No, not writing one. I just mean reading them. After my post about all my various projects, for some reason, I went down a rabbit hole for how I’m tracking books read, next in series, etc.
I tend to do “completion” binges of authors, aka “If I read one, then I want to read them all!” Way back when I was in my early teens, I had a small handwritten list of some titles (some of them came from Carolee as she wanted me to find Agatha Christie or Helen Macinnes titles at garage sales if I saw any!).
Then later, I had a double-sided list in 6-point font that I kept up to date until sometime in the early 2000s when my list of authors was way too large for 2 pages. Since then? I just look it up on the internet when I’m looking for the next read in a series. I’ve thought about a virtual list, but never really found a tool that I liked well enough to use, although to be honest, I’m realizing that is more about not knowing what information I want to keep vs. being simply too anal-retentive with my goals.
So, let’s back up a second. The “book” project has three components.
A. I want a list of books by author or series that I have read along with the list of ones that are to be read. A “status of completion” list, if you will. When I was only reading paper books, that wasn’t that difficult. I tended to buy them and read them, my backlog of TBR wasn’t that big, so I could basically “tick” the box when I bought it. It wasn’t that I had READ it, it was a purchase list. An inventory list rather than a to-do list.
B. When I read something, I like to write a book review. My book review process has been anal-retentive over the years, and it hinders me considerably in actually doing the review. My intent, when I started long ago, was to do them formally, not quite professional but more than the comments you see from most users. A bit of rigour, if you will. I made the review accessible — a blurb about the plot, what I liked, what I didn’t like, a final one-line conclusion, a rating, and some links and tags. Sounds simple enough, right? But then I would share it multiple places. Over the years, this included:
- Good Reads
- Library Thing
- Chapters Indigo
- Barnes and Noble
- Google Books
- The Ottawa Public Library
- Savvy Reader
- Facebook forums for a book club with Savvy Reader (My book pledge)
- Facebook forum for my book club
I feel like I missed a couple in there, but those are the obvious ones. Yet each of those sites, all 13 of them, tend to have slightly different layouts and formats. My site and Good Reads tend to have a very simple format, so I can use the same layout for both. Amazon (.com and .ca) plus Chapters, Kobo, Barnes and Noble (and Nook) have similar fields, albeit not in the same order so I have done those in batches. The Ottawa Public Library, Google books, and LibraryThing are relatively compatible so that was batch 3.
I would write the review in a Microsoft Excel template on a “writing” tab that would follow my PolyWogg.ca template pretty close (batch 1), but then I had a few other tabs that would take the info from that template, copy it to another format / layout for batch 2, and another for batch 3. I could therefore write it on the writing tab and it would autopopulate the other sheets. Then when I went to upload a review to the other sites, I could go to that sheet, copy and paste the layout with headings, and paste it into the review and press save. I have about 200 reviews across all the sites done that way. It works, it is “efficient” for process, and way back when I started all of this in the early 2000s, it made some sense to me.
If the first point of a review is to publish my thoughts, then the second point of a review is to help someone else decide if THEY would like the book too or not. And if so, then of course I should publish my reviews where readers are looking for reviews i.e., on those sites. Early on, I would get people interacting with me about the review, commenting on this or that, agreeing or disagreeing, etc. And on some of the sites, you would get a ranking of how many you had done and if people found them helpful. I liked that interaction. Most of the time, when I had read something, that was the end of it. Very few people read the books I read, so it was an informal way to have an ad hoc book club. But over the last 15 years, many of those sites have decreased interaction rather than increased it. Easier to manage the social media side if there isn’t direct interaction. If you see a review on Amazon, for example, all you can do now is say if it was helpful or report it. You can’t comment on it.
Which means, after that long summary, I am no longer getting much in the way of interaction on the books I review. It doesn’t help that I do a lot of backlist stuff too. If I was publishing a review of the latest book, it would get more traction on GoodReads for example. And, at the same time, I have my own book club that I run. Low intensity, sure, but if I want interaction on what I read, I just post there.
Why am I looking at this? Because I want to do more book reviews. I want to churn and burn and move on. Mostly I want to clear the freaking backlog of reviews too. And the current process has been WAY too anal-retentive. It not only collects info I don’t care about (why do I care who the ****ing publisher was????), and I stopped some of the elements a while ago, but also simply takes too long for me to write a review. On a regular basis, I would say it takes me upwards of 30-45 minutes to write the review, upload it on all the websites, and be “done”. For those that are more complex (like short-story collections), it can take me an hour at least. With no real added benefit for all the sub-sites too.
So I’m going to focus on putting it only on the PolyWogg site, not all the other sites. It isn’t driving people to me nor creating discussion/interaction, so what’s the point? They don’t need my support. Well, maybe the Ottawa Public Library, but their review area isn’t that convenient.
C. I want an in-home solution for tracking not only where I am on collecting and reading, but also for managing my ebook library. I have a large ebook TBR collection, and I’ve gone down a giant rabbit hole this year to make the library collection a lot more segregated for types of books (general fiction, various series, and specialized non-fiction categories). When I’m done reading a title, I add my review to the metadata for the ebook file and store it in a separate e-library collection. But my old idea of “one tick” is sufficient to indicate I have the book to read no longer applies. I need a way to indicate OWN, READING, READ, REVIEWING, and DONE.
I’ve played with a few tools out there. Some are good little trackers but they’re only on an app with no desktop version, so I’d have to type it all on my phone. Pass. Others are great with database imports, but lousy at tracking my categories above. Others are good in one area but not another, particularly for the ability to access while on the go. The list is useless to me if I’m browsing through Chapters and see a title that interests me but I don’t know if I have it or not. Most of the time I just take a picture and order it as an ebook from them later, or from Amazon or elsewhere if there is a price differential, but some titles I buy in paper still. Regardless, I need a list and I need to be able to access it on the go.
So far, all the pieces seem to be taking me out of the Excel world (which has been good to me for a long time) and moving me into more of an integrated OneNote option. I think I’m going to have a separate page for each author (or series if more than one author), as well as another tab with the actual prose of the reviews. Which means I can write my reviews on my site and just paste a copy into OneNote later or simply put in a link in the table.
Great, I have a way forward. Except it now means I’m going to take a night here or there over the next year to go deep on individual authors to compile their full list of books for my tracker. On the plus side, there are some very good sites out there who already compiled the lists for me.