Create a digital book catalog

My wife recently decided to organize our book room (2000+ books scattered about) into an actual, catalogued library. Needless to say, neither of us had the time to do this by hand. Fortunately, I remembered that CueCat barcode scanners were available on eBay for about $10. You can get them on LibraryThing for about $15, if you feel like supporting the cause.

These little devices plug in like a USB (or PS/2) keyboard. When swiped over the barcode on the back of a book, the CueCat "types" it in and then "presses" enter. That barcode on the back is the book's ISBN, and it uniquely identifies the book and its edition. It's easy to scan dozens of book barcodes per minute once you get into a rhythm. If you want to scan in your library, then scan all the barcodes into a single text file. The Notepad program that comes free with Windows works fine for this. If you're an Apple user, TextEdit works. If you're running Linux, cat > codes.txt works.

Once everything is scanned, you can upload that file to LibraryThing, and it creates a digital catalog of your entire library automatically. LibraryThing pulls info from both and the United States Library of Congress, so it can recognize just about any book. Once you've got your books online, it's easy to tag, sort and manage the books in the catalog. Then, when it's time to put a book in the proper place, you can look it up in the catalog (or scan its barcode) so you know which section of the library it belongs to. This made it painless for my wife to separate out 250 old books that she's now going to sell on eBay. is powered by linode | legal information