Tag Archives: catalogue

Unleash Your Inner Librarian – LibraryThing? Meet Red Laser’s iPhone Barcode Scanner

I bet you have books all over the place: by your bed, in the kids’ rooms, in boxes, in the basement…So how are you ever supposed to remember which of the Captain Underpants books your kid already has, or which Patricia Cornwell you’re missing?

[Skip to the bit where I tell you how to use your iPhone as a barcode scanner for your books]

LibraryThing.com screenshot

LibraryThing.com is a wonderful solution. You can list all of your books here, with a mimumum of effort (enter the title or barcode number, even the author’s name, and up will pop a listing that you can click on. It lets you add as much or as little detail as you need: from tags and categories to the date you bought it to where you store it, to the dates you started and finished reading it!). You can add books as you go along and always have a record of every title in your house.

The problem with LibraryThing is that, unless your parents set up an account for you at birth and assiduously updated it, you’ve got a back-collection of books that needs to be added to your virtual library.

I have, periodically, lugged a pile of books to my computer and typed in their information but that takes a lot of time and gets a little dull. (Data entry is fine when someone’s paying me, but when it’s eating into my actual reading time, I get a little cranky).

LibraryThing sells a cuecat bacode reader for $15 but I’ve never managed to get around to getting one 1, and anyway, it needs to be hooked up to your computer, so no cat-like roaming around the house nosing into corners with this feline.

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to just stroll around your house, pulling books out of nooks and crannies and scanning them right there and then?

Well today I discovered that I can use my iPhone as a scanner to upload my titles to LibraryThing.

How? How? Tell Me How!

  1. Download the iPhone app Red Laser for $1.99 free [update: Now available for Android phones too. Thanks to Dennis for letting me know]. It uses the iPhone camera to take a picture of the barcode and stores the ISBN (International Standard Book Number) that is built into the barcode. [click here for detailed instructions]
  2. Email the list of stored ISBNs to yourself then copy and paste them into the “paste text” box on the import page at Library Thing. [click here for a tutorial]
  3. Sit back and watch as LT.com adds the books to your library (it puts them in a queue so there is some waiting, but hey. It also combs out duplicates as it goes through, and adds all the bibliographical data, so let’s not get too picky!)

Pros: Oh the time it saves! And it feeds my little techno-geek heart with glee to ‘bleep’ the barcodes and see them show up in my Library.

Cons: the barcode scanner can be a leeettle temperamental. I’m working on figuring out the best combination of lighting/distance/karma.

  1. actually, I did have a cuecat reader when they first came out. I think I got it free from Wired magazine, or something, but it wasn’t very good and I think Library Thing was just a glint in the postman’s eye at the time. I still picture, with regret, the box of Things To Give Away To Charity, with the cuecat nestled in the top. It went in and out a few times until I decided in a fit of ruthlessness, that I was never going to use it. D’oh!

Using The Red Laser Barcode Scanner to Add Batches of Books To LibraryThing.com

1. Buy the app, if you haven’t already. (It’s by Occipital, and it costs $1.99 is free in the app store.)

2. Run the app. Select the little lightning bolt in the bottom of the screen, to start the scanner.

3. Before you point the phone at anything, flip the little switch at the bottom of the screen that defaults to “multiple off” (this will make the process faster. If you do not do this, the phone will stop and try to look up every item as you scan it. What you really want to do is simply collect a list of barcode numbers. ‘Multiple on’ mode does that.)Red Laser Barcode Scanner app for iPhone

4. Now grab your book and flip it to find the barcode. Turn it so that there is no glare or shadow on the barcode and hold the phone a few inches away from it. Position the arrows so that they bracket the main part of the barcode. They should turn green. Now hold still and the phone should chirp or beep or buzz, to let you know it has scanned it. A series of numbers will appear under the picture, which should correspond with the numbers under the barcode. 1

5. Scan your next book. You’ll hear the beep/buzz (depending on whether or not your speaker is on) and the numbers under the picture will change.

6. Repeat this as often as you like (I would recommend doing a trial batch with four or five numbers the first time).

7. When you’re ready to stop, click “Done” on the bottom left of the screen. This takes you to a list of ‘scanned items’.

8. Click on the ‘arrow in a box’ logo that means ‘send me somewhere else’ on your iPhone. Then, email the list to yourself.  (this step is necessary becaus I could not find a way to simply copy and paste from this screen).

9. Open your email program, find the new email, and copy all the text from the body. Don’t worry, Library Thing is smart enough to realise that the list numbers before each barcode number can be ignored.

LibraryThing.com's Import Books Page10. Open LibraryThing.com’s upload page 2. Paste your list into the “paste text” box, press ‘grab’. Go and do something more interesting while LibraryThing.com looks up all thei nformation and adds your books to your library. It puts them in a queue, so it’s not instantaneous, but they will be added. (It also allows you to add a batch of tags at this stage, so its not a bad idea to scan all your mysteries together and all your kids’ books in a batch).

  1. Tips for getting the scan to ‘take’: I lay books down on a table and held the phone in two hands above them. This eliminated the crazy shake I seemed to develop every time I used the app. Also, if you are having trouble getting it to see the barcode, try angling the phone towards and/or away from the book slightly.
  2. This tutorial assumes you already have a LibraryThing account and have logged in