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Joel on Software

Library Apps for Macintosh

by Joel Spolsky
Tuesday, August 22, 2006

OK!  Last night I downloaded a couple of Macintosh software packages for library management.

Screenshot of Delicious LibraryThe first one goes by the quirky and charming name Delicious Library; the company is Delicious Monster. Due to its very appealing visual design it seems to be the darling of the Macintosh world. Within a matter of minutes, I was able to scan in five or six books using the built-in video camera on my MacBook Pro.

It quickly connected to Amazon.com, downloaded images, descriptions, prices, etc., and put charming little pictures of the books on a charming simulated wood bookshelf.

Here's the problem, though: Delicious Library does not have any way to import data from the Library of Congress.

I really want to be able to shelve our books according to their Library of Congress card catalog number. When you do this, books on similar topics tend to wind up near each other on the shelves. This is a very useful feature if you don't know the exact title you're looking for, or if you just want to, for example, browse a bunch of books about Ruby to find one you like.

Somebody has gone to a lot of trouble choosing a card catalog number that put similar books next to each other, and I've always found that open-shelved libraries with books in order according to some reasonable card catalog system are far superior to libraries with books in order according to acquisition date, size, color, IQ, or IDENTITY column.

Screenshot of BooxterThe second package I checked out was called Booxter.

This does, pretty much, everything that Delicious Library does, in a slightly simpler user interface almost completely devoid of wood paneling. Booxter, on the other hand, does connect to the Library of Congress and import their card catalog numbers, which makes it much more useful for my application. Neither these programs, regrettably, has any way to print out labels to put on the spine so that it would be possible to shelve the books correctly. If I can't find anything better, I suppose I could export all the data and try to use something like Word's mail merge feature to print labels, which would be a real hemorrhoid since the person applying the labels would have to figure out which label goes on which book. Printing a spine label at scan time would make for a vastly easier workflow.

I haven't checked out any of the PC or web-based packages yet; I don't really care whether the software runs on a Mac or PC.


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About the author.

I’m Joel Spolsky, co-founder of Fog Creek Software, a New York company that proves that you can treat programmers well and still be highly profitable. Programmers get private offices, free lunch, and work 40 hours a week. Customers only pay for software if they’re delighted. We make Trello, easy web-based collaboration software, FogBugz, an enlightened bug tracking and software development tool, and Kiln, a distributed source control system that will blow your socks off. I’m also the co-founder and CEO of Stack Exchange. More about me.

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