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Saturday, September 23

intermission: biblio-geekout

It's not often that software blows my mind, but the app I'm about to describe just did just that. I should warn you at the outset, however, that Bookpedia runs only under Mac OS X, and the barcode scanning feature (as described here anyway) requires an iSight cam -- either built-in or standalone. So if you're as much a book freak as I am, but you're using a PC, this is only going to make you drool. Sorry. (I'm sure there's a way to accomplish the same thing under Windows; I just don't know how that works.)

It was maybe a year ago that I discovered this Bookpedia app for cataloging books. I have several such applications on my hard drive, but what interested me about this one was its ability to enter bibliographic data via bar-code scanner. I never did get around to picking up the necessary hardware -- there was one called CueCat that you can still get used (and cheap), supposed to be very good -- but I just now discovered I don't need it.

As it turns out, Bookpedia is now set up to use an iSight cam as a barcode reader. When you menu select "Add Book..." you get a button that says iSight. If you click that and you've just waked up and you're me and you haven't showered or shaved yet, you see something like this -- the red bars being the scanner...

Scary, I know. But in addition to my chagrin, imagine my surprise! When this came up, I reached for the nearest book -- which happened to be Pound in Purgatory: From Economic Radicalism to Anti-Semitism -- held it up to the cam so the barcode crossed those red bars, and VIOLA! Here's the next thing that popped up on my screen...

Click ADD and there's a new record in your Bookpedia database. I should mention that you don't really need the iSight cam to do this. You can pull in such records from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the Library of Congress, or any number of university libraries, by simply entering a book's title or ISBN. It's just that the scanner makes the job a snap. If you use the scanner -- or one of the major online booksellers -- the book's cover art also gets slurped in, not just a thumbnail...

Once books are entered into the database, there are all sorts of ways to slice and dice your collection. And view it. Here are some other books whose barcodes I just scanned...

Finally, I have a quick way to catalog all those books I've been referencing on this blog -- and hundreds more I haven't mentioned. Sadly, Bookpedia sucks as a bibliography generator, but I can export the data and -- with a little massaging -- load it into another app, like Bookends, to gin up bibliographic citations. Like so...

  • Brauen, M. (2004). Dreamworld Tibet: Western Illusions (1st English ed.). Weatherhill.
  • Wolin, R. (1996). Labyrinths: Explorations in the Critical History of Ideas (Critical Perspectives on Modern Culture). University of Massachusetts Press.
  • Norton, A. (2005). Leo Strauss and the Politics of American Empire. Yale University Press.
  • Surette, L. (1999). Pound in Purgatory: From Economic Radicalism to Anti-Semitism. University of Illinois Press.
  • Trento, J. J. (2005). The Secret History of the CIA (Reprint ed.). Carroll & Graf.
  • Jean Ziegler, J. B. (1998). The Swiss, The Gold And The Dead: How Swiss Bankers Helped Finance the Nazi War Machine (1st US ed.). Harcourt.

btw, there are also apps for music CDs and DVDs. Each is $18 (and no, this isn't any sort of affiliate pitch).