I am often asked why I created FictionDB. Why did I set out to create a database filled with all sorts of information about 150,000 books? Why would anyone in their right mind start on a project that could never be finished and would always need constant updating?
Well, the answer is this: I didn't decide to do any of this consciously.
I have always been a listmaker. I like lists of things. I have always kept track of every book I've read, movie I've seen. Well, you get the picture. If you work in a corporate environment, then you've taken the Myers-Briggs personality assessment in some form. This is a fascinating theory, one of which I happen to be obsessed with. But the most interesting thing about the test is that you really learn why you are the way you are. I am an ENTJ -- the final J makes me an incurable listmaker. So it's no wonder the database began to grow and grow.
When I got my first home computer in 1991, I immediately found a use for it. I could keep track of my reading. Wow, $2500 for a place to store my lists. Such a bargain! I am one of those people who must read an author's books in the order they were written. It doesn't matter whether the books are related or not, I must start at the first book. It's just a little habit of mine, one I am currently trying to break. So when I found a new author, I would always have to figure out what other books they had written. This could be a real pain in the pre-internet days. So I got an idea. If I kept track of all the new romances released each month, then when I needed to glom a new author I would already have all the information ready to go! Now to most people this would seem absurd. Keep track of over 150 new releases each month on the off-chance that I would need them in the future? But remember, I am an incurable listmaker. I already spent all my free time either reading or in book stores, so this was just another extension of my passion for books. A rather time-consuming hobby, but a hobby nonetheless.
So on it went for several years. By 1995 I had created the romance portion of FictionDB. I had diligently updated the database to include over 40,000 romance novels. The funny thing was I loved every second of it. Even though FictionDB would be my own personal database for almost 10 years, I never thought twice about the countless hours I spent on it. I would sit in my local used bookstores and write down every book I could find that wasn't in my database. Even though I knew I would never read most of the books I was entering, the creation itself gave me great satisfaction.
In 1999, FictionDB became available to the world. Earlier that year, I was approached by a college student looking to create a book website for a class she was taking. She had heard about my database from another person on one of the mailing lists. I gave her a copy of my data and I hope she got a good grade, because it gave me another idea. How hard could creating a website be? There were thousands of them! I had been a computer programmer many years before, albeit a mainframe one, so I felt up to the task. Once I figured out the basics, it was a breeze. I had a deadline of Thanksgiving to get it up and running as I was expecting my first son and wanted the site finished by his birth. So one week before he was born, FictionDB.com was born too.
And that's the story of Kelly and her database.