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Dear Jane: What Is the Best Books Database for the...

Dear Jane:

What is the best i-app to use for book inventory?   I have an iPod Touch that  travels with me and have fiddled with some of the apps but so far haven’t  found ‘the one’ to fit this need.

Currently I have all my books listed on an Excel spreadsheet – it works  great when I’m at home in front of the computer, but is useless when I’m at  a bookstore trying to remember what books I do/don’t have, what’s on my ‘to  get’ list and what I’ve already read.

Oh, and it’ll need to handle a LOT of books, like 2000+ for my current list  with room to grow…

Any suggestions?


Dear S:

I tested out the ones for the iPhone/iTouch and I like myBookshelf app the very best.   Unfortunately, you would have to have the Google ID for each book to be able to import your list, but by searching on the author’s name, you can easily add books to your inventory i-app.

Here’s a review of the apps I tested.

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Reading List ($1.99): The app allows you to assign a photo based on your photo roll to each entry. You can use a photo of the author or the cover of the book. You must enter all the information manually and allows only for Title + Author. You can assign the book to four different categories: Reading Now, Saved for Later, Wish List, and Finished Reading. You can also add notes. I do not recommend it.

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myBooks ($1.99). You can add books manually or online. By doing “online”, you enter a search term which can either be title or author. The app then lists your search results. Once you accept a particular book, it is added to your “List”. Once it is in your “List” you can edit all the information. The only field that is not added is the “Genre”. You will need to add those manually.

The “Wish” database keeps a record of the books that you want to buy and once you have bought it, hit the “Bought it!” button and it moves it to the “List” section.   There is a notation for lending.

You can sort by Title, Genre, Rating, or Purchase Date.

The drawbacks include the date of publication is year only and you can only view your lists by cover.

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My Bookshelf ($2.99):  *Recommended* You can add books by searching the Google book database. You have to choose to search by title, author, ISBN, or publisher.   (The drawback is the number of steps to reach the search box.   I want to hit search and be able to immediately start typing out my search.   This one I had to hit search twice).

MyBookshelf has the most fields or detail for each book entry. It includes space for Title, subtitle and Author. You can rate your books by stars. You are also allowed to add Publisher, Editor, Illustrator, Release Date, Genre, Edition, Series, Number in Series, Dimensions, Length, Language, Retail Price, Location of purchase, Purchase Date, Copies purchased, Storage Location, Condition, Collection, Tag, ISBN, Dewey Decimal, and LCC. Whew!

With “Format” you can designate whether the book is audio, digital, hardcover, mass market, paperback or trade paperback.

There are a ton of customization features including currency (so if you are an international user, you can set it for your country’s currency).

You can designate what book details I listed above you actually see. For instance, maybe you don’t need the Dewey Decimal and LCC details.   From the book detail page, you can recommend the book to a friend.

You can move a book from the Library to the Wishlist and from the Wishlist, you can “Buy” the book and add your retail price, purchase date, location and copies.   You can create collections and create a “smart collection” based on the rules you set.   This is like a smart playlist.

You can import a csv file or xml file of your books but it needs to have a Google ID which is not, unfortunately, the ISBN or anything recognizable. I found this to be a useless feature.

If you don’t like the dark look of the app, you are out of luck. That is one thing that is not customizable.   You can’t add books by scanning an ISBN like the BooksApp.   Finally, you can publish the books that are in your collection.   In my opinion, this is the best of the lot.

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Libri ($1.99). This book catalogue app is really stripped down but the one nice feature is that it allowed me to add several books from the search page but that is about the only nice feature to this book cataloguing app.   This is a feature of My Bookshelf as well so it doesn’t make sense to spend $1.99 on this app.   You view only by list and you must enter a search term to filter each time. There are no saved searches or preset searches (i.e., sorting by title/author/purchase date).   You must have an account (which is free) in order to use the web to populate your book data.

The book details are limited to Title, Author, Publisher, Year, Location 1, Location 2, Location 3, ISBN and notes. No cover image is included.   Don’t recommend.

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ItemShelf ($1.99). This app allows you to add books by taking pictures of the books’ ISBN code. In fact, you can take a series of pictures with your iPhone and then add them to your library later. You must have either a iPhone 3GS or higher or a micro lens app for your iPhone 3G. I tried it with Ned’s 3Gs and the scanning of the ISBN did not work on half the books that BooksApp did.

You can also add books via ISBN or keyword search.

The included book detail is: Rating, Tags, Memo (personal notes entered by you), Title, Author, Manufacturer (publisher), Category which defaults to “Books” but you could change it; Price, Code (customizable) and ASIN (this is Amazon’s unique identifier).

You can have different shelves to organize your books and then view the data by single title or four to a shelf.   One neat feature is the “Smart Shelf” which is based off the smart playlist idea.   You can have shelves self populate based upon star rating, tag, publisher, author, etc.

I don’t recommend this one because I think BooksApp does a better job at adding books based on taking pictures of the books’ ISBN but BooksApp does require iPhone 4.0OS so if adding books using the ISBN scanner is important, this is probably the app you want to get if you don’t have an iPhone with 4.0.

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BookLover ($.99). This bookshelf is interesting with lots of interesting extras but not very focused on a good books’ database. You have to enter all your books manually and you are allotted space for just author and title. You can save your entries as “reading”, “to read” and “read”. You then assign one of five different faux leather covers as a cover to your book.

From the detail page, you can add personal notes, share your book via email or on Facebook and look at related books from the database.

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iBookshelf ($1.99): This is a highly rated book inventory app.   It seeks out 15 different databases to autofill book details for you based on a title or author search. Once the book is in your library, you can search for places to buy the book and libraries with the book based on your “current location”. That’s pretty neat.

The book detail includes Author, Title, ISBN, Series, Series No., Genre (prefilled), Rating, Format, Status, Lent to, Price, and Read. There is also a comment field.

The GoodReads Reviews ratings are included and you can read the reviews from within the app. Very cool.

It is also one app that allows you to note which format you have the book in whether it is hardcover, paperback, eBook, or audio book. It also includes a series and series number detail.

You can quickly look at a list of books that you want, you’ve lent out, or you want to read.

You can backup your database via email. You can also email yourself a CSV list. You can import a CSV file but importing a CSV file will erase all your existing data.

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BooksApp ($1.99). *Recommended* Books App was the easiest app to add book entries. Data is populated from the Google Books database. The ISBN bar code scanner worked great (although it only works on the 9 digit ISBNs. Older books were not recognized). I was able to add several books in only a couple of minutes. It’s easy to add books to the existing Collections (Favorites, Have Read, Reading Now, To Read) but you can also create new Collections.

The book detail page is ordinary and includes: Title, Author, publisher, date published and ISBN. You can Lend to a friend or email the entry to a friend. The “More Info” button takes you to the Google Books database which is not very readable from the iPhone screen.

Preset views include Books, Collections, and Authors. You can export the database but not import the database. While this app doesn’t have all the item detail as myBooks, it was easy to add books. The interface works slick and the application is fairly fast. The drawbacks include no way to identify the format, where the book is stored, when you bought it or the price.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. riverwillow
    Aug 08, 2010 @ 04:57:23

    I have to ask why bother with an ap? I’m an iPhone user who catalogues (yes I’m in the UK) my books using LibraryThing. The website works just as well on the Safari browser on the iPhone as it does on the desktop – all you need is the ISBN or the title for the import books section and you’re away.

  2. Jane
    Aug 08, 2010 @ 06:35:28

    An App is faster but more importantly doesn’t need Internet connection at all times. This is particularly important for itouch users. The data you have in the catalog is available at anytime regardless of whether you have connection to the web.

  3. Scarletti
    Aug 08, 2010 @ 07:49:12

    I didn’t even know I needed this kind of app.

    But now I am off to load one.

    Thanks for the thoughtful answer.

  4. lorenet
    Aug 08, 2010 @ 09:40:02

    I have to ask. The first graphic shows Toni McGee Causey When a Man Loves A Weapon. I can’t find that book in digital format anywhere. Where did you get it?

  5. Jane
    Aug 08, 2010 @ 09:49:15

    @lorenet: There is no ebook of that book, unfortunately. This is just an inventory database and you can add any type of book data into the database. It does not hook up to any digital files, though.

  6. lorenet
    Aug 08, 2010 @ 09:52:40

    @Jane: Thx!

  7. Vi
    Aug 08, 2010 @ 11:35:27

    There really is an app for everything, lol!

  8. Shannon Stacey
    Aug 08, 2010 @ 13:32:12

    I use the goodreads app but, since I’m using the iPod Touch, I have to be connected to my network or a hotspot. Since I’m 100% a digital reader now, it’s not an issue because I’m not wandering the brick & mortar stores looking for books.

    I’d like to find a good method for entering future releases, though, so I won’t forget to buy them.

  9. Melissa
    Aug 08, 2010 @ 15:07:07

    I use Goodreads as well, you can download the app. You could make shelves for different things like “to buy” and you can search by title and author.

  10. Shannon Stacey
    Aug 08, 2010 @ 15:09:44

    Oh, that’s a good idea. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that. If I make a shelf called “to-buy”, once I buy it, I can change it to “to-read”.

    Good plan!

  11. Lou
    Aug 08, 2010 @ 15:56:16

    I’ve downloaded the BooksApp, and so far, I’m liking it a lot. Very easy to navigate, and I love the export feature.

    Also, the ISBN bar code scanner is quite fun to use. :D

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  13. JenM
    Aug 08, 2010 @ 18:19:35

    Anyone have an app from for Android phones they like? I know I can get into my LibraryThing through my internet browser on the phone, but I’m looking for something I can add things to quick and easy (especially with a barcode scan) for more of a running list of to-buys.

  14. Jane
    Aug 08, 2010 @ 18:44:26

    @JenM I have a post about this for next week. I enlisted an Android user to test out the Android Catalog apps.

  15. orannia
    Aug 08, 2010 @ 18:54:32

    Thank you Jane! I might have to try out both the MyBookshelf and the GoodReads apps.

  16. JenM
    Aug 08, 2010 @ 20:33:40


    Thanks so much!!! I just got my phone, so the app market is a little overwhelming! Glad that a site that I trust will have reviews.

  17. Teddypig
    Aug 09, 2010 @ 09:58:13

    I stopped looking at these apps when I found Goodreads had done one already. Any other ones would simply have to catch up to that one.

  18. Brianna Beattie
    Aug 09, 2010 @ 23:14:05

    I use Book Collector from Collectorz. It is extremely versatile, you can put as much or as little info as you want, and I have the iPhone app to go with it. You sync both programs, and then you have your DB with you when you are out shopping. I also have Movie Collector (DB and app) for my DVD collection.

  19. Deanna
    Aug 10, 2010 @ 02:42:47

    Thanks for the recommendation. I went with My Bookshelf. Figured it was cheaper to explore than the Book Collectorz version someone recommended at $3.99 instead of $49.95 plus $12.99 for an iPhone app.

    As to the not being able to import, I figured it out and now am able to load everything into the CSV file and then import it into the app. Works beautifully everytime. Here’s how:

    1. Only have a few books in your database – preferably search added / downloaded books, not manually added books.

    2. Choose to export the database and selection the option to email it to yourself.

    3. Once you’ve received it, save the file some place.

    4. Open the file, update it with books you want to manually add (note: there will be no pictures associated with the books but you can add summaries, etc, as long as it is all text based)

    5. Do a “save as” for your file in the same file name.

    6. Go back to your app. Select “import” and follow the instructions from there.

    Only downside – so far I have not found the ability to delete a single book from the database. I ended up with 3 versions of the same book when I was playing around with the import feature and had to delete the whole database. A problem if you’ve already got a large database in there.

  20. Jane
    Aug 10, 2010 @ 06:14:56

    @Deanna from the bookshelf or list view just swipe your finger across the entry and it will show you the delete button. Thanks for the help with the csv import.

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  23. Max Smirnoff
    Feb 27, 2013 @ 06:50:20

    I can suggest our All My Books program. It is for desktop Windows-based computer, but we have the companion apps for iPhone and iPad. Android version is coming soon.

  24. Database Books
    Nov 27, 2013 @ 04:06:38

    BIDWBooks has list of some of the best books on Databases. Check it !

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