I’ve always wanted to catalog our library. I heard about LibraryThing a while back, but didn’t pursue it.
Last month we brought a stack of books back from China, as always. And I forgot what drove me to buy a CueCat from LibraryThing, but yes, I finally decided to do it.
I regretted as soon as I got the PayPal confirmation email. Why did I buy a bar code scanner when I can just type in the ISBN?
It turns out as one of the better mistakes I’ve made lately. There’s only one issue here: efficiency.
We have far more Chinese books than English ones, and I immediately found that LibraryThing can’t find any Chinese book from its few alleged Chinese sources. Then I remembered Douban.
Douban is a lot more of a social network than a library as LibraryThing, as you can’t even sort your books. But it does a pretty good job of finding Chinese books, so I happily entered about a dozen ISBNs manually.
Then I realized how efficient CueCat is with LibraryThing. Ignore the time to take a book from the shelf and put it back, it takes less than a second to get a book into LibraryThing after I mastered the scan speed, whereas it takes at least 15-20 seconds for Douban: type 10 digits (my laptop doesn’t have a num pad), enter, click “Reading”, “Want to Read”, or “Have Read”, pick tags.
Granted, I need to tag books in LibraryThing later, but that can be done in a batch.
It would probably take a web programmer less than 15 minutes to do it, but I was too lazy and too dumb. Instead I found a Java app that decodes and launches a browser, and Douban has a search URL like http://www.douban.com/book/isbn. Now it takes about 5 seconds. Good enough.
After I finish scanning all the books, hopefully I can gather some courage to write something with Douban’s API to better display the books.
Don’t even think of borrowing them.