A memory boost for an aging bookworm

Our family loves reading. The bookcases are full and most flat surfaces are covered with reading material. The written word seems to flow through our house, making brief stops to be read and then sent on its way. Keeping up with all our books is an activity we just haven't attempted. This weakness has resulted in books that have never been found or returned (plus some generous fines paid to our local library).

For example, while visiting a family member recently, I noticed the book “Maiden Voyage” by Tania Aebi. “I remember really enjoying that book” I said. “You should, that's your book.” was the response, “You loaned it to me months ago.”

I know my memory isn't what it once was, but I don't recall loaning out that book. How many other books have I loaned out? Who else have I loaned books? Not knowing the answers to those questions, I curiously checked the Ubuntu repositories. There I found Tellico and Alexandria Book Manager.

So, could either of these programs assist me? Well, here are the pro's and con's of each program for my memory-challenged situation.

Tellico is designed to manage multiple collections including: books, music, videos, coins, stamps, comic books, wines, video games, trading cards and an option for a custom collection. The program has a report generator including the all-important “Who has my book” report (otherwise known as the Loan View). I could manage my book loans through the Collection menu with the Check-Out and Check-In options. The internet updates to the book entries included a synopsis of the book subject. All in all, I found Tellico's flexibility very appealing.

Despite these strengths, Tellico had one major weakness for me: adding the books. There were so many steps in the process. Step One: Bring up the data entry box. The “General” tab is where I could add the title and author. The “Publishing” tab is where I found the ISBN field. Step Two: Enter the ISBN. Step Three: Save the entry. Step Four: Instruct Tellico to update the book information from the internet. Fortunately, I could update multiple books at a time. However, Tellico didn't include an image of the book cover. So now I'm onto Step Five: Manually selecting an image in the data entry box (usually importing the covers directly from Amazon).

Cover images are important to me because I may not always remember a title or author, but can usually remember what the book looked like. So the idea of manually adding all those book covers isn't very appealing.

Would Alexandria be a better memory aid?

Alexandria Book Manager, as the title implies, only manages your book collection. However adding books is extremely easy. Simply click the “Add Book” button, type in the ISBN number and hit Enter. When connected to the internet, the program will pull up the relevant book information including an image of the cover. If Alexandria cannot find the book with the ISBN, you still have the option of manually entering a book and importing a cover image.

Loaning books involves pulling up a book's properties (right clicking and choosing properties or simply double-clicking on a book). Then I would go to the Loaning Tab and fill out this section with the relevant data. Straightforward and easy. However, Alexandria doesn't include any reporting functions and Loan Status is not a field option for the main screen. Reviewing individual books to identify loaned books is not my idea of a fun night.

So I ended up utilizing both programs. I used Alexandria for the initial data entry on books and quickly exported the data into a Tellico file. I imported the file into Tellico and I updated the book information again (for the plot synopsis). This process gravitated to the strengths of both programs.

After all those steps, a little voice whispered to me “couldn't you use paper to track your loan?” Well, maybe... now if I could only remember where we keep the paper.


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