when a simple non technical method is perfectly usable and a hell of a lot faster.

nuts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14972835)

Get a cheap label maker. Go lookup how the dewey decimal system works.

Stop being overly complicated, use the KISS principle. You DON'T NEED SOFTWARE OR A COMPUTER to organize your book shelves.

I mean, c'mon. This is just nutz, do it the way that professional librarians have been doing it for a long time now, because it works. You have 3500, not 350,000 books, use some common sense here.

Keep it simple (1)

harley_frog (650488) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972836)

Unless you are willing to put the time into setting up Koha [] or need more control and granularity of data (subject cataloging, cross-references, etc.), I suggest keeping things simple. OpenOffice [] 2.0's Base has a built in template for setting up a personal library database. Having done original cataloging of books for a library, I can say that you can spend a LOT of time cataloging just a handful of books if follow standard library practice.

Outsource to your local library (2, Funny)

markjugg (21992) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972838)

Outsource this task to your local library by donating all but your frequently needed reference books there.

Then you can easily browse the shelves, use a computerized search search system, or even ask a live person for help. You'll even been able to find books you didn't even own before. All for free!

Delicious Library for OS X (1)

deviator (92787) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972842)

Not only is it extremely capable, it's also beautiful.

I suggest shelves (1)

Expert Determination (950523) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972844)

Place your books on shelves with the spines facing outwards and sorted by name of author. You might also consider a bit of classification beforehand - for example grouping the fiction together and the non-fiction together. If you're really feeling anal you can use the Dewey decimal system to organise your nonfiction.

There, that wasn't hard was it?

Barcode scanner, ISBN-DB and some scripts (1)

BRTB (30272) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972852)

I just found this a few minutes ago, and it looks pretty cool. ISBN DB [] lets you feed in an ISBN via simple HTTP GET and it sends you an XML-format file with all the important card-catalog type information about your book. It wouldn't be too hard to combine that capability with a little script that'd read the ISBN barcode from your barcode scanner, download+parse XML, and save to a MySQL or other database. You'd still have to manually enter location data (shelf number or however you decide to organize things) but it'd save you a lot of time typing author/title/date/etc.

DLP or OpenDB (1)

lucidvein (18628) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972867)

Two MySQL databases for handling multiple media types... typically used for lending systems, but can also be used just to manage your catalog.

DPL (Distributed Library Project) [] or [] - This is the software distribution page for the Distributed Library Project, a website which creates a distributed library of people's books, videos, and music. The project is an experiment in creating community and sharing information within a town or city.

OpenDB [] - The Open Media Lending Database (OpenDb) is an extremely flexible application to catalogue all sorts of things including DVD, VCD, CD, VHS, GAMES, BOOKS & Laser Discs. Anything that you can collect and lend, you can catalogue with this system. The OpenDb allows you to add new types, by describing them in system database tables designed for the purpose.

Overcomplicating the Solution (1)

MSTCrow5429 (642744) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972873)

You could just try organizing by subject and author, instead of turning it into a technological fetish.

Software isn't the problem (1)

Fished (574624) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972876)

For a library of only 3500 volumes, software isn't the problem. The problem is organizing them on the shelf. (Even a spreadsheet would be adequate software for a library of that size.) You need to number your books.

I started out with Dewey, but found that in titles where I was overconcentrated (e.g. theology and especially New Testament) Dewey didn't offer enough granularity, plus you have to buy the books to really use it. Instead, I've gone to LC cataloging. This has several advantages:

  1. It's pretty well fleshed out for the largest libraries with the most specialized holdings.
  2. Most academic works (and a lot of non-academic non-fiction) print LC numbers in their front matter.
  3. For those that don't, just go to the LC website and look up the number they use. There are very few books that the LoC doesn't have. (One notable exception, for my purposes, would be Bible study curricula and the like.)
Be warned, however, that numbering your books is a heck of a lot of work, and not for the faint of heart.

It might not be obvious.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14972883)

But have you heard of this thing called the 'Alphabet'? ... and no, it's not a prime sports betting site.

Keep it simple, S...

Scan the shelves, too. (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972888)

If you're going to be using the barcode scanner for the books, set up barcodes for each of your shelves, tape them to the shelf fronting.

Whenever you or your wife decide to move books around, scan the book, scan the new location. If you put the book back on the same shelf, no problem, no scanning.

There've got to be some cheap or free inventory management systems available that include this capability, though I'm not familiar with any, since I don't do inventory controls with my library (which explains the ~150 missing titles and my well-read friends and family).

You should also set up barcodes for borrowers, treat them as a location. I'm not saying you should tattoo a barcode on their forehead (though the idea does have its appeal), but keeping a sheet of borrower barcodes in your inventory binder or in a folder somewhere would help.

Organize the Amazon-Warehouse Way (1)

LegoB (4672) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972901)

Or at least this is how I hear it works:
1) Print out a sheet of unique barcodes on sticky paper
2) Stick one to each book shelf in your house
3) Use MS Access, Fox Pro, MySQL/PHP, Postgres/Perl, whatever database and scripting languge you choose so that you can go around your house, scan each bar code and input a tag that describes its location
4) When you place each book on a shelf, scan its ISBN barcode and the shelf's location barcode
5) Anytime you want to find a book, just look it up in your database and you'll see what shelf it is on
For extra credit write a script that, given a list of books you want to read, will calculate the optimal path through your house to pick them up.

Garage Sale (0)

SlappyBastard (961143) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972917)

In this age, with the internet, I only keep enough books to augment whatever skills I need to do work for people.

Hmmm... right over there is my MySQL book.

Use technology to unclutter. Ditch some of the books.

Do it like a real library (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14972923)

Use something like Koha [] to create a real catalog and circulation system. Setup a cheap computer to use as a checkout station.

Just guessing but with that many book surely you have a room in the house dedicated to your "library". Put up some real shelving so that they are orderly and won't be as easily damaged. Now shelve them in order using something like the dewy decimal system.

The added benefit is that you'll be able to check out books to friends and family and actually know who has what.

FileMaker Pro (1)

cyngus (753668) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972928)

I know a lot of small libraries use solutions that involve FileMaker Pro. There are barcode generation programs, readers, and pretty much anything else you would need that plug into an FMP solution. Not saying it is necessarily the best, but people have been doing this with FMP for a long time, so the products are mature and full-featured.

This is a silly question (1)

ramakant (256472) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972939)

Alphabetical by author. 3500 books isn't that many.

Dewey Decimal System FTW ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14972956)

Dewey Decimal System FTW !

Existing tools. (1)

Gray (5042) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972968)

Appearently this is a problem a lot of people have been thinking about of late.

Library Thing [] - Catalog your books online
Listal [] - Social media cataloging

Both have tags, social aspects, cool entry, etc, etc. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14972969) [] is a service that helped me organize my books. Of course, the bulk of the work is in actually alphabetizing them.

Simple solution (1)

dtfinch (661405) | more than 8 years ago | (#14972971)

Find the books you expect to read again and put them on their own shelf. Store the rest out of sight, out of mind, or simply discard them.

Readerware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14972972)

My wife and I (same predicament) use Readerware ( to track our 2500+ books and 300+ DVD's. With an active Internet connection, the barcoder will read the ISBN number and retrieve all pertinent data and add it to the database.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Create a Slashdot Account