Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Using Barcode Readers with FictionDB

I will do just about anything to speed up a process. In my corporate days I was the annoying person always coming up with new ways to do something better, faster, more efficient... I drove the change-averse people nuts! Well, you get the picture. A couple of days ago I bought OmniPage 15, the software that I use to convert covers to text. Scansoft, the software company, just loves me. Whenever they send me an e-mail that they have a new version, I'm the first person buying it. Here's why. I scan over 1000 covers a month. The new software will save me 15 seconds per cover. Not much for one cover but that's over 4 hours per month, 48 hours for the year. Well worth the $100 pricetag!

I have now scanned a significant percentage of the romance covers. Since I buy the books that I scan, I can't just buy a box of books knowing that I'll probably need to scan a large percentage of them. I needed a quick way to determine whether I should buy the book or not. Technology is great. Whenever I have an idea, there's usually a solution. I had received the new Treo 650 cell phone for Christmas last year (I created the FictionDB Mobile site just for my new phone). I learned I could buy a tiny barcode scanner that would plug into my phone. Awesome! I could now whip out my phone, scan a barcode and know whether I should buy the book.

Of course, this got me thinking about other ways I could use a barcode reader. I came up with lots of ways to increase my throughput using a scanner, but I didn't want to use the one on my phone. I wanted one attached to my computer, but I wanted something cheap. eBay to the rescue. I bought a CueCat barcode reader for $15. You may remember Radio Shack was giving these away for free several years ago. If you want to buy one make sure you get one that has been MODIFIED. Most eBay sellers put this in their description.

So what does this all mean for you? Well, if you're like me and want to catalog your 4000+ book collection, the thought of entering all those books into FictionDB seems like a nightmare. If you collect by author, this isn't so difficult. You can add an author's complete backlist with just one click. But what if you have lots of onesy-twosy books? Enter them with our new Barcode Scanner page. Just scan the barcode that starts with 978. For mass market paperbacks this is usually inside the front cover. For hardcovers and trade paperbacks, it is on the back cover. Not all barcodes are in our database, but a large percentage of mass market paperbacks are available. Books in hardcover that have not been released in paperback are also available.

Give it a try and let us know what you think!

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