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Library Dabatase

An efficient ISBN-indexed book database

— Copyright © 2013, P. LutusMessage Page

The Model | Overview | Physics and Math

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Introduction

Even though I'm not in the library business, I've always owned a lot of books, and since first acquiring a computer I've been episodically either planning or attempting an accurate book list. In the early days this meant a lot of manual data entry, and there was the inevitable chasm between the ideal and the real.

Over the years my enthusiasm for this project has waxed and waned as various schemes collided with reality, but some recent developments have made the idea of a library database much more practical:

  • Open-source databases like MySQL can efficiently and easily manage any conceivable book list.
  • Modern books are likely to have a bar code printed on them containing one or more unique identifiers, in a reliable, uniform way.
  • The ISBN book indexing and identification scheme is finally becoming reliable, and newer books have a 13-digit ISBN (International Standard Book Number) coded into the book's bar code instead of the older, less useful UPC (Universal Product Code).
  • Small, portable, battery-operated Android devices are becoming reasonable in price, and include cameras as standard equipment.
  • There are free bar-code scanner programs that run under Android, and that can use the Android built-in camera to decode book bar codes in seconds.

I've owned a few Android devices and have used them to navigate around the countryside using free maps and the GPS satellite navigation receiver built into most Android devices. But I recently realized that such a small, inexpensive Android device would make an efficient book-scanning tool, and might make a book database a more practical undertaking than hand-entering the title, author and publisher of each of my 400 books.

Here's how the library database system works, in sequential order:

  1. Use an Android device to scan book bar codes and convert them into plain text:

  2. Transfer the scanned plain-text results to a desktop machine:

  3. Process and decode the ISBN scan results, use the ISBN codes as indices to an online database, and create library database records:

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