Friday, October 27, 2006

That Library Thing

Reading has been my hobby since young. As with most people, I started with the comics genre, both English (Archie, Charlie Brown, Mad Mad Mad, etc.) and Chinese ("Lau Fu Zhi" or Hong Kong’s Master Q and the like). Then I moved on to serial story books like Chinese martial arts novels that I’ve blogged previously (see Knowing Made for Easy Steering under the October Archive at Going Global). In between I also picked up reading English novels, and reference books related to my professional work as an engineer.

An attendant activity to reading is buying books. My collection of books from bookstores and online purchases are not many and far in between. But I frequent used book sales especially those organized by libraries. Back home there were occasionally such events by MPH and Times Publisher. The best outing that I have had is the one by the National Library of Singapore a couple of years back. Coming home with bagful of discounted books was an understatement then.

Over here in Tampa, most public libraries have a permanent used book section either manned by volunteers or managed through a self-help honor system. You pick the books (hard cover for a buck and half of that for a paperback, regardless of the size [strike that, my wife just informed me that this is not correct as there is a higher charge for oversized books, and I stand corrected as she is the more acutely discerning one in the house]), add up your total, write the number of books and the amount on the front of a white envelope provided, enclose your payment (in cash), and deposit the envelope in a letterbox-like container on your way out. Clean and fast. No hassle.

With that kind of economic investment (the ROI is certainly staggering as reading-induced joy and sense of tranquility are truly priceless), both book storage and inventory become a headache. The former is physical in origin and is easily surmounted as long as space is not a premium. On the other hand, I sometimes end up buying the same book several months down the line as my rate of finishing a book is far outstripped by the rate of acquiring. So lately, I have started scouting around for a good way to catalog my ever growing possession of books.

I first toyed with using a spreadsheet as learning to use a dBase application software for such an amateurish purpose seems an overkill. Then there is LibraryThing, an easy-to-use, online library-quality catalog. But there is more. LibraryThing also connects you with people who read the same things. In case you forget some details of the book (and its physical location in the house somehow eludes you), then LibrayThings searches Amazon, the Library of Congress and 60 other world libraries for the details. In addition, you can put your books on your blog (in random order) by giving you the correct html script to be pasted onto your blog template, which I’ve done for my other blog, Going Global.

So if you’re into books and love sharing your opinions and getting feedback from other like-minded readers, then do your thing, the LibraryThing that is.


CY said...

Oh wow! What a great idea! A meeting place for booklovers. I am going to sign up right after this and add my own books. :D Have you ever thought about self-publishing? I read about a couple sites that let you do that; I forget the names just now but pretty much everyone can publish their own books nowadays (bestseller status not guaranteed). Right now I'm reading "The Historian" by Elizabeth Kostova, about some historian scholars who are all searching for the truth about Vlad Tepes, aka Vlad Dracula. :D

Say Lee said...

Give us your login name so we can view your collection too.

As for self-publishing, I don't think I'm ready for that yet. But maybe you would like to consider taking part in NaNoWriMo (read my blog here).

Vlad Dracula? Tell us about the truth once you've finished the book.