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Delicious Library: Personal media management

DeliciousLibraryIcon I finally picked up an iSight camera from Amazon the other day. Not so much to share my meatbeard with my iChat buddies as to finally play with Delicious Library, an OS X app that lets you create a personal catalog of your books, CDs, DVDs, and games by either manually entering the info or, preferably, by just scanning their barcodes with an iSight. Library is a very pretty program, and I can see why it might appeal to collectors, but it didn’t immediately click for me until I hooked up the iSight and started scanning. Even then, I have to confess a few reservations.

First—no question—it’s just really fun to use. It’s satisfying to hold up a CD, hear the little “I got it” tone, followed by the robot voice reading back the info on your latest entry (which it pulls down automagically from Amazon.com). Once entered, catalog items can be modified, sorted, munged, and grouped however you like using an elegant bookshelf metaphor. You can also view related titles and do other stuff with your collection via Amazon info and links. Although, candidly, it’s a little cheesy that a $40 commercial product won’t let me change the Amazon Associates ID from theirs to my own (or that of a favorite charity, or what have you). That really should change in a future release.

I’m also not sure how useful the “who did I loan this to?” function is. I’d be much more interested in seeing those cycles go to collaborative filtering, a networked “friends” functionality, and more web services integration. I guess it would be useful if you trade or lend lots of stuff, but I thought the pre-populated list of people from my address book that it “guessed” I’d trade things with was kind of creepy and a little crufty.

Lovely and innovative as it is, I’ve only found one purpose where Library would be really persistently useful to me. Saturday morning, I cleared off two full shelves of old programming books that are destined for a new life in cardboard boxes in the basement. I scanned the 40 or so titles into Library, and then organized them into sub-groups (they call them “Shelves”) corresponding to which books were in which of the three boxes. Now if, God forbid, I ever need my O’Reilly book on programming Access, I know exactly where to go. Super handy, actually.

There’s still a lot to like about this program, though, just in the sense of fit and finish alone. It looks amazing and completely polished. The search works pretty intuitively, but I’m not sure, for example, how to see which shelf an item belongs to; in the example of my book archiving idea, how would I search for a book and then see which box it’s in?

So, a lovely UI, cool functionality, but nothing just yet that would make this a must-buy for me at US$40. I’ll definitely keep watching this app with anticipation, though, because I think it has a tremendous amount of potential as a personal information and media hub. For what it’s worth, here are few features I’d find handy in future releases.

  • Many more types of export (currently only does txt dump of all records in a selected set). I’d start with stylable HTML and a scriptable XML feed (e.g., “Last 10 imports,” “Last 10 items rated”) that’s suitable for posting to the web.
  • Ability to change and add lookup agents (besides Amazon)
  • As above, the ability to change affiliate ID for purchase credits
  • Ability to import from and sync with iTunes, meaning no need for hardcopy CDs to scan (this appears to be a feature that's in the works)
  • Wishlist functionality. Both populated from Amazon and to which I can add locally.
  • Price-monitoring on wishlist or collaboratively filtered items (“I see you like Robyn Hitchcock; his new CD just dropped 10% at Borders”)
  • Plugins to potentially incorporate or link to other media (my iPhoto albums, for example)

I do encourage you to download the demo and give it a spin. It’s a testament to the beautiful work that smart designers and developers are doing with OS X these days.

Delicious Library. Media management application. OS X only. $39.95; Demo available. Download. Buy.

About Merlin

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Merlin Mann is an independent writer, speaker, and broadcaster. He’s best known for being the guy who created the website you’re reading right now. He lives in San Francisco, does lots of public speaking, and helps make cool things like You Look Nice Today, Back to Work, and Kung Fu Grippe. Also? He’s writing this book, he lives with this face, he suffers from this hair, he answers these questions, and he’s had this life. So far.

Merlin’s favorite thing he’s written in the past few years is an essay entitled, “Cranking.”




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