Monday, October 3, 2011

Books and more books ...

Lets see if this works ... It has been a while since I wrote my last post and the Blogger UI changed, kind of nicer than the old one but I've to get used to the new one now.

In our family we love books, actually we are book freaks, if there is something we anxiously want to know or understand what do we do ? we buy, get it from the library, read at the bookstore, or steal a book !! (just kidding).

Besides loving books, I really love my Amazon Kindle (I'll write a separate article about it), what a great device and awesome service, and we the new Kindles, Ohhh My. My son is anxiously waiting to get one, and he already gave me the speech that at school the Kindle is an exception on the electronics gadgets policy (good try son!).

Adding to the real tangible dust collecting old fashion paper books, we have started our digital collection of eBooks. Over the past few days I spent some time (and a some bucks) taking advantage of a great offer from O'Reilly and Associates. If you own one of their titles on paper, for some of them they offer you to get the eBook version, DRM free, for few bucks, so I did it.

Given that our digital media library is getting hard to manage, iTunes became our default tool to manage our Music titles. Couple of weeks ago I finished to suck up and digest into iTunes more than 400 audio CDs, that together with the tracks and albums we purchased on iTunes, take about 50GB for about 6,200 songs.

That took care of one part of my digital clutter.

I'm not quite sure how many books in total we have in the house, the easy answer is A LOT. My son has a bookshelf on his room, but also shares with my daughter another two bookshelves upstairs, my wife has her own large bookshelf in her studio with art and jewelry books, and obviously I've my own collection in my home office. Add few more in the family room, our bedroom, here and there. and I'm sure we may be able to start our own little library for the neighborhood.

On the digital side the current number is much lower. I've a directory in my desktop machine where I drop all sorts of stuff, the current count for eBooks is about 160 taking 1.5GB, but that's very small compared to a total of about 98,600 files taking more than 43GB, which includes manuals, application notes, papers, reports, electronic components datasheets, schematics, journals, brochures, catalogs, etc., etc., etc.

Sometimes it gets hard to find something and most of the time I rely on my memory and doing search of directory trees. So I started my quest for tools to help me getting all this sea of knowledge and digital clutter somehow organized.

I always like to share with my friends what I've been reading, both in paper and electronically, I've been trying to keep the Reading List on my LinkedIn profile, but that application is really ugly and hard to maintain, so early this year I switched to Shelfari that now is part of Amazon, and lets you embed the code to share your bookshelf on your blog or web page.

It takes time to update, but since now it is part of Amazon it is quite easy to transfer your Amazon purchases to your Shelfari collection, still does not have a lot of integration with other Social Media tools besides Facebook, and I'm a little bit pissed-off with Facebook to re-enable the connection.

For local management of my digital library and keep track of what I send to the Kindle, I been relying on having things organized on directory trees but it was getting out of control, adding that for the same eBook I may have different formats such as PDF, mobi, epub, etc. Searching for how to organize collections on the Kindle I stumbled on Calibre. At first I was kind of hesitant to install it, but after reading some reviews and comments and decided to give it a try,

It is a free and open source eBook management application, it's still under development and may have some glitches but so far seems to be working fine for me. It creates its own directory structure and database of objects you add to its library, nice feature is that you can download and edit the metadata for each object including the image of the cover, and for pdf files it takes the first page of the file as the cover.

Another nice detail is that you can browse your library collection as you do in iTunes with coverflow. I recently organized a large number of papers and reports related to "Internet of Things" and took this shot of how they look on Calibre.

An extra plus for Calibre is that it recognizes when you connect an eReader device such as the Kindle to your computer and lets you quickly find what objects are in the Library and in the device. One thing I don't know how to handle efficiently is creating and managing collections on the Kindle from the PC, there is a plug-in for Calibre but since the collections file is part of the "system" for the Kindle, every time you make a change you need to restart the Kindle which makes it a cumbersome procedure. So for now after I send the stuff to the Kindle then I manually organize it into collections on the Kindle.

So far I'm happy with this new way of keep things organized, for sure there is room for improvement and it is subject to change in the near future as new tools pop up and I try different schemes, I can surely say that my productivity increased since I don't have to spend too much time to find articles, books, etc.

For those guys looking to develop application to increase integration, it would be very nice to have something where you can add your notes, comments, references, etc., I didn't spend any time yet searching for a tool that provides that functionality.

Time now to stop writing and start reading !!!


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