Cataloging your personal library

on Wednesday, 16 December 2009
Do you maintain a list of books that you own and/or read? Ever accidentally bought a book you already own? I did.... several times. After several such "accidents", I started keeping track of all my books. I've used several different methods of keeping track of them over the years.

Text File

I started off with simple text files containing book titles and series, primarily because the phone I was using at the time can open and save text files. My first safeguard against accidentally buying a book I already own. It was simple and effective enough, but as the number of books increased, it got a little unwieldy.


When I had to switch to a different phone, text files are out - the new phone couldn't use them. I resorted to taking snapshots of my book stacks. This "method" kinda worked (and worked for quite a while); it was just tedious to search through all the photos when I'm in a bookstore checking up a title. I changed them to screenshots of my text files - better, but only slightly.

Meanwhile, I converted my text files into a OpenOffice spreadsheet. I added even more details to my catalog - authors, ISBN, genre, read status, as well as when and how much I paid for a particular book.

Online Documents
Google Docs
When I started actively using Google Docs, I also migrated my spreadsheet online. Having it easily accessible is really great.

I also had a brief stint with Socrata (formerly, which is a social database kind of thing. It looked really good, but was a bit too fancy for what I used it for. It's Flash-based, so not as easily viewable on mobile devices. But Socrata does support export to email as html, which is a really nice feature.

Social Book Catalogs

Finally, I turned to online catalog tool, having gotten a little tired of having to manually type in book details (not to mention having gotten an urge to make what I've read public ;).

It all started when I discovered the weRead Facebook app. I started migrating stuff to weRead (via Facebook), but several issues irked me. I found the interface to be cluttered and not user-friendly, with information inconsistently shown. Its book and author database is also hopelessly messed up: incorrect and inconsistent book titles, incorrect or incomplete author names, and very poor handling of editions. You can't edit the book information and while you can upload your own cover image (many of which are missing or incorrect), it seemed buggy because some (strangely, not all, just some) of the images I uploaded disappeared after a period of time.

I started googling around and found several promising alternatives: LibraryThing, Shelfari, and GuruLib, of which I also found someone having done a simple comparison. I settled on trying GuruLib.

LibraryThing is only free for up to 200 books, so that's an immediate no-no for me. Can't see myself paying when I really just want a place to hold my book list so I can search it. It does possess a whole lot of features, even has a mobile version of its website. The UI is not particularly attractive though, compared to Shelfari, which looks good but Shelfari being tied to Amazon only seems unnecessarily limiting. It also doesn't seem to have any export feature or social groups.

GuruLib sample library
GuruLib is simple to use, and unlike weRead, it allows you to edit book information (although changes appear limited to your account only). You can also add CDs, DVDs, games, and other software. You can apparently use your webcam as a bar code scanner to add your books or items, but I didn't try that - its import tool managed to import my list of ISBNs nicely. The interface is dated though, being little more than simple forms. Understandable of course, what with it being a homegrown project with only one or two persons working on it. It still didn't feel quite right as its shelving (i.e. categorising) options were rather limiting, and since I don't see it improving much any time soon, I started looking again.

I had the good fortune of seeing someone mention Goodreads on a blog comment (can't recall where) and that's what I'm currently using. It's been quite satisfactory so far and I'm glad I found it. It's a relatively new (2006) social cataloging tool and it already has a large number of books and users.

The best thing is that it's like a wiki, and the community itself helps to manage and maintain its database of books and authors. The way you can categorise your books is also very flexible. This translates to a much more accurate and consistent body of data. Even better is that you can add new books - perfect for people who have read books not published in the western half of the globe.

It's been a long post. Maybe I'll leave why I like Goodreads to a later post. If you join Goodreads, look me up on my profile (just realised I have a staggering amount of books to read!). Also check out the social group of Goodreads Malaysia.

Happy reading.

Buying books in Malaysia

on Sunday, 23 August 2009
Yesterday, I went to the Bookfest @ Malaysia that started yesterday at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC). Not too shabby. Was in and out in about 2 hours. Completed by collection of the "Kingbreaker, Kingmaker" 2-book series and the Godspeaker trilogy by Karen Miller.

None of the distributors showcased IT-related reference books though (well, none in English anyway), and that's what I was really looking for. Oh well, the good thing is that Kinokuniya is right up there in Suria KLCC. I found one of 2 reference books I was looking for. Guess I'll have to order them. It was in their system, but only because someone else has also placed an order for them. It's a whopping RM200. But it's still cheaper than getting it from Amazon obviously. MPH didn't list the book in their online search so I guess they don't carry it either (they only have a previous edition). While there, I completed yet another 2 series of fantasy trilogies, one FR and the other Eberron. Good. As usual, I'm very happy with Kinokuniya prices that are always at least RM2 or RM3 (sometimes more) cheaper than MPH and Popular. Too bad Kinokuniya is only in Suria KLCC (with its killer parking rates), despite carrying the most comprehensive collection of books for sale, and the best prices.

The Malays are cowards, says Utusan

on Wednesday, 5 August 2009
The Malaysian Insider has published an article titled The Malays are cowards, says Utusan. The article apparently is a highly racist article that again wields the race issue as its weapon. Why does Utusan play up racial agendas so often? As usual, there's the standard set of accusations of usurpation of power and erosion of rights -- all very glaringly devoid of specific instances and of course, conveniently ignoring the "vice versa" part. Sad.

What's sadder is that our Deputy Prime Minister apparently supports the racist article. You wonder where he was when the infamous Ahmad Ismail uttered the racist remark that the Chinese in the country are immigrants and squatters (notice how, at the end of that section, Utusan Malaysia is yet again involved). Yuck. And for those who didn't know, the journalist who reported the remark was arrested and detained under ISA rather than the person who made the remark. Incredible no? Again, you wonder where our DPM was at that time, since he's supportive of the media's "right".

Why do Malaysians march?

Read the Sun's Why do Malaysians march?

Kematian Teoh timbulkan pelbagai spekulasi politik

on Monday, 20 July 2009
I would suggest people read the article entitled "Kematian Teoh timbulkan pelbagai spekulasi politik" published by Berita Harian and gather their own impressions.

I just find it really baffling that Teoh Beng Hock's death under mysterious circumstances while under MACC custody (for an interview no less) can be insidiously written and turned into an anti-Malay affair. It's fine to accuse the opposition parties of trying to capitalise on the issue in an attempt to undermine the present government, but why mention race? Why must a major newspaper and supposed source of intellectual information in Malaysia fan racial sentiments? The irony is that the article is seemingly decrying racial sentiments - unfortunately, it's by being anti-anti-Malay.

It's also strange that when the whole country doesn't know exactly what happened to cause Teoh Beng Hock to fall out a window, the writer actually seems to imply that it was indeed just an accident (quote: Apabila mangsa kemalangan pula orang bukan Melayu, yang sebelumnya disiasat orang Melayu, bertambah hebatlah spekulasinya.).

Anyway, I don't think that was a very professionally written article - maybe it started off well-meaning, but I think the way it was concluded, and the fact that it was a major publication, made it even more damaging than all the hate messages on the internet. Don't take my word for it of course, just read, and draw your own conclusions.

Justice For Beng Hock

on Friday, 17 July 2009
I join the demand for answers and a detailed explanation from MACC of the death of Beng Hock.

Experian Walk-In Interview #4

on Monday, 23 March 2009
The fourth Experian walk-in interview is on the 25th of March this week. Yea, sorry for the short notice again :P It will start from 10am to 3pm on the 6th level of the Hilton Kuala Lumpur Hotel at KL Sentral.

The Testability Explorer

on Wednesday, 18 March 2009
Anyone who needs some enlightenment, explanations, or examples on the concepts behind good testable code and dependency injection should definitely spend lots of time reading the blog posts of Miško Hevery. You can start with the following to trigger some light bulbs going off in your head:

Programming Sucks! Or At Least, It Ought To

on Wednesday, 18 February 2009
Here's a nicely laid out read for the "creative" developer in us. When it comes to coding, it all really boils down to KISS.

Elizabeth Wong offer resignation

on Tuesday, 17 February 2009
Quoted from the Star, "Selangor executive council member and Bukit Lanjan assemblyman Elizabeth Wong, whose nude photographs are being circulated, has tendered her resignation from both posts, but party leaders have yet to accept it."

A rather sad turn of events. Is this really a politically-motivated smear campaign? The sentiments these days will usually elicit a "yes" answer, even from those who normally sit on the fence. Sure, it could just be a personal revenge done by a single individual. But the fact that many big names (most especially the men) did not outright condemn such a despicable act is by itself, a politically-motivated reaction to distance themselves from the victim. By not affirming and condemning the act as despicable and trying to avoid the issue by mentioning something else, I personally feel that they have insulted all women. "It is despicable to distribute nude photos of a woman without her consent." What is so hard or so politically-incorrect for them to say that?

But these are minor infractions compared to those who seem to love faulting the victims. What? So if I choose to sleep nude and someones snaps photos without my consent and distributes them without my consent, it's still my fault? I strongly suspect that these people also blame rape victims for getting raped, and robbery victims for getting robbed. You know what's really ironic? These people brandish "moral" as their reason.

Experian Walk-In Interview

on Monday, 16 February 2009
Experian Malaysia is holding a walk-in interview in the Gardens Hotel at Mid Valley City this Thursday (19th Feb). Check out the link for where to submit the application (of course, if you know me, you better send the resume to me instead *hint* *hint*). Yeah, it's a little too short a notice, but hey, at least I remembered enough to post.

Wishing All A Prosperous New Year!

on Tuesday, 27 January 2009
It's Chinese New Year. The Year of the Ox begins and although most fortune tellers, feng shui masters, and economists predict that bad times are ahead, we should still always be thankful for what we have. Have a very good Chinese New Year celebration! Wishing everyone the best of fortune in the coming new lunar year!