Thursday, October 30, 2014

How to Catalog Your Personal Library Using the Goodreads App


If you love to read you probably know about Goodreads. Maybe you already use it to share ratings and reviews of books you've read, or to look for book recommendations from friends or other like-minded bibliophiles. What you may not know is that Goodreads includes all the tools you need to make a digital catalog of your entire personal book collection.

Why would you want to make a digital catalog of your personal library? If you're like me, you have hundreds of books and forget what titles are in your collection. Having a catalog handy on your smartphone while browsing at the bookstore can save you from accidentally re-buying a book you already own. A catalog can also help you weed out duplicates, select titles to give away if you need to thin the herd, or just be better organized.

Start by opening a free account with Goodreads, and then download the apps available for all your favorite iOS and/or Android devices. Your cloud account will sync across all your devices.


Kindle Fire Goodreads App


Here is what you need to know to get started on cataloging your books with Goodreads.

Entering book details:

  • Goodreads is owned by Amazon, so you can access details on your Amazon book purchases and add and rate them directly. Only those books you choose to include are added to your Goodreads shelves; nothing is included automatically. If you have a lot of Kindle books, in particular, this capacity provides a huge time saver in cataloging them.
  • For paper books not purchased from Amazon, the phone and tablet versions of the Goodreads app can use your device's camera as a barcode scanner to automatically enter any book's ISBN. 

  • The scanned ISBN will bring up all the book's details, including title, author, and a photo of the cover. Next you'll need to tap the "shelve" button, and place your book's information on a virtual shelf. You can create whatever shelves you like to organize your books, and edit those shelves at any time. Unlike a physical library, your Goodreads "shelves" function like tags -- so a single book can be assigned to multiple shelves.

  • If your book doesn't have a barcode, you can type in the ISBN and Goodreads will find the details. Just below the photo of the book cover, you'll find an icon of several books on a shelf. Tap that to see the drop-down menu that will let you tick a box to shelve your book. 

  • If your book predates the ISBN system -- and personally I have a lot of those -- just enter the title or author's name and proceed as above. 

  • As a last resort, you can enter all of the book's details by hand. Goodreads recommends searching first. 

  • Once you've entered and shelved your books, your data will be stored in the cloud and you can access it from your Goodreads account on any device. 

Exporting your catalog data:
 
Goodreads makes it easy to export and back-up your book data. On your desktop, go to the "My Books" page of your account. On the left hand side, under the "tools" heading, you'll find the "import/export" option. That will open the "My Books > Import" page. On the right hand side of the import page, you'll see the option to "Export Your Books." Click "export to a csv file." Your exported csv (comma-separated values) file will open in MS Excel.

You can also import data from other library databases or websites -- as long as they use supported file types. Full instructions are on the "My Books > Import" page.


I'm just getting started on cataloging my own personal library with Goodreads. In the process, I'm becoming reacquainted with old favorites I haven't read for years. Not to mention that all my books are finally getting a much-needed good dusting as I handle them for scanning and shelving purposes!



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