Friday, November 5, 2010

Review: Collectorz

Back when I first started homeschooling, and my home library was rapidly growing, I went on a crazy mission.  I decided I was going to catalog every book I owned.  I created a spreadsheet that had fields for the title, author, category, and likely some other details that I no longer remember. It didn't seem like an unreachable task...until I actually started getting to work.  I spent hours entering information and finally gave up at some point past 1000 entries.

Ever since that failed project, I've had a desire to somehow manage and catalog the books that seem to grow exponentially in numbers on my shelves...and under beds, in cabinets, etc.  It has nothing to do with wanting to feel some sort of control over my book addiction.  Nope.  That couldn't be it.

Imagine my delight when I discovered that I would be reviewing Collectorz, a provider of database software for books, DVDs, music, games, and more.  Collectorz sells different programs for each type of collection; I was provided with the Book Collector Pro edition. 

After the easy download, the first thing I wanted to do was to start adding my titles into the database.  I found this extremely easy to do.  You can do an automatic add or a manual add, both activated by clicking an icon.  For the manual add, you enter all the information on your title into each field on a pop-up form. Using the automatic add, you simply enter the ISBN into the appropriate field and hit return. As you enter books, they are added to a search queue. Once done, click "search all" and the program finds all the information needed, included a cover image.  To make this process even easier, I purchased a Cue Cat scanner, available through Collectorz and elsewhere, to add the ability to scan the ISBN rather than type.  I had a bit of  learning curve, including discovering that many books also have a barcode on the inside cover that yields the correct ISBN, rather than one on the back, but found that the scanner moved things along greatly.

Even so, adding books to the software is a time-consuming process, especially if you are a book addict like me. I have not yet entered anywhere near my entire book collection yet. Right now I sit at 539 titles, and I've only made it way half way through my school room.  It will be awhile before I get to those books stashed under beds.  There have been some annoyances, like some unrecognizable ISBN numbers, out-of-print titles, or books so old they don't have an ISBN.  The information on titles such as these need to be entered manually. 

Remember though, you only have to enter once.  Once you get your entire collection in, you need only add books as you first purchase them.  I just hit a book sale today and I plan to scan my purchases before they even hit the shelves.  This is a case where a lot of hard work on the front will pay off later.

The software allows you to display and sort your collection in a variety of ways.  Being a visual person, I preferred to browse through my library using cover images.

However,  this program does so much more than just let you browse books on your computer that you can readily see on your shelves.

So, it can do a lot of stuff, but is it user-friendly?  Well, yes and no.  I seem to have an aversion to user manuals and tend to just jump in.  That little habit doesn't really combine well with the fact that I'm not very techy, but it does provide a great platform for determining user-friendliness. As I mentioned, adding books to the database was straight-forward and easy. Searching for a title, author, or keyword was also very easy.  I was able to handle all of the basic functions for general use just by exploring the program on my own.

However, one day I went to open up my collection and it was completely gone.  After entering over 500 books at that point, I felt like crying...or screaming.  Or both.  It was then that I realized how handy a user manual is, but I also discovered there is a user forum at the Collectorz website for questions or trouble shooting problems.  While I don't know what caused the initial disappearance, I was able to get my entire collection back pretty easily.  Though the basic functions are fairly intuitive, I know there is a lot to this program that I have not yet discovered.  I see a lot of potential.

While having my books cataloged all neat and tidy on a screen has given me a sense of control, I have yet to really use this program to its full capabilities.  What I have used it for has certainly been helpful.  For example, several times since owning the program, I used it to see if I owned a particular title. Shall I mention that while scanning, I found several titles that I own in duplicate? Just this feature alone saved me from scouring shelves or purchasing titles I already own.  I'm also excited about being able to track titles that are on loan or for sale. Another use I see in the future is for an easy way for my children to see what books we have in the house.  It isn't uncommon for them to check out titles from the library, unaware the title is sitting on one of our many bookshelves in our home library.

Overall, I think this program is very worthwhile for the $49.95 price for the Pro Edition.  Also available is the Standard Edition for $29.95.  The software runs on either Windows or Mac.  There is even an iPhone app that can be purchased to use with the software, allowing you to check out your collection away from home.  To try before you buy, a free trial (limited to 100 books) is available for you to fully check out all of the features. Visit the Collectorz website for more information on this product and more.

Disclaimer: This review was provided as a result in my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Crew. I was provided the product free of charge in exchange for my honest review. I have received no other compensation.

I strive to give a balanced overview of each product, detailing my opinion of both pros and cons and how the product worked for my family. What works for one family may not work for another. I encourage you to read reviews of other Crew members and research sufficiently to determine if any product will be a benefit to your homeschool.


Anonymous said...

Great review!I am thinking of cataloging the books that the boys actually read through middle and high school. :)

Heidi said...

That is a great idea! I've tried paper reading lists, but they somehow get misplaced and there usually isn't room to write much down. I hadn't thought about Collectorz keeping track of it. You could just scan it when assigned, then have your student add some comments to the entry when the book is finished.


I added myself to follow your blog. You are more than welcome to visit mine and become a follower if you want to.

God Bless You :-)


Diane Allen said...

Great detail in this review Heidi!