Saturday, July 31, 2010

Scanning Book Covers

Yesterday I mentioned that our vast book holdings resemble a library.

Here's the difference. In a library you have dedicated people who catalog books according to some classification system (e.g., Dewey Decimal, Library of Congress). In my house, the titles sharing the same shelf or box could be as dissimilar as the titles above (all of which were, in fact, on the same shelf).

With a wand scanner and the technique I used on the images above, it takes just 5 seconds to scan a book cover. I bet I can scan 10 book covers in a minute. That's pretty awesome. I guess you could also use a flatbed scanner, but I think it would take a lot more time.

My wand scanner is the Brookstone "iConvert Portable Scanner," one of the many different Brookstone gadgets you can use to that convert old-style media to digital form. The "original" is the Magic Wand Scanner made by Vupoint. I think the only difference is the painted logo.

The bad thing about books is they are thick, and wand scanners use little rollers to figure out how much distance you've traveled. Once the rollers go off the end of the cover, the scanner doesn't know it's still moving over the page, so it stops grabbing information. You can see that the images above stop short of the bottom of the page. J. K. Rowling's name is mostly missing from the picture of the Harry Potter book.


The good thing is books are thick. I have a distinct, square edge to use for aligning my scan, resulting in nicely "justified" pictures. I do lose a tiny bit of upper edge of the cover. Notice how the words "Harry Potter" are partly cut off. Fortunately, most publishers don't put the title above the top 1/2 inch of the book.

Despite missing tiny bits of the covers, this method looks promising. Tomorrow I'll scan covers for a box of books that's been in the basement and play "sort the covers" with my family. Should be fun!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Now About Books...

We love books. And that's OK. But how to deal with them when the holdings begin to resemble a library?

I had a brief affair with LibraryThing several years ago, but I think I've come up with something that will work better for our purposes - a virtual library.

The enabling tool for this is the handy Magic Wand Portable Scanner. It let's you pull the scanner over the flat surface of whatever - the wall, the floor, a book. You get an image file.

So here's the plan. I will go to a box of books or a shelf and spend a few minutes scanning the front covers of the books, labeled so I know which box or shelf contains the book. The physical books go back into the box or shelf.

Then the images can be manipulated into proposed groupings.

Like Discard or Donate or Sell or Keep.

The keepers can then be virtually arranged into categories, like in the book store. Meanwhile, the tangible copies of the virtual books identified for discard or donate can be discretely taken to their destination, without causing the natural "but, but, but... it's a BOOK" reflex.

Meanwhile, books we don't want prominently shelved but can't bear to discard (yet) can be kept in their box without being consigned to oblivion.

I'll report back tomorrow on how this works on some boxes in the basement I know are full of (currently unidentified) books.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Behold the Elephant

It's been two years now since I heard a doctor say, "It sounds like we may be dealing with OCHD - Obsessive Compulsive Hoarding Disorder."

Since that time, it became clear that all three adults in the family had beliefs and behaviors that contribute to excess accumulation of stuff:
- Bryan loves to collect things, and avoids dealing with his own stuff, much less the stuff of others.

- Meg loves paper and boxes, and hangs on to things she thinks she can fix.

- Tara loves deals, and has a knack for finding "valuable" stuff that's cheap or free.

Some good stuff has happened in the dozens of months since we learned about OCHD:
- Bryan learned to let go of some things.

- Meg discovered the joy of donating and discarding.

- Tara got married and furnished her new home with a 17' van full of furniture that used to fill our house.

We put a lot of our stuff into boxes - about 300 of them - and fit them into our basement family room.

You can see the original "box shelf" I constructed out of 2x4s - I thought the stuff would fit into the 49 boxes I can slide into that unit. In fact, I filled three "box shelves," and ended up having to stack boxes in front of each shelf and the fireplace to boot. So I've probably got more than 300 boxes, but 300 sounds sufficiently overwhelming for now.

Now to start eating the elephant...