Managing my Library

A few days ago, I decided to take down the Library pages on my blog. Formerly, I was using the Now Reading plug-in to power the library aspect of my site. Ultimately, the plug-in was more work than it was worth – it didn’t have the greatest interface in the world, adding books was a pain, and every time I changed my theme I needed to tweak the templates to match the style of the new theme. I ended up spending more time messing with the library page layouts than I did reading.

I figured using a separate site to tracks my books would be easier, so I played with LivingSocial for a while after I joined FaceBook, since it was there. It was ok, but didn’t offer a way to note when you finished a book, which I liked about Now Reading. Being able to see how many books I read in a given year, or the order I finished them in, was nice.

That’s when I turned to Goodreads. Like LibraryThing, Shelfari and many other sites, Goodreads is a social cataloging site where users can track books they’ve read, are currently reading, or would like to read, and can share that information with other users. Each book is added to one of three “shelves” (to-read, read, or currently-reading), and can be added to any number of other shelves of the user’s creation. Additionally, users can record the date they read the book, the number of times they’ve read it, who they would recommend it to, who recommended it to them, and their rating and review of the book. Those features alone make Goodreads quite handy, but there are a few more ways to extend it that I like. You can display your Goodreads library on Facebook or a blog via apps and widgets, and there’s a bookmarklet for adding books to Goodreads directly from Amazon.

Hopefully now I can actually spend more time reading, rather than just queueing up books that look interesting.

Like Netflix for Books

The other day I was thinking. I know, bad opening, so sue me. At any rate, I had just been to the local library to pay a late fine (all of 10 cents!), and the thought struck me; wouldn’t it be great if there was a Netflix, only for books? No late fees, keep a book as long as you like; mail it in when you’re done and they’ll mail you back a new book from your list. But what would one pay for such convenience? I was checking out options online – surely I wasn’t the only one to think of extending the Netflix concept to books? As it turns out, I wasn’t; there are quite a few businesses following the Netflix model.

Two businesses, Bookswim and Booksfree, have an actual book rental program, starting at $15 and $10 a month respectively. For that price, you can keep 2 books at a time, for as long as you want, and mail them back to get new ones. Two others I stumbled upon, PaperBackSwap and America’s BookShelf, are really more of a book sharing program than a rental service; in order to get books, you need to share the books you have currently.

My problem with both of those models is that a) I’m cheap and b) I’m possessive. I’m not going to pay $10+ a month in order to rent books, when I can buy a new book for that price. And I’ve never been the type to trade in old for new; not with video games or movies, and certainly not with books. The only time I’ve ever gotten rid of a book is when I outgrew a children’s series (The Babysitter’s Club books, The Goosebumps series).

Clearly what I need is an improvement on the current (free) library model. I can understand how it would be cost prohibitive for a library to ship books to individuals, so I understand that would probably never be implemented. I also understand that they have a finite quantity of individual titles, and can’t let someone keep a book forever when other patrons are waiting for it. What they CAN do, though, is improve their online interface and introduce a queue. In this day and age, I should be able to update my mailing address, email address and other contact information online – they have my email address linked to my library card number, as I can receive alerts when a book is due. Once the online interface is brought up-to-date, a queue of books and authors you’d like alerts for should be easily done. The “hold” system already manages this to a point – you can basically reserve up to 10 books, and you’ll be alerted when they’re available. The queue would be like a pre-hold; books you’re interested in reading at some point in the future, but not immediately. When you’re ready, you could move the book from queue to hold, and pick it up from the library when it becomes available. I don’t think these type of changes would be too terribly difficult to implement, and would go a long way in increasing the usability and convenience of the library.

A New Project

Earlier in the month I posted about looking for a reading list type plug-in for WordPress, and finding Now Reading. I’ve since installed it, and finished customizing my library. I’m happy with how it looks (for now), and have decided that in an attempt to both read and write more, I’ll post my thoughts on books as I finish them. Not quite as ambitious as the “52 in 52” meme, where bloggers attempt to read & review a book a week, but a decent start, I think.

Reading List Plug-ins?

So, I’ve been checking out “reading list” type plug-ins for WordPress, because I’m getting sick of just keeping a text file on my PDA of books I’ve read, and ones I want to read. Whenever I come across a book that looks interesting, it gets added to the text file, but then I forget about reading anything on the list until I come across a new book that looks interesting. Wash, rinse, repeat. I was searching online, and came across the Now Reading plug-in, which is great – it lets you add books to a “library,” and you can mark books as “Have Read”, “Reading” or “To Read,” along with other details like when you read the book, and your own review. There are some beautiful implementations of it (Example) as well. The author of the plug-in has a nice implementation as well (here). I really like that rather than hiding the reviews away in the library, where someone may never see them, he’s made each review into a post, and linked to them from the book summary in the library.

Of course, the “Now Reading” plug-in made me think about what else I might consider applying it to. It would be nice to be able to create a library of video games; what I have, what I’ve played, what I’m playing now, what I plan to play. And for movies, as well; what movies I’ve seen, what I thought of them, what movies I own, et cetera. Of course, I already have lists of what movies & video games I own; reviews could be easily accomplished by simply creating and using a “Movie Review” or “Game Review” tag. So would I really NEED to extend “Now Reading” to include Movies & Video Games? For how I would use it, probably not.

My New Weakness…

I’ve determined I have a new weakness. It’s not for video games, although I do have a weakness for puzzle games. No, since about last July, I’ve had a weakness for cookbooks. Last summer, I bought myself a cookie cookbook and a chicken cookbook. Since then, I’ve received 2 slow cooker cookbooks as Christmas presents, and have bought 3 more cookbooks for myself. I don’t really know what the compulsion is, but in stores I almost always find myself drawn to the cookbooks. I crack one open, and immediately start classifying the recipes; “disgusting, maybe, oooooooh that sounds yummy.” I seem to have an eye for picking out the cookbooks, as well; thus far, I don’t think I’ve made anything I wouldn’t eat again, which is really the test of how good a recipe is. And it hasn’t helped that now I have MasterCook, basically a digital recipe box; merging my computer geekiness with my cooking nerd, now I can manage them all on my computer, and search, and… this shouldn’t be that fascinating, and yet it is. Never in a million years did I think I would buy a cookbook before a video game, but I still haven’t bought myself Final Fantasy 3 for the DS. Cookbooks are insidious, though; I feel guilty buying a $35 video game, but a $6-$10 cookbook is fine. And of course, Matt isn’t going to tell me to stop buying cookbooks, because he benefits. Oh well. So, if anyone out there wants some recipes, you know who to talk to.