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Bookish Apps for the Avid Collector

By Audrey Golden. Jul 31, 2020. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, collectors

If you have a book collection, you’re probably like many other collectors of books and ephemera—you want to catalogue what you have. You probably also want to have an easy way to access information about your collection. There are some apps available that can help you to do just that. Beyond apps, some websites also exist for the sheer purpose of helping you to catalog your book collection, as well as to keep a “wants” list for new books that might pop up for sale. We’ve looked at a number of these apps and sites, and we’ve tested some of them out—some with benefits for serious collectors, and some that we just don’t like. We’ll tell you about a couple of the apps and tools we like best, but ultimately, we find that digital gadgets for book collecting leave something to be desired (hint, hint, app designers).

Books on desk in library at the elementary schoolApp 1: Libib

We think we like Libib the best of all the bookish apps for book collectors that are on the market. This tool has a lot to like. First, it allows users to create multiple “libraries,” as it calls them, or what we would call collections. So, if you have more than one collection, you can catalog all of the items in your collections but separate them by collection. Make sense? Libib also has multiple options through which you can add a book. You can do a CSV import, which is helpful if you’ve been cataloging your books yourself in a spreadsheet. You can also enter the information about the book manually, including the title, author, a description, the year of publication, the publisher, the ISBN number, the number of pages the book contains, and an image of the book. You can also add tags to the item, as well as notes. In addition, you can make it easier to sort the items in your collection by adding them to a series or a group. In large part, these are good things. Yet some of the information categories leave us wanting both a little bit less and a little bit more.

We’d love to see categories for the following: condition, place purchased, date of purchase, price of purchase, appraisal values over time, and provenance. For most collectors, these categories are extremely important, but Libib doesn’t give the option. The default option for adding books to your collection in LIbib is by typing in the ISBN number and searching for the book. In many ways, that this is the default seems to speak to the idea that Libib isn’t designed with collectors of especially rare items in mind. Libib offers free plans and paid plans, depending upon the number of items you want to add.

App 2: Delicious Library 3

This app has some of the same features as Libib, but it has a couple other distinct features we appreciate that we’d like to see developed further.

In addition to allowing you to catalog up to 10,000 items, this app also allows users to track the market value of the items in their collection. This is a great idea, but what’s not clear is where the app sources the market value data. We’re assuming the app gathers this information from other online marketplaces, which may not be especially helpful for tracking the value of particularly rare or unique items in a collection. Instead, this feature might serve collectors better if it were able to collate auction data. Beyond allowing you to track the market value of your books, the app also promises to generate “smart recommendations based on your collector profile.” We like this idea in theory, and it could be helpful for single-author or single-publisher collections. However, for collections that are much more idiosyncratic in nature, we suspect that the app doesn’t have the capacity to understand the collector’s ideas and impulses, and thus to provide recommendations that might in fact interest the collector. Finally, the app allows you to keep a “wishlist,” which can certainly be beneficial for collectors who want to keep track of the specific objects they want to add to a collection.

The app is missing some of the features we like in Libib, such as the detailed sorting feature. Collectors using Delicious Library 3 only allows sorting based on author and title. It’s also missing the ability to create specific collections—if you have more than one collection—as Libib allows. It’s also a bit less user-friendly than Libib for the collector who is less accustomed to digital apps, tools, and gadgets.

The-restaurant-table-is-getting-crowded-for-payments-technologyOther Options

There are a lot of book apps out there that don’t quite measure up to the two we’ve discussed above. But to give you a sense of your options, we want to give you the names and some additional information about those tools for comparison:

  • Book Crawler: This app is aesthetically appealing and easy to use, but it primarily allows users to keep track of all of the books they own and have read. For book collectors, this app doesn’t seem especially useful.
  • LibraryThing: This app has some cataloging features that allow users to keep track of books they own by author and title, and to browse collections of other LibraryThing users. If you want to compare your collection with others, this could be a useful feature. Yet the app also has “lending” feature to allow users to keep track of who has borrowed their books, which strikes us as a turn-off to many serious collectors. Unless they’re lending to an exhibit at a special collections library, we don’t know of any collectors who are allowing friends and colleagues to borrow the valuable objects in their collections.
  • Bookogs: This isn’t an app, but instead is an online tool that allows collectors of music-related books and ephemera to catalog their collection. It’s a sister tool to the popular “Discogs,” which allows users to catalog their collections, to keep a wish list of items that come up for sale, and to make purchases from sellers. Bookogs doesn’t yet have the capacity that Discogs has, but we think it’s an interesting start to a site that could be useful for locating particularly rare music-related books and ephemera.

We didn’t mention a number of apps that are designed for sharing book recommendations with other users, and other apps that have some of the same features as those we did discuss above. On the whole, some of the apps and tools have features we like, but we’d love to see an app designed with the serious book collector in mind.

Read More About Book Collecting

Audrey Golden
World literature scholar and erstwhile lawyer. Lover of international travel, outdoor markets, and rare books.


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