Help me generate a list of ISBNs for books I own
June 2, 2011 6:59 PM   Subscribe

I need to input a large number of ISBNs off books I own into a document (the better to sell them with!). Is there a way to do this quickly without scanning barcodes?

I don't have the means to scan the barcodes, and I don't have a number keypad on my laptop. The only possibility for speeding this up that I can think of is if there's an online title lookup that I can use that will spit out a list of ISBNs. Any ideas?
posted by ocherdraco to Grab Bag (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
By "you don't have the means", what do you mean? There are programs that will scan barcodes using a general-purpose camera (webcam etc).
posted by hattifattener at 7:10 PM on June 2, 2011

Response by poster: I mean I don't have a barcode scanner or a smartphone that's up to the challenge. I do have a digital camera, and my laptop (it's a Mac) has a webcam. Tell me more about these programs!
posted by ocherdraco at 7:18 PM on June 2, 2011

There are also CueCats on eBay for ten bucks. It's not a good barcode scanner, but it's usable.

OCLC's Firstsearch will give ISBNs, but it won't exactly spit them out. There's a good chance you've got access through your local library. Heck, Amazon lists ISBNs too--but, again, while there are probably ways to streamline/automate/whatever this process, it's beyond my skillset.
posted by box at 7:19 PM on June 2, 2011

You can add the books to a LibraryThing account, and that will spit out a list of ISBNs in Excel at the end, along with any other metadata you need.
posted by Apropos of Something at 7:26 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

To be honest, when I went through my library, I found out that I was a lot faster at entering ISBN codes via the numeric keypad than I was with my CueCat back when that was the Done Thing. The new general purpose barcode readin' image scanners seem to be even slower than the CueCat was. Targus makes a wired numeric keypad for $20 that would probably be your best bet.

Otherwise, I _think_ Delicious Library will let you add books by barcode using your Mac's built in webcam. It's tedious as all getout, though.
posted by Kyol at 7:38 PM on June 2, 2011

(Of course, that also depends on the age of your library - I managed to acquire a fair number of books older than 1966 (yay for quarter pulps from Half Price Books!) which didn't have an ISBN, just a catalog number. The exceptions seemed to stack up.)
posted by Kyol at 7:39 PM on June 2, 2011

I think this is the thing you need:

It's been a (long) while since I used it, but roughly you put the barcode up to the webcam, and -poof- the computer knows what book you're talking about.

I see the program will help you sell your stuff on Amazon, and will export a file in various formats I don't quite understand. I'm assuming, but I don't know, that the ISBN will be included in that file.

It does appear to be $35, though.
posted by bexpert at 7:42 PM on June 2, 2011

You may know this, but the problem with pulling ISBNs based on title alone is that different editions have different numbers, and edition matters when selling. Entering the codes somehow is really the only way to be sure you actually have a match.
posted by donnagirl at 7:48 PM on June 2, 2011

Response by poster: I do know that; I work in book publishing. I'm pretty good at identifying editions.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:53 PM on June 2, 2011

I used Delicious Monster will do that with your Mac's webcam. It doesn't work as good as a barcode scanner or an autofocus scanner on a smartphone, but once you get the hang of it, it can be faster -- for me at least -- to enter the books. I was able to export the data to Excel. And it automagically bounced the list against the prices on Amazon marketplace. Sadly many of my books were only 99ยข. But it did help me identify the handful of books that were worth selling at a higher price.
posted by birdherder at 8:22 PM on June 2, 2011

My best solution was to have a handheld dictation recorder going while I speed-read through a big stack of book titles, authors & isbns. Then I could sit down at the computer (minus a giant stack of books) and manually enter everything with the recorder playing at 3/4 speed.

It ended up being way faster than waiting for the scanning software.
posted by Aquaman at 8:24 PM on June 2, 2011

I used an app on my mobile phone (android based) that allows me to scan barcode to catalogue them. I did this for approximately 682 books. (I say 'approximately' because there were some books in my collection that did not have valid barcodes ;) )

The title of the android app was "Book Catalogue".

I'm sure there are similar apps for iPhone if you have one.
posted by Jerub at 8:25 PM on June 2, 2011

honestly, borrow a friend's keyboard, or buy a $10 one from somewhere, plug it into your laptop, and use the keypad!

we just entered hundreds of isbns manually (i read them off, she typed them in, or vice versa) and it took a couple hours, but it was free. (i totally understand not wanting to deal with the stupid line of numbers at the top of the keyboard. so inefficient!).
posted by misanthropicsarah at 11:57 PM on June 2, 2011

Seconding Delicious Library. I use it on a MacBook and thought it was worth the money. We have a lot of books from three different countries, and Delicious Library had no problems picking up the relevant data. The only problems I encountered were with books from the pre-ISBN area...
posted by amf at 1:46 AM on June 3, 2011

You can also use your webcam with the now-free Books by Audacious Software to scan in ISBNs from barcodes.
posted by nightwood at 4:54 AM on June 3, 2011

I can't imagine typing in titles (let alone determining editions) could ever be faster than keying in ISBNs manually.
posted by turkeyphant at 4:59 AM on June 3, 2011

Delicious Library is what you want. Use your webcam to scan the barcodes and it pulls in all sorts of metadata and will even let you post them for sale on Amazon and help you track which ones are sold.
posted by Brian Puccio at 5:42 AM on June 3, 2011

Setting up a LibraryThying account will let you use their awesome search-and-import feature to find different versions of your book and choose the one you're actually holding. Then, as was pointed out above, you can use it ilke a catalog for yourself (i.e., for insurance replacements purposes, like I do), or export the data. You can even change around the view preferences in the Catalog page so it shows, say, the cover and the ISBN, or cover + ISBN + title.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:18 AM on June 3, 2011

Response by poster: Found an old keyboard with a number pad! Whee!

Thanks for all these options, folks. I appreciate it.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:30 AM on June 3, 2011

If you have an Android phone, you can try Memento from the Android store, with which you can create a little database, and populate ISBN numbers through the camera into the database (you can set fields to be Barcode values).
And then you can create a Google Docs spreadsheet. You might have to lay out ten bucks on the pro version for this part.
posted by blue_wardrobe at 1:41 PM on June 3, 2011

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