personal library managers

Stefan wrote a post about usability issues with the new LibraryThing site, and combined with Amanda’s posts on trying out Library Thing and Reader2, I decided to give ’em a whirl.

I decided to shamelessly copy Amanda’s approach of trying to catalog my manga collection, because sometimes I do lose track of how many volumes of a series I own, some of the long-running series have gaps in them (I did not pick up every single volume of Kare Kano Or Ruroni Kenshin) and working with a smaller subset sounds more manageable than trying to deal with my entire book collection.

However, I ran into a few problems, as is only to be expected since both of these services are in Beta.

I was totally confused by the login to Library Thing. I guess I have been conditioned to expect a separate login screen, and even though Library Thing promises a seamless login/registration process, I thought that I’d see something different when I clicked on the “signup” box at the top right of the screen, and was just directed to the index page again. It took a couple tries before I gave up and just entered in a user name and password and registered myself. If there are distinct links labeled “sign-up” and “sign-in” on a page I think they should go somewhere. Either that or remove them entirely, because I do expect when I see something underlined and blue that it will take me somewhere else. Hyperlinks should not be decorative.

I did like the way Library Thing makes it so easy to pillage titles from other user’s libraries and add them to my own. I was able to add some of the volumes that Amanda and I both own, with just a few clicks.

There aren’t a ton of manga already in other users’ libraries on Library Thing (that I could tell). If there were more volumes already there, it would be easier for me to document my collection without a ton of data entry.

Reader2 gave me error messages when I tried to register for an account when I was using firefox. When I switched to explorer it seemed to work just fine. Again, I was able to browse tags labeled manga and add the volumes that other users added to my own library. I liked the search functionality where I could find a book on Amazon and add it, but I kept accidentally adding google searches to my library, because when I hit the enter key, I performed a google search. So I would have to remember to hit the amazon button all the time. It seemed like a very strange way of setting up a search box for a form, where the button would do one thing, and the enter key would do another.

I thought the tag cloud in reader2 was a bit more robust than the tagging in LibraryThing. I liked being able to look up books in amazon, but I really hated that every time I entered a book I was redirected to a new page, when I wanted to continue to work with my amazon search results. It was incredibly frustrating when I had a list of 8 volumes of a manga series from an amazon search, but instead of working with the same list of search results, I had to keep entering in a new search string for amazon if I wanted to add in volume 2, 3, 4, etc

Both of the services really seem to support people adding single volumes of books, but I’m sure that I am a very atypical user.

For me right now, until adding multiple volumes is supported a bit more, I’m probably not going to be playing around with them much. LibraryThing might be more fun for you if you really dig library of congress cataloging data. Reader2 has better integration with amazon, so you can see all the pretty book covers. I’d like to see a totally different service that combines elements from both, with better usability.

Both of these services seem a bit too cumbersome for me right now. I think I’m going to wait until both are a bit further along in the development cycle before trying them again. I really want something to use that is very quick and easy. I don’t want to spend too much time on data entry, and until multiple volume works are supported a bit more in each service, they won’t really work for my purposes.