Way back in the late 80′s, I had a couple of Commodore Amiga personal computers. The Amiga was perhaps the first (or one of the first) consumer PCs to incorporate a mouse, graphical interface, fast color graphics, and real pre-emptive multitasking. As cool as Mac users thought their system was, I recall that the Amiga had color graphics long before the Mac did. It was so powerful that the Amiga was even used as a platform for video editing.
So what did I do? For my fancy graphics-intensive computer, I bought a database program and used it to catalogue my books and records. My wife — we were newly married and she had yet to realize what a geek I truly am — thought that cataloguing books (by year and by ISBN, which I thought was very cool) was one of the saddest wastes of time she had ever seen.
Maybe she was right, but for different reasons. It was a waste of time because the fruits of my labors were short-lived due to the short life of the Amiga platform. I had two Amigas in succession, first an Amiga 500 like the one pictured above, and later an Amiga 3000 (with a real hard drive!). I loved my Amigas but they never caught on with the public. Very little software was ever written for it. A cool but unsupported computer is a paperweight.
Frustrated at the lack of software for the Amiga, I sold my Amiga 3000 around 15 years ago. I also long ago threw away the database discs, which were in a proprietary AmigaDOS format, and probably in a proprietary database format as well, neither of which would probably have been readable (or easily readable) on a Windows PC. Digital garbage to the core.
Anyway, though my Amiga is long gone, now the web allows me to do the same thing, better and in tandem with thousands of other book cataloguing geeks. A while back, the Wall Street Journal reported on a very cool site, LibraryThing.com. Think of MySpace meets the Dewey Decimal System. It’s an online card catalog that you can use to list all your books, to see others who own the same books, to get recommendations, and to write and read reviews. Books can be tagged Web 2.0 style, and thumbnails are shown when they’re available. It’s a great example of the power of social networking. You can enter up to 200 books for free, but after that, you need to purchase a membership. Better yet, you can export your data, quelling my Amiga file incompatibility woes.
I’ve entered some of my books into the site; you can see my listings at http://www.librarything.com/catalog.php?view=nathenson.
I do suspect, however, that some people will only list books that make them look thoughtful and intelligent. (Count me guilty.) At least for now I can point to the 200-book limit as an excuse for not entering my embarrassingly large collection of Star Trek novels (though I did list Spock Must Die, a true classic and the first original Trek novel published by Bantam Books.)
Check out the sidebar for a LibraryThing widget with random books from my collection. I’ll add more.