Using Tinderbox to catalog my library books

Just a quick POV on these matters.

I would be careful about putting any future stock into Delicious Library. It is abandonware. Its author, Wil Shipley, took a full time job some years ago at Apple and has publicly stated that his private development efforts are pretty much over. It was a disappointment to me because I had almost 5000 books in my DL database, but things started breaking and there was no one to turn to (I haven’t had any luck getting an email answer in the past either). I’m surprised, frankly, he still offers it on his website without a disclaimer.

As members of this forum like to say, it’s worthwhile to use the right tool for the job. I’m impressed, as always, with Michael Becker’s attempt to give you a working book library in Tinderbox, but unless you’re dealing with a small library, I’d say this isn’t the best use of Tinderbox’s time or yours. You said you have a catalog of around 1000 volumes, which I’d venture is too many to be playing around with here. Consider TB for analysis and deep diving, its strengths, either in a single document or multiples, allowing your work to build up over time to whatever mass you need. And then for actual cataloguing, why not use a more appropriate tool, such as Book Tracker? It will handle your 1000 and my 5000 and no doubt a great deal additionally. It has scanning built-in (on iOS), read tracking, and more. It’s not quite as lovely as Delicious Library was, at its peak, but it’s good and it has an active and enthusiastic developer.


Hi, and welcome to the forum. Thanks for the background on the status of delicious Library.

I’d politely beg to differ. 50,000 perhaps, but 1,000 notes is not ‘big’ by Tinderbox standards. As I write, I’m working in a document with 12.5k notes, plus agents, aliases, etc.

1000 notes used to be a BIG Tinderbox document. It’s not that big anymore, but yes, at some point you really need a database.

The immediate need seemed to be a reader for ISBN barcodes; Delicious Library was one I knew, and Tinderbox has some specific support for it. But, as you say, there are newer and better-supported alternatives.

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This raises an interesting question. What might that “database” look like? How would one set it up to create a connection (ideally sync) between a TBX file and said database?

No I’m sorry, that wasn’t my point, I wouldn’t disagree with you at all on Tinderbox “standards”. I’m simply referring to the appropriate tool for the job. If someone wants to make a book library in TB of 50,000, I’m happy to applaud. My only point was perhaps another tool is better for that particular job.

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Yes I have well over 1000 notes in several TB documents. Even so, I have to admit I am somewhat gunshy about these sizes. Fifteen years ago (or could it be longer?), a little app called Evernote told me to put my whole life into it, all I wanted, go crazy. And so I did. At 85,000 notes, the app become utterly unusable and I left it (after exporting, of course) and never looked at it again. But it’s left me sensitive to issues of performance with large data stores in apps.

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The unknown factor here is what the OP really wanted to do with the data. Book apps like BookTracker seem centred around tracking reading practices (when a book was read, when it was bought). IMO, that’s not too relevant to my academic/research book shelf. Still, a £4.99 app using scanning (and occasionally title or ISBN text search) rapidly catalogued 587 books and only 5% got a no/wrong cover art. fixing the 10% is a PITA and these ‘lite’ cataloguing apps aren’t, IMO, well thought out for that next completion phase where you need to review fix cover art and this like.

Still, £4.99 and working though a big pile of books whilst watching a film was money well spent compared to writing a script to pull data from an API. Either way, the sensible person still reviews the automatically generated data, else ‘garbage in, garbage out’.

As it happens, I’ll likely leave my catalogue in the utility app as the key need is knowing where in my house’s many bookcases, in which room etc. Doing that in Tinderbox would be possible but for little gain. However, if I started to go close annotation of the books, then moving data fro all some into Tinderbox would make sense.

The loops would the the fact that a well-intentioned “Can I…?” question doesn’t help us help a fellow users. More important is the end use scenario as that will indicate home much per-note metadata is needed—whether ingested or added by the user. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer.

On the issue of ‘size’, the number of notes is not the only issue. If you chose to add an image into each note the OS file size will be much bigger (i.e. memory footprint). As you transition from small test docs to large mature docs just adding another agent for every new task and never weeding them or turning them off will affect performance eventually (‘when’ is very context/usage dependent). Part of more expert use of Tinderbox documents is thinking about how much automation you are running and whether it needs to be always-on. For instance, action code in Rules might move to become Edicts or even manually applied Stamps, etc. Likewise, thoughtful writing of queries so as to only test the minimum number of pates is also good expertise to acquire.

†. What format size for the art work, etc. Just sticking any only picture in might be allowed but not sensible. Books that are recent, high-volume sales titles are generally OK. Old/less sold books and the accuracy of the records/cover art drops off.

The database is not the main task to be solved - it is a database with a useable user interface.
You can run MySQL, MariaDB for free or use cloud based stuff like MongoDB or FireBase.
If you do have structured data - and within a database that should be the case - you can export the data into any other format like JSON, XML, CSV… and import it back into TBX.

But the databases themself offer no user friendly interface. There are tons of apps like MySQL Workbench, dbForge Studio… but none is fun to use.

By the way - devonthink uses a database with an acceptable interface.

P.S.: my WordPress PlugIn for TBX is more or less an interface for a database to be used from TBX. But it is a one way communication interface at the moment and WP comes with some overhead on top of the pure little database behind it

Good points.

Well, the OP said: “I’ve decided to catalog all the books I own.” So I took them at their word (assuming, at base, a catalog is mostly just a listing of books, with the usual metadata). And I’d double down on the position that unless we’re talking 50 or 100 books (and no plans to grow 10x or more), TB isn’t the best place to do a bare catalog. (Even at 50 or 100 it wouldn’t suit me.)

By the way, thanks for the welcome, I appreciate it, though I’ve been visiting the forum for quite a few years now, and I’ve read here enough to know that people often get bogged down in TB (especially new users) when they try to get it to do things that just maybe it isn’t best suited to do. Not my words, words of yourself (unless I’m much mistaken) and many others on many different occasions. Doesn’t mean you can’t shoehorn your intention into TB’s shoe leather, just that it might not be the fit you want. So assuming the OP meant what they said, maybe catalog one place, then bring individual volumes, sets, projects, etc into TB for a different more focused kind of work.

Yep, agree completely. The OP also seems to want to use/try/reacquaint with TB, which is also where Mr Becker’s generous demo file could perhaps be put to use.

In any event I hope the OP finds their way to a solution they like. It’s a shame it can’t just be a matter of recommending Delicious Library and calling it done. I went through some tooth gnashing on that one, even exporting to an Airtable database (which worked surprisingly well) before settling with Book Tracker.

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This may be one possible use case for an archive of books. But to limit the discussion around the number of records a tool can handle is missing some “substance”. There are several specialised apps out there for handling a library of books. Zotero calls itself a “research assistant”, Bookends is a “reference management app”, BookBuddy is a “book management app” and Citavi claims to be the “All-in-One Writing and Referencing Solution”. There are many more out there and each solution has a slightly different focus.
So TBX as the home for your book library may not be the best “book management app” or “All-in-One Writing Solution” - but I’m pretty sure there are use cases where TBX shines as a library solution.
For scientific papers and books I write short (more or less) excerpts and I extract knowledge out of my notes about the books. I combine Bookends, DevonThink and Tinderbox for this. This combination for me is a perfect solution for my very special use case. So I would claim TBX to be the one and only “Intelligent Book Knowledge Manager” :wink: