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The Home Library Problem Solved

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the ask-and-it-is-given dept.

Books 328

Zack Grossbart writes "About 18 months ago I posted the following question to Ask Slashdot: 'How do you organize a home library with 3,500 books?' I have read all the responses, reviewed most of the available software, and come up with a good solution described in the article The Library Problem. This article discusses various cataloging schemes, reviews cheap barcode scanners, and outlines a complete solution for organizing your home library. Now you can see an Ask Slashdot question with a definitive answer."

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Nowq he has to solve the home server meltdown ... (1) (1108067) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660089)

No posts, and already slashdotted!

You don't (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660093)

You burn them, or at least the ones which you're unlikely to read again.

Or if that offends you, set them free [] ...


Re:You don't (1)

andy314159pi (787550) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660161)

Or if that offends you, set them free...

Yes for the books that he isn't planning on reading, there are many urban centers that will take them. This guy's collection is large enough for him to consider a loaning system as a public service, if he's the philanthropic type.

Re:You don't (1)

Atlantis-Rising (857278) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660289)

I have about ~7500 books at home (I have approximately 750 in my home office at the moment) and I know people always want to borrow books. If I had a way to track them, I'd be much happier to lend them out, but of course the article is slashdotted.

What I used to do was create a database as they went out- put in the ISBN, date, time, author, title, etc, etc, etc, and the lendee. Worked pretty well, and I slowly built up the database book by book.

Re:You don't (4, Informative)

fyngyrz (762201) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660925)

I have a ginormous amount of books, so I have two problems - one is creating an appropriate space [] for them, which I have solved, and the other is cataloging.

For organization, I'm simply using PostgreSQL on the house server, which is hugely fast, completely flexible, and allows me to access everything from the web - so I can just drag a laptop in there, or work on any machine in or out of the house. A few lines of Python and bingo, library system. I may clean it up a little and release it, it could be prettier.

I tried Delicious Library (which I do use for my DVD and CD collections) and a couple of other solutions, but for large libraries, they were all too slow.

Re:You don't (1)

pfleming (683342) | more than 6 years ago | (#21661081)

If I had a way to track them, I'd be much happier to lend them out, but of course the article is slashdotted.
The article doesn't mention anything about lending... but this might help if you have a LAMP box: Webrary []

Re:You don't (4, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 6 years ago | (#21661207)

What's the point of reading books if you're not going to keep them for reference? I mean you can't remember everything that's in a book, hell I'm lucky if I can remember 10%. But I do remember what kind of stuff is in a book and roughly where it is, so I can look it up when I need to. I may never read a book from cover to cover twice, but there's still a lot of knowledge to be had by keeping it around.

easier (4, Funny)

cowscows (103644) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660101)

Meh, I just married a librarian instead.

Re:easier (1, Funny)

phantomcircuit (938963) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660329)

wife...? what is this 'wife' that you speak of

Re:easier (1)

iMac Were (911261) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660583)

Sexist pig, men can be librarians too!

Welcome! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21660811)

Hullo! You must be new here! Let me be the first to welcome you to /.
Next time, kindle use you insensitive clod! at the end of your comment, instead of that 'sexist pig' thing (hint: We don't like that!) Also, please grow a sense of humour, you humourless pig!^H insensitive clod!

Re:easier (1)

superwiz (655733) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660399)

George Bush reads slashdot? It's a lie!

Re:easier (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21660589)

It's an easy problem to solve - you just need to build your own Logic Mill and find a way to easily calculate prime numbers...

Re:easier (1)

bjweeks (916655) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660725)

Obligatory. []

Perfect solution for me - GoodReads (1)

ubuwalker31 (1009137) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660729)

I use - it is free and has a highly intuitive interface. In order to add a book, all you need to do is enter the title of the book or the authors last name or isbn, or import your recent buys directly from You can even export your booklist to an excel document. The tagging feature is a nice alternative to a formal card catalog system for a home library. So, for example, for Isaac Asimov's Foundation, my tags are read, scifi, livingroomshelfA - you could throw in a dewey decimal number as a tag easily as well, but why bother for a small library?

Re:easier (0, Redundant)

arthurpaliden (939626) | more than 6 years ago | (#21661083)


digital (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21660109)

kindle + 4gig memory card?

There's this great new system (-1, Troll)

dkarma (985926) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660131)

its called the Dewey Decimal System and it revolutionized libraries you should try it!!! *snark*

Re:There's this great new system (2, Insightful)

TBone (5692) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660375)

Except he excluded DDS explicitly, because it was difficult to subcategorize-and-sort below the general ABC.XYZ Dewey number.

Re:There's this great new system (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21660385)

And you have to pay an annual license for the privilege.

Re:There's this great new system (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21660417)

They did consider the DDC, but opted better for the LLC. RTFA.

Re:There's this great new system (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660503)

I'd try reading their article(wasn't slashdotted for me); they specifically address that they considered the Dewey Decimal System and point out the problems they had with it.

Of course, I have enough books to practically count as another 4" of insulation around my house...

Re:There's this great new system (2, Funny)

Baddas (243852) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660699)

I find the secret is to lay them spine-down in the attic. Helps immeasurably with heating and cooling costs.

Re:There's this great new system (2, Funny) (1108067) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660739)

" I find the secret is to lay them spine-down in the attic. Helps immeasurably with heating and cooling costs."

... and don't forget to apply for a carbon tax credit for all the carbon sequestered in those dead trees!

Troll didn't RTFA. (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660541)

They considered that, and discarded it.

And the problem was more than just choosing a classification system. There were also the technical challenges of actually implementing it, unless you mean to imply that someone would Ask Slashdot and then use 3x5 index cards.

Re:There's this great new system (1)

admorgan (168061) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660667)

You forget, the Dewey Decimal System is patented. Every library that uses it is required to pay over $100 a year for the privilege. I suggest Library of Congress if you are looking for something unencumbered. It is also easier to sub categorize.

Re:There's this great new system (1)

Knara (9377) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660979)

Really. I would have thought the patent on the DDS would have long since expired.

Library problem unsolved: Add kids (2, Interesting)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660167)

...they'll scramble the system if it does not make sense to them.

We have approx 3000 books in the house as well as two kids. Dewey-ish classification works fine for us, splitting the books into groups according to their Dewey hundreds (0-99.999, 100-1999.999,...). However we have had to break out some special sections. Robots, programming and electronics have a special area together (breaking Dewey boundaries). All the fishing related stuff goes together (including studies of aquatic instects etc). All the craft books go together (well Dewey does that anyway).

No computer needed.

Re:Library problem unsolved: Add kids (4, Funny)

russ1337 (938915) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660715)


I happened to me once, I still have the scars.

Re:Library problem unsolved: Add kids (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660945)

Or the programming and electronics books for that matter. In fact, that could be worse. Much worse.

By the time Skynet became self-aware it had spread into millions of computer servers across the planet. Ordinary computers in office buildings, dorm rooms; everywhere. It was software; in cyberspace. There was no system core; it could not be shutdown. The attack began at 6:18 PM, just as he said it would. Judgment Day.

Organise? (5, Funny)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660187)

I have boxes of books in the basement, shelves of books upstairs, stacks of books in th edining room, CDs, DVDs, tapes, records, all over the place.

I solved the problem by ignoring it.

-mcgrew []

Re:Organise? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21660733)

Of course you know the REAL solution if fire. Lots and lots of fire.

-Dan East

Re:Organise? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21661151)

Burning paper, especially books is very very difficult. Its not like you can just make a fire and toss on a book. It will sit and smolder and may not even burn through a few pages. You have to tear it into smaller pieces or individual sheets and then apply copious amounts of fire to burn them thoroughly. Its sorta like a shredder, you can't just feed it larges amounts, you have to give it a nibble at a time.

Re:Organise? (1)

sqrt(2) (786011) | more than 6 years ago | (#21661223)

I solved the problem by ignoring it.
I prefer to simply rework my definition of "problem" and also maybe my definition of "success" so that the two may coexist without logical conflict.

Microvision's software as an alternative? (1)

mlts (1038732) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660197)

The same company which currently sell the hand bar code scanner that was mentioned in the article, Microvision, appear to have software just for cataloging books, CDs, DVDs, and anything scannable with a bar code. It didn't state that it could do book organizing in LOC or Dewey Decimal system, but if someone is wanting to do a similar project, to inventory media, it may be something that people could look into.

You don't... (2, Funny)

gillbates (106458) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660219)

If the RIAA has their way, making available copyrighted works to people other than the purchaser will be considered copyright infringement. You don't want to get sued by the books publishers, do you?

Then don't create a library. It's that simple.

FUD Alert (1)

cjalmeida (1148679) | more than 6 years ago | (#21661075)

There's a big difference between copying and making available.

Regardless of what you see in colleges, copying copyrighted books and distributing the copies IS illegal.

wow!... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21660225)

and it only took him 18 months....
next ask slashdot .....
how do you cure cancer ?

Kind of ridiculous (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21660231)

I own probably more than 3,500 books, and for a such a pitiful number all this computer-based cataloging is overkill. My books are neatly organized in their shelves by topic, and I can find any in a matter of seconds - certainly in less time than it would take me to login, fire the program and type in my search.

Re:Kind of ridiculous (2, Insightful)

rk (6314) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660983)

There's more to cataloging books than just finding them. We've probably got only a couple thousand, but my wife catalogs them using LibraryThing [] and also stores them in a local file. To my knowledge, we've never used either to find a book in our house, but these things give us:

  • An easy way when we're out to see if we already own a copy of a book. LibraryThing has a mobile interface that makes checking with a cell phone easy.
  • A document for the insurance man if we ever get hit by a fire or other disaster (you do offsite backups regularly, right?).
  • An easy way of tagging books when they get packed for moves so that the library can be restored efficiently at the other end.

I agree that you don't need a computer to find a book in a collection of less than 10,000 books. If you can't organize those physically well enough to find them without a computer, a computer is just going to make it harder. Sorting by fiction/non-fiction and then by author is sufficient for us (with a special computer books section) to find anything pretty quickly. But it's pretty difficult to remember if you already have book sixty-two in the "Accordion of Fate" series or whether you have the third or fourth edition of O'Reilly's "Programming $ELITIST_LANGUAGE_OF_THE_MONTH" when you're out and about. And if you lose your whole collection, the chances of remembering the whole thing are virtually nil unless you have perfect photographic memory, in which case, why do you need to keep books around in the first place? :-)

And the flamebait mod for the parent post was unfair and I hope it's M2ed as such.

Pictures?! (1, Insightful)

hansamurai (907719) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660239)

I remember reading your original post and found it intriguing, great to see some feedback after it's all said and done. Anyways, I would love to see some pictures! I skimmed through your write up and found many of it interesting (I'll read it completely tonight) but I would love to see some images of your completed work. Maybe I missed a link or something though.

Takes All the fun out of it (4, Funny)

explosivejared (1186049) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660251)

Now you can see an Ask Slashdot question with a definitive answer

That takes all the fun out of it, especially for legal questions.

Q: Someone is taking credit for my code. What legal recourse do I have?

A1: IANAL, but I'm pretty sure you can kill him for that and call it self defense. It totally won't be murder.
A2: IANAL, but I'm pretty sure you can take his eye for it. Eye for a piece of code or something like that...
A3: IANAL, but I'm pretty sure you're entitled to their wife and the profits from selling his children into slavery.
A4: I AM a lawyer, and depending on how you licensed your code ... blah blah (bunch of legalese) blah... and that's what you are legally entitled to do.

The experience of an ask slashdot is going down the list of answers, plugging and checking. Surviving long enough to use the one by the actual lawyer is so rewarding. I tell you, I want stand for any sort definitive answer to an ask slashdot.

Re:Takes All the fun out of it (1)

VJ42 (860241) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660761)

I tell you, I want stand for any sort definitive answer to an ask slashdot.
So you want ask slashdot to be definitively undefined?

Most importantly... (3, Funny)

TBone (5692) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660269) didn't answer any questions about this "wife" artifact you're dealing with while catalogging books. Could you please give us more details?

Oh, painful memory (5, Funny)

Deadstick (535032) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660271)

...of my ex-daughter-in-law, who decided to surprise me for my birthday by reorganizing my (3500) books:

By height.


Re:Oh, painful memory (2, Informative)

Deadstick (535032) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660311)

Sorry, Slashdot deleted the less-than sign in front of "3500".

Re:Oh, painful memory (1)

backwardMechanic (959818) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660693)

Oh, so you mean both of them then?

Just to clarify (5, Funny)

pjt33 (739471) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660387)

Do you mean "ex-daughter-in-law" or should that say "late daughter-in-law"?

Re:Oh, painful memory (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660843)

Yeah, I used to organize all of my CDs by color. At first, I did it as a joke, so that when people would try to find one of my CDs I could ask them, "What color is it?" Silly, Yes, but it I found it humorous. Very quickly I realized that I had memorized all of the CD spine colors long before the reorganization. It turned out to be a very efficient way to catalog the CDs, as long as I was the only one looking for them. Of course, now they are all in boxes, stored as backups, in case my hard drive fails.

Re:Oh, painful memory (1)

belmolis (702863) | more than 6 years ago | (#21661055)

Harvard, naturally, has its own classification system, neither Dewey Decimal nor Library of Congress. (It switched to LC some time ago, but only for new acquisitions, so when I was a student, the collection was in two parts.) The leading theory when I was an undergrad was that the basis for ordering in the Harvard system was height of author.

Re:Oh, painful memory (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 6 years ago | (#21661061)

Well, I think I can guess how the 'ex' part came about.

By the way, are you still married to her mother? ;)

Oh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21660285)

I other news the sun rose this morning...

I solved this problem. (5, Funny)

DdJ (10790) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660333)

My solution was "marry a librarian". Worked very well for me, you might consider trying it.

Dead tree format is dead (1, Insightful)

BorgDrone (64343) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660341)

I stopped using dead-tree books years ago, first I used a Palm III and later I switched to a Sony Clie TH-55. A lot of people are skeptical about e-books, saying it is uncomfortable reading from a screen but my experience is that the exact opposite is true.

The big advantages of reading e-books:
  • The choice in books is a lot bigger, I prefer reading english books, mostly sci-fi and fantasy. In the Netherlands where I live libraries have a very limited selection of english books and hardly any sci-fi/fantasy.
  • It's much easier to use than a 'real' book, I never have problems with light, with a real book I often find myself blocking my own light. My PDA has a frontlight (transflective lcd) and I never have to worry about light conditions. (e-book reader without some kind of illumination for the display = no go for me)
  • Reading in bed, I like to read in bed on a lazy sunday morning. If you hold a book like an 'L' with the bottom part of the 'L' parallel to the surface you're lying on, you can only read the upright page. With a 'real' book, I often find myself having to turn around with every page.

I read "the god delusion" a while back which was (at least at the time) not available in e-book format, so I had to buy the dead tree edition. I was really surprised, after not having read a dead tree book for a long time, how annoyed I was by the limitations of paper books.

Re:Dead tree format is dead (0, Flamebait)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660475)

The range of books available in electronic format is still miniscule. Fine literature, especially poetry and in the original languages, is still badly represented. Academic works and scholarly reference titles are not (and, with publishers like Routledge, never will be) available. If you've been working with mainly e-books for some time now, your taste in literature is clearly pretty dull.

Re:Dead tree format is dead (1)

avronius (689343) | more than 6 years ago | (#21661137)


First, you categorically discard the parent's ability to find his/her material of choice by stating that the range of books available is minisucle. Next, you suggest that, based on their choice not including books that you cannot find, that their taste in literature is dull.

I find it highly unlikely that you've read all of the material that is available via electronic format. Would you say that you've sampled something from each author? If so, perhaps you are qualified to vilify the parent. If not, perhaps you should cut the him/her some slack.

Not everyone will find meaning in Sartre, nor will everyone find solace in Hickman & Weiss. Who's to say that your choices are more or less substantial than someone elses?

Re:Dead tree format is dead (2, Insightful)

superwiz (655733) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660561)

There are disadvantages, too though.
  • You don't have a proper appreciation of how much or how little you are reading. Some people might think it's a plus, but other people need to manage their time more carefully.
  • It's not as easy to take notes in e-books. So most books that require deep thought and pondering are out of the question.

Re:Dead tree format is dead (1)

lucabrasi999 (585141) | more than 6 years ago | (#21661037)

Dead tree format is dead

Yeah, that's what they all used to say, until Samuel T. Cogley [] came along and kicked that computer's ass!

Date a Librarian (5, Funny)

Henry V .009 (518000) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660357)

That's what I do. And her BS is in Computer Science, so win-win. Except for all the emacs versus vim arguments. Gah! So many years of schooling, and she can't understand that vim is superior?

Re:Date a Librarian (1)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660579)

If I had mod points I'd give you one for bringing a vim vs. emacs flame war to a library discussion. Here I was, content to sip coffee and ponder the pure horror of an ungodly 3500 books in someone's house.... when BAM, right in front of me is an editor flame war troll. Thanks for that.

BTW, what's wrong with emacs? If your (ahem) librarian wants to use ebonics, does it matter? As long as she can bring you the book when you demand it, no big deal.

Re:Date a Librarian ... or better (2, Funny)

piltdownman84 (853358) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660713)

...Bah, your looking at this the wrong way. I say orginize your own books and data a girl who works at Lululemon (a self-described as a yoga-inspired athletic apparel company). Thats what I do. And while we don't have emacs vs vim arguments, we make much better use of our time.

Re:Date a Librarian ... or better (1)

lucabrasi999 (585141) | more than 6 years ago | (#21661121)

And while we don't have emacs vs vim arguments, we make much better use of our time.

By making apparel?

Delicious Library + shelf labels (2, Insightful)

UESMark (678941) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660397)

I was facing a similar, but somewhat smaller problem (~1600 books) and worked out a solution using delicious monster. First off I segregated my hardcovers and paperbacks info fiction and non-fiction sections, then scanned them all into Delicious Library, a great mac app. It uses a video camera (I used a camcorder with firewire, but you can use a webcam) to scan the barcode, then gets the info on the book from amazon. Obviously the scanning is the most tedious bit, but since I had to remove everything from the shelves at some point anyway to sort everything it wasn't so ugly. After that was done I figured out how many books fit on a shelf (with some fudge factor) and made a label for each shelf showing what range of authors or subjects should go on that shelf. I did wind up with piles of books on my floor while I removed and reshelved everything but I had to do only a couple of shelf cascades where everything had to be moved down. After the shelves had the right books on them it was fairly easy to alphabetize on each shelf without a ton of book juggling.

1000 missing books! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21660433)

Doesn't add up...

> Total books - About 3,500
> Sold, given away, or recycled - About 500
> Cataloged - 1,634
> Exempted - about 200

Um... that's over 1000 unaccounted for!

Burn them (1)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660441)

Burn them to a DVD.


Seriously I haven't read a paper book cover to cover since I was 17 or so (10 years ago). Have read many multi-hundred page PDFs though.

High Fidelity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21660443)

Reminds me of the movie High Fidelity, when he re-organizes his album collection "auto-biographically." LOL! In this context, I guess you'd have to remember what books came first, and what books led to other books, etc. Heh...

Why is this tagged richbastard? (5, Insightful)

evanbd (210358) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660455)

Seriously, what the hell?

Doesn't everyone here have a hobby or two they spend a fair bit of money on? Perhaps it's your computer gear, maybe it's model airplanes, maybe it's your car or your audio system. Last I checked, an awful lot of geeks had a particular hobby they enjoyed and spent money on, and they don't have to be 'rich bastards' to do so. They just have to value enjoying themselves over... What? Hording money? So this man's hobby is reading and his library, and he enjoys organizing it in a creative way.


Re:Why is this tagged richbastard? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21660565)

I agree on the wrong tagging. I have to have a couple thousand books I have collected over the years, and am by no means rich. (maybe that's why?).

Re:Why is this tagged richbastard? (1)

hansamurai (907719) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660585)

Plus he spent less that $500 which seems extremely reasonable when reading about the outcome. He could have paid someone many thousands of dollars to do the same thing and then we could call him rich or lazy.

Re:Why is this tagged richbastard? (1)

shawnmchorse (442605) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660599)

I agree completely. I really don't buy books that often, but... they just accumulate over the years. I'm sure I have at least a thousand in various bookcases around the house.

Re:Why is this tagged richbastard? (1)

garett_spencley (193892) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660943)

Yeah really. I have 3 (computer gear, music gear and cooking - fresh meat and herbs + top of the line cooking gear can get really expensive). I'm extremely lucky that the cooking and music are things that attract my wife so she forgives the expenses (most of the time). If it was 100% computer gear I'd have been single a long time ago :(

Re:Why is this tagged richbastard? (1)

ZombieRoboNinja (905329) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660975)

3500 books x $10-20 per book = $35,000-70,000, which is more than most of us have ever spent on any given hobby.

But it could well be that a lot of those books are inherited or received as gifts, or the submitter's job requires a lot of reading, etc.

Re:Why is this tagged richbastard? (1)

techstar25 (556988) | more than 6 years ago | (#21661189)

Especially since he only spent $440 on the whole project. Most slashdotters spend more than that on a VIDEO CARD.

Why do you _need_ 3500 books? (0, Offtopic)

melted (227442) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660487)

Why not donate, say, 3400 of them that you will never read again to a local public library? I have quite a few books myself and I'm contemplating doing exactly this (except for about 50 books that are rare, super-expensive or used often).

Re:Why do you _need_ 3500 books? (1)

pebs (654334) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660787)

Why not donate, say, 3400 of them that you will never read again to a local public library? I have quite a few books myself and I'm contemplating doing exactly this (except for about 50 books that are rare, super-expensive or used often).

To his credit, he did say that he donated or gave away 500 of the books in the process of cataloging them. Also some of these books may be reference (as an example, he was looking for books on GUI design). He did say that 80% of the books have been read however.

Personally, I can't imagine having that many books myself. I generally don't have more than 10-15 non-reference books on hand at a time. I usually pass them on to someone else. Of course, I don't read dead tree publications very much to begin with. eBooks are fine for me, unless I'm traveling or something. And even then I'm not much of a book reader.

Collecting books is not my thing, but to each his own.

don't be selfish- give to your library (0, Troll)

cbc1920 (730236) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660493)

In these days of scarce resources, having a personal library, unless they are of historical, professional, or sentimental value, is selfish. Donate your books to a local library and let professionals do the organizing and lending. You will never have more books than a real library, so why try? Dead tree books are incredibly wasteful when they are only read once or twice. Yes, you may loan them to your friends, but there's no way your personal network of friends will rival the reading power of the visitors to a public library.

Re:don't be selfish- give to your library (1) (1108067) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660817)

"Real" libraries also end up throwing out books, selling them in bulk to be ground up as pig feed, or seeling them for 25 cents each, when they run out of room. Cheaper to throw some of the old, unused stuff out than it is to build an extension.

I was sure the answer was going to be... (1)

august sun (799030) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660529)

sell your books and buy a Kindle.

Interesting reading. (1)

xtracto (837672) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660535)

Hi, it was an overall interesting reading with some entertaining bits. I realized that you settled for a closed source sollution for this one. I am sure there must be some Open Source software which you could use to solve your problem (one of the many along Open Bibliographic and cataloging list [] .

In your article you state that you thought about developing your own application. I think that a better approach would be to look for the Open Source applications that satisfy you AND after choosing one, add the tools that you need.

Of course, if you do have the money and the product satisfies your needs, go ahead!

Not a rich bastard (4, Insightful)

bogjobber (880402) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660543)

Someone tagged this rich bastard, but I don't think that's extreme at all. I've kept nearly every book I've ever bought in my life, and I probably have around 800. And I'm only 21 years old (thankfully my parents have an empty garage and I was reading from age 2). Depending on the submitter's age and if he/she is married to another book lover it would be very easy to get to that number.

This is slashdot, right? As in news for nerds. Do nerds no longer enjoy reading?

Re:Not a rich bastard (1)

joe 155 (937621) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660765)

"Do nerds no longer enjoy reading?"

Not physical books.
Joking aside I've also kept every book I've ever had (pretty much) and have less than 50... I don't know how anyone can afford to have thousands, the cheapest book I've got is a second hand copy of Marx's selected works that was £8, if we take an average of just £5 having 800 would cost £4000 - and that's a lot of money by anyone's standards. 3500 would cost £17,500 which really is a lot.

Re:Not a rich bastard (1)

Knara (9377) | more than 6 years ago | (#21661051)

"Do nerds no longer enjoy reading?"
Not physical books.

As a friend of mine is fond of exclaiming whenever he gets the chance:


Re:Not a rich bastard (1)

dfn_deux (535506) | more than 6 years ago | (#21661191)

How old are you?
I've been reading for about 22 years give or take and even with about (a conservative) estimated 25% to 30% of my books having been lost to lending without expectation of return I have several hundred books. Enough to require 3 large book cases in my house. I don't consider myself a heavy reader, so I can only imagine someone who is could easily have 3-4 times the number of books that I have. Point being, I'm curious if maybe this is a generational gap we are seeing wherein younger people (aside from having less time to amass a collection) actually spend less time reading traditional media... perhaps your browser history and bookmarks are an order of magnitude greater in number than mine.

Re:Not a rich bastard (1)

c_forq (924234) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660981)

Of course Nerds enjoy reading, but not on paper! You may have to turn in your card for. Now days you need a Nokia N810, an iPhone, a hacked Nintendo DS, a Bookeen, or a flash memory reader soldered to an LCD (bonus points if you add a speaker and ogg support for audio books). And you don't buy books, you get a scanner and a bash script along with a local library card. And Project Gutenberg.

Our system (2, Interesting)

tool462 (677306) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660641)

We are only around 500-600 books right now, so admittedly it's a smaller issue than 3500, but Delicious Library software combined with what the submitter calls "soft alphabetizing" has worked well for us. We split fiction from non-fiction, then split non-fiction into sub categories. My wife and I each have a handful of categories that we are very interested in, so a dozen sub-categories combined with a general non-fiction catch-all makes most books easy to find. In fact, the only reason we use the software catalog is so we can loan out books to friends and family. What's the point of keeping hundreds or thousands of books, if they go unused? People are always borrowing books (and movies) and we don't have to worry about losing them. Or at least we know whose thumbs to break if the books don't come back.

Wow... (1)

mrtroy (640746) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660647)

That is a metric assload of books.

Do a lot of you guys have that many books? I own less than 100 books and feel it already is a burden for the amount of size and space they take up. I am trying to switch to ebooks for the most part - but some books I just feel I want a physical copy.

Re:Wow... (1) (1108067) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660857)

Gee, just my programming/computer books number more than 100.

Add in a couple of decades of sci-fi, etc.,

I counted a couple of years ago, and I was just under 1,000. I'm sure to be over that now, and I'm probably not all that exceptional.

Besides, a wall of books just "looks right".

Re:Wow... (1)

WinterSolstice (223271) | more than 6 years ago | (#21661143)

I'm probably in the 1-2k category. Depends on how you count periodicals, since I also keep comic books, Dragon, and Dungeon magazines. Actual "books" like paperback/hardbacks probably 800 or so. I wouldn't say that's too unusual.

Real programmers... (1)

Random-words-writer (1157121) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660747)

You could do it the real programmer's lazy way: make a flat file "database" and use regex to query that database.

Call the local library (1)

stomv (80392) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660749)

and offer them any book in your stacks that they'd like. Then call a local high school and a local college, and do the same.

You can only read one book in any instant, and only a few "at a time". Why not share the others with people who'd get value from them, especially if the library will allow you to borrow them "back" later? We like the idea of rewarding authors of good works, but really -- given the insane amount of overconsumption the Western World engages in, reducing consumption by reusing items, including books, makes more and more sense.

Books aren't trophies.

Librarian's Perspective (2, Informative)

jbriceiii (709821) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660759)

As a professional librarian some of the analysis of the classification systems was not correct. First of all when you catalog a material you need to classify the material (classification schemes include LC, Dewey, etc) and select subject headings (the two most popular ones are Sears and LC subject headings). Even though classification and subject headings both have LC categories these are two separate systems and each has there own books and rules. The Dewey Decimal System number is printed in most books on the back of the title page. It is usually listed under the initials CIP which means cataloging in print. The number will look something like this 000.00 '00 '00 '0000. For home use you only need to use the numbers up to the first the ' . The full dewey number is meant to be used for very large libraries collections of a half million or more. For those books that don't have Dewey numbers you can easily assign Dewey numbers by using the first volume of the Dewey classification series, which is usually available at you local public library. The subject headings are also available in CIP usually with the words/letters Sears: or LC: . The author did not explain how he was attaching the call number to the book. You could do this easily by putting an index card in the book with the proper call number. As for software there is now a readily available open source program called Koha. This program has a built in Z39.50 search engine which allows you to scan in the ISBN number and search libraries that have similar books. You can then select the Machine Readable Record (MARC) which contains the call number subject headings and the bibliographic information. Since Koha is open source it is free, and quite versatile. Many small church and school libraries use Koha, along with the library I work for.

Re:Librarian's Perspective (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21660915)

I guess librarians don't learn how to organize their thoughts into paragraphs?

Only 3500? (1)

PontifexMaximus (181529) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660805)

Amateur. I passed 3,500 a LONG time ago. Currently, my library consists of just over 5,000 books, mostly first editions and things. I literally had to add on an extra 1,000 sq ft on to my house because I ran out of furniture to throw out to make room for my books. I don't do the whole barcode thing, mainly because I don't loan my books out, but I do use Tellico for my book database and it works great for the books with ISBN numbers. Since a good portion of my volumes are pre-1960s (I think that's when they started using ISBN) I had to manually enter a lot of mine in. It took a while, but I don't have any issues with it after getting them in there.

It's great to hear someone else has the problem as I.

Thank you! (4, Insightful)

Fr05t (69968) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660809)

It's nice to see someone actually follow up on an Ask Slashdot question and share the end result.

alexandria project (1)

farker haiku (883529) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660827)

it's an open source library tracking system. due to a recent review [] where someone had a library of 3k+ books and had problems with alexandria, people on the dev list have been actively addressing some of the reviewer's concerns. of course, they are still looking for help (like any open source project), but it's been an ongoing gnome project for a while. details here [] .

All Your Books are Belong To Us (1)

billstewart (78916) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660835)

3500 isn't that many. My grandfather, a university professor (and therefore obviously underpaid :-) had about 3000 when they moved back in the early 1950s, and he and his family kept acquiring books for a few more decades. After he retired, he donated the interesting parts of his collection to the university. Most of the filing system was that the current stuff was in his office when he had one, the good stuff was in the library/TV room, old stuff was stacked in the attic and anywhere else available, kids' books in the kids' bedrooms, and other books were randomly around the house. I've probably got more books now, but my apartment has baseboard heaters so there's a lot less useful wall space to put bookshelves on, so I've also got boxes of books in my attic. Most science-fiction-fan households have walls full of books, and the only thing income level affects is how many of them are hardback and whether the shelves are pre-built or planks&bricks.

Indexing your books doesn't cost much of anything - you just need to be geeky enough to take the time. I suppose the process of going through all your books gives you an excuse to decide that some of them aren't keepers and take them to the used-book store.

Fuck books and people who read them (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21660855)

It seems a lot of people who read books are criminals and terrorists. What you should be doing is making sure you have the latest scoop on Brittney Spears, the latest sports scores, what the latest "hip hop" fad is, what Brad and Angelina are up to, who is ahead on American Idol, etc.

What you should *NOT* be doing is reading books, reading the constitution, owning guns, learning and practicing useful skills, etc.
You have no need to own 35 books let alone 3,500. Unless these books are Das Kapital, the Communist Manifesto, It Takes a Village, etc. then you have no business owning them and they are in fact a danger and should be banned.

Dewey you fool! (1, Insightful)

Joe the Lesser (533425) | more than 6 years ago | (#21660959)

Your decimal system has played right into my hands!

It doesn't solve my problem (1)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 6 years ago | (#21661181)

Help. I am an Argentine author. I have a home library which is arranged in hexagonal rooms which extend infinitely through space in all directions. The books are all identical and contain exactly the same number of letters, randomly arranged. We've looked at both the Dewey system and the Library of Congress system and unfortunately they both put all the books in exactly the same category. Also the handheld scanners aren't proving very useful, as you have to scan the entire book to distinguish it from any other one.

I understand there's a guy in an alternative imaginary universe who is pretty good at categorising unusual book collections, but I don't have his phone number. If you know how to get in touch with Mr. Oook, please could you let me know? And, while you're about it, could you let me know where I am too?

And no, I would never dream of suggesting that someone who has the urge to catalog a home library is in the slightest obsessive.

Get out your old Commodore 64/cassette tape drive (1)

AppleTwoGuru (830505) | more than 6 years ago | (#21661235)

And program in Commodore Basic a database program that writes records to cassette tape, and index all your books. I would leave your C-64 on all the time so you don't have to reload your index files from tape. I you want more spped, upgrade to a 1571 disk drive, or a Lt. Kernel Hard Drive (

You can scan in images of your book covers with a scanning device you make at home (search yourself for plans.)
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