I hate organizing. I want to find books on my shelf. Can an app do it?
November 28, 2022 9:05 AM   Subscribe

I have a couple of bookshelves with maybe 200-300 books. For stuff on my computer, I'm a big fan of search-don't-sort. Organizing my books seems like a lot of effort, and no system seems great. It seems like with current AI/OCR, there should be an app where I can just point my phone at my shelf and find the book I want. Does that exist? Alternately: What's a good low-effort way to find the book I want?
posted by ManInSuit to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
Response by poster: (I've had some success just pointing Google Lens an the shelf, OCRing the content, and ctrl-f to find the book. But it's cumbersome and imperfect)
posted by ManInSuit at 9:06 AM on November 28, 2022 [1 favorite]

I'm not familiar with any such app! Can you describe a bit more the mix of books you have? Fiction, non-fiction? I'm asking because the basic starting point for me in organizing my books is to separate fiction and non-fiction. That splits my collection about in half. From there, I sort my non-fiction roughly into themes (history, travel books, botany & gardening) and my fiction first into geography (roughly by continent), though I used to do it more chronologically.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:43 AM on November 28, 2022

Response by poster: It's mostly non-fiction I use for my work.
posted by ManInSuit at 1:22 PM on November 28, 2022

This looks like the closest to what you're looking for if you have Android; don't know how well it would work on a shelf of books but worth a shot?
posted by brook horse at 1:29 PM on November 28, 2022 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Apparently evernote can help? I found this app but it is not great. This seems like what I would want if it existed.
posted by ManInSuit at 1:35 PM on November 28, 2022

> What's a good low-effort way to find the book I want?

If I asked you to find X book, where's your first instinct to look? Put it there.

Since this is a personal library, all that matters is that YOU can find any given item quickly. I used to be much more perfectionist about organizing stuff, but sometimes the system can't be 100% logical; sometimes, my stuff doesn't fit where it makes most categorizing sense because of physical constraints (e.g. oversize art books have to go on the tallest shelf, even though all the other art books are elsewhere). I just have to figure out enough of a system so that my future self can find the thing.
posted by Sockin'inthefreeworld at 4:19 PM on November 28, 2022 [1 favorite]

I believe LibraryThing has an Android App that I used to scan the bar codes on the books I own. It lets you do collections and tags, so I suppose you could tag with location names (which shelf, what room). Just so you know, though I realize it's not a perfect fit to your ask.
posted by forthright at 5:48 PM on November 28, 2022 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure there's a digital solution to a physical problem. The reason email folders get clunky is because they use a physical analogy (remember filing cabinets?) which gets unwieldy at scale. Your bookshelves are the same unwieldiness, but in reverse.

You could Dewey Decimal or Library of Congress your books and inventory them in a LibraryThing database, like your public library does, but you still have to make sure you reshelve them where the database thinks they are. Plus that sounds like way more organization than you want.

My low-effort bookshelf strategy is to keep subjects more or less together. That way when I need a particular book, I know more or less which shelf is on, and I only have to visually scan maybe 10 books, not 200.
posted by basalganglia at 7:42 PM on November 28, 2022 [1 favorite]

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