You have attended Dr. Whitney’s “seminar” on how to organize your books and you are thinking to yourself, “Man, I wish I had a secretary who can copy my title page and file my books for me the way Dr. Whitney showed me. Well,” you go on, “I might as well start cataloguing my books as I go. I might not have the time to get them as well organized as Dr. Whitney, but I can at least get started in that direction.”
That is the conversation I had with myself and others after Dr. Whitney took some of us into his office and showed us the wall-to-wall file cabinets full of files with book titles and news clippings in them organized by topic. I loved how he had it set up and I loved that he had a running record of all the books in his library. I also knew that I had over 2,000 books in my own personal library and that I was in seminary full time, working full time, fathering three children full time and being a husband full time. In other words, this was not going to happen any time soon. There was also the issue of getting my secretary wife to organize my books, though she has threatened to put them in Dewey decimal order!
If you have had this thought and have been unable to get your library catalogued the way you wanted, then I have some excellent news! Collectorz.com has a computer program that will catalogue your books quick, fast, and in a hurry as my drill sergeants used to say. Book Collector is designed with ease and quickness in mind.
I admit that at first, I was highly doubtful that this product could be that easy. However, when I downloaded the evaluation version and started tinkering, I discovered that it was that easy. Once I downloaded the full product, I sat down to see how quickly I could enter books. Because I had a laser scanner on the way, I began with some books that did not have a barcode. These particular books in my library were also more than 100 years old. I figured I would play “stump the software” to really test it.
It passed with flying colors! There was only one book that it could not find of the forty-one I entered into the system in less than 30 minutes. I could have entered many more books, but I had to go slowly because I was entering title and author (books before 1966 did not have an ISBN-International Standard Book Number). However if your book was published or re-published after 1970, when the ISBN became standard, it will have this number.
Anyway, if you have an ISBN, all you do is type in that number, it will either be 10 digit number or a 13 digit number depending on when it was published, and then select your book from a list. If you type in the ISBN, the list is usually only one book. If you type in the title and author, you can pull from a list of up to like 10 books-it depends on how popular the author was, how popular that title was, or how many editions of that book exist. This selection is based upon Amazon.com database of books. If the book does not come up, it will tell you to click on “Previous” and either give a fuller title (which usually made the difference) or make sure you typed in the information correctly.
Once you have your information correct and you have a book selected, you click “Next” and select your book from the Library of Congress’ catalogue. Clicking “Next” will then add your book to your collection complete with the author’s name, the title of the book, the ISBN (even books before 1966 have an ISBN assigned to them), the year your book was published (this can be tricky if you have a particular edition), the publisher’s information, and in many cases, the number of pages in the book as well as the cost of the book.
There is a second option that allows you to manually add the book which is what I had to do for one book because it could not be found by the “Add Book Automatically” feature. In this case, you simply enter title, author, and as much other information as you want from that particular book. Through this feature, you can add your personal notes about a book, when and where and how much you paid for the book, as well as downloading the exact cover of your book rather than the “standard” cover of the more recent edition from Amazon.
There are so many more features to this product that I do not have the time to share in this review. Suffice it to say that once your books (or other media) are entered into your computer, the manner in which they are stored and organized is limitless.
Using the Laser
If you are married or have kids, did your spouse (assuming you are a male) let you play with the “gun” when you registered for the wedding or the baby shower? If so, you can relive those moments with the optional CueCat or Laser scanner. If not, then you can create those moments with the scanner! Not only do you get to play with your toy, you literally cut the entry level time of your library into the database to mere seconds per book.
I have been using the Laser scanner and have learned a few things in doing so that are not necessarily stated on the product page. First, your computer will not recognize the scanner unless you have the Book Collector software open and have already downloaded the small file necessary to run your scanner. What this means is that it is not plug-and-play like so many usb-port attachments are. Also, you have to download a small file from the collectorz website in order to use your scanner.
Second, it does require 3 AAA batteries. They do mention this, but it is easy to forget. This is actually a nice feature because it enables you to take the scanner off the computer, scan your books on the shelf, then sit back down at your computer and plug it in. You then do a search in the advanced mode of the add books screen. Finally, you simply click “add” and everything that was in the scanner is then added to your collection. I did like 100 books in 5 minutes or so. It is truly ridiculous how easy and quick this is!
I only used the book database software because, as most seminarians know, your library is your life. However, you can purchase software to organize your movies, music, games, or your photos (also, you can organize comic books and mp3’s) with the same ease as your books.
Counting the Cost
They do have the option to download the Book Collector basic edition of each software program for $29.95 via email or for “free” if you take advantage of one of the special offers. You can order the Book Collector Pro edition via email for $49.95 or have the CD-ROM delivered to your door for $69.95. Here is a list comparing the Basic and Pro editions of Book Collector.
There is an optional scanner which is an excellent investment if you have a larger library. You have the option of purchasing the CueCat scanner for $24.95 or the Laser scanner for $134.95. There are pluses and minuses to each, so, if you decide you want a scanner, it is up to you as to which one would be the best. If you scroll down the comparison list, you can see what each one is capable of doing.
Basically, the sky is the limit for how you can organize your books in your library. The easiest (and funnest) part is the entering of the book (with or without the scanner) into the database. The hard part is pulling yourself away from your database as you organize and re-organize your library. Even if you “only” purchase the Book Collector basic edition, you will be doing yourself a huge favor-one which only increases when you purchase the Book Collector Pro edition. The ease and quickness of this software makes the investment well worth your money and time.
I have actually learned that the company is impressed with the fact that the theology books have been easily found and recognized by the program. They were somewhat doubtful about that because it is not a wide genre of books in terms of the rest of the world. However, I can say that less than 10% of my books were not found and all but one of those was before 1940. Therefore, you can be rest assured that your library will be painless to catalogue and there will be very few you will have to enter in manually. I do not think I can recommend a cataloging software program any more emphatically than this one.
One final note is that while this is a great way to catalogue your books, it also makes for an excellent resource if you look to insure your collection. You have a ready-made list to present to your insurance provider who can then help you select how much to insure your library for. This is not something we always think about, but it is an excellent by-product of the software and one that cannot be understated.