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Virtual library helps outsource brainpower

Delicious Library creates a visual catalog of your entire media library: books, DVDs, CDs, games. Users scan the barcodes for each item and Delicious Library imports information and cover art from Amazon.com. Creating a catalog takes a lot of real-worl

Delicious Library next to the real thing

I'd been intrigued by Delicious Library software ever since I saw the program featured on David Pogue's video blog. This Macintosh cataloging program allows you to create a virtual library of all your books, movies, music and video games. Then you can browse or search your collection, and keep track of books you lend to others. Best of all, you have all your books visually represented together in one place, regardless of where they are physically located.

This was the breakthrough for me. As a writer, I have over 1000 books on shelves all over the house. Along with the advantages of working at home comes the clutter of the office, ported into my own dining room. With Delicious Library, I could box up books I don't need very often and put them out of sight, but not out of mind.

The genius of Delicious Library is that you can quickly, automatically catalog entries for your media by scanning the bar code on each project. Delicious Library connects to Amazon.comto import each item's information and cover art.

Delicious Library worked really well with the optional Flic Wireless Laser Barcode Scanner--which is a necessity for creating a large library--but although this was a virtual project, I still had to deal with the question of how to organize, lug, and store over a thousand books. More on the reality of the project after the jump.

The barcode scanning can theoretically be done using the iSight camera built into my Macbook, but when I tried that I really couldn't get the hang of it. It was awkward to hold the books up to the iSight and very difficult to get the bar code at the right focal length. In short, a real hassle and no fun. If you are serious about using this software, don't think of it as a $40 investment, which is the cost of the software download. Think of it as a potential $215 investment, the combined price of the software and a Flic Wireless Laser Barcode Scanner.

The best approach is to test-drive the free trial software download with whatever iSight camera you have on hand, and then decide whether you want to invest in the wireless scanner. This Bluetooth-enabled scanner is pretty cool. You can walk out of Bluetooth range as you scan, and the device collects up to 500 items in its memory. Then when you walk back to your Mac, it automatically downloads it all. One quirk of ordering the scanner is that you can only purchase it with a software license, so it's easiest to decide all at once whether you are buying the software and scanner. Apparently Delicious Monster will refund you the cost of a duplicate license if you decide to get a scanner later, but as I consider the scanner an essential part of the package I'd say get it if you are serious about creating a library.

The first scanner I received was defective. It was unable to maintain a Bluetooth connection with my Mac. Delicious Library support was very responsive, and after a reasonable attempt to make it work, they sent me out a new scanner right away.

So I've been happily scanning away, cataloging shelves one at a time. I've put over 11 boxes of books away in the attic, freeing up 20% of my shelf space without losing the record of what I have on hand. (I know the attic is not the ideal place to store books but it's what I had available.)

I love seeing my entire library together, and rearranging by title, creator, or genre with just a click. As I prepare to write my next book this software will help me with my research and referencing process. And as a busy Mom as well as an author, I feel like it's up to me to know where everything is. It's a relief to know that I can let the Delicious Library do some of the remembering for me.

Delicious Library has a field to record the physical location of each item, and this software would be great for a workplace or collaborative environment that involved book sharing. Co-workers can share collections and keep track of who has borrowed which book.

If you are willing to put in the real-world work to do the cataloging, Delicious Library is a software package that can help you chase the elusive goal of outsourcing your brain power.