Books and Bytes
Using Book Inventory Software to Organize
And Manage your Library

    by Pamela Little

Are you using one large ledger to record all the books in your library? Keeping an inventory of books on 3 x 5 index cards? Using an eclectic inventory system that changes every time someone new takes over managing the library? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you need to create a bridge between your books and your bytes: Computerize your library. Cataloguing your book collection can be a time-consuming project, depending on the size of your collection, but the benefits are innumerable. Software packages take a lot of the work off your hands. With a complete computer-based inventory, you can keep track of which books are on loan, analyze your book collection to see how well it matches the needs of program participants, and create custom reports that can help you monitor the use of your collection or identify areas for acquisition or weeding.

I tested several collection-inventory software packages, including Book Cat, Book Organizer Deluxe, and Readerware. While many of these software package offer similar features, Readerware stood out from the rest. It's easy to download and user-friendly: I was able to jump right in and begin cataloging items immediately. Readerware also has tremendous storage capacity, so that one can easily store thousands of titles with no problem.

Product: Readerware for Windows, Mac OSX, Palm, or Pocket PC. Readerware comes in three versions, one each for books, CDs, and videos or DVDs.

Price: $40 for one product, $75 for all three. With Palm software, add $10.

Demo: (30 days' free use) available from the Readerware website

When I read a few years ago about a software program called Readerware that enables users to catalog their home collections of books, CDs, and videos or DVDs, my interest was immediately piqued. Library geek that I am, I downloaded a 30-day trial version and was quite impressed with Readerware's auto-catalog feature, by which it goes out to predefined book-related websites—Amazon, Powell's, the Library of Congress, and others—to harvest automatically data about the item you wish to catalog: author, title, publication information, price, cover images (when available), and more. This feature can save you a lot of tedious data entry.

You access all this information using a list of UPCs (Universal Product Codes) or ISBNs (International Standard Book Numbers). If you buy the full version after your 30-day trial, as I did, you get a free USB version of the Cue Cat barcode reader, which enables you to scan in the UPC or ISBN information quickly and easily. If you want a higher-end scanner, Readersware sells portable and wand readers at a discount.

Once you've captured the data with the auto-catalog feature, Readerware provides a simple yet high-powered searchable database. Simply select the types of search, such as author, title, ISBN, or category, etc., and enter your search criteria. The search results are displayed in an easy-to-read, configurable table view similar to an Access database. Beyond a simple table view of the database, Readerware includes a tree view based on author name, as well as a graphical "Fish Eye" view, which shows books and authors as colored circles. Find any title by simply dragging it into view. You have to try it to really see the power of the "Fish Eye."

One of the better aspects of the system is that it allows you to periodically auto-update all the information, so that you can, for example, keep up with changing values of items in the collection

In a nutshell, this program allows you to quickly and easily catalog your entire collection in about five seconds per item. The program is simple to use: Wizards guide you through most processes, so that there's very little to learn and remember. If you have a substantial collection of books, CDs, or videos, download the Readerware demo to see how easy it is to use. An online tutorial will give you a good idea of how it works. At $75 for the bundle that covers books, music, and video, it's a real bargain.

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