Bookcase Knows Everything You Have On Your Bookcase [Review]


Scan every book you own, super fast.
Scan every book you own, super fast.

The Bookcase is a three-dollar pocket database for your book collection, one that takes its role very seriously and might be best suited to people with a professional requirement to manage a large library.

Any digital tool designed to track physical objects needs an easy way of entering object data, and The Bookcase makes use of your iOS device’s built-in camera to make that as efficient as possible.

Scanning book barcodes is swift and efficient. Each successful scan is met with a bleep. If you stop to look at the screen at this point, you’ll see a “Save” button at the top right corner but don’t bother tapping it – there’s no need to manually save between each scan. You can simply leave the camera open and scan repeatedly.

It sounds like a small thing, but the way it’s been implemented makes a big difference. Because there’s no need to interact with the app between scans, it makes even a very large library a breeze to get through. Pull out each book, scan, wait for the bleep, and move on. I did an entire shelf of books in about two minutes.

Your library soon fills up.
Your library soon fills up.

This rapid data entry makes The Bookcase much more appealing, and actually a little bit addictive. Having started scanning, you get the bug: “I’ve scanned these few, I might as well scan to the end of this shelf. And once I’ve done this shelf, I might as well do another. And another. It won’t take long.” If you’re really committed, you might want to start keeping track of things like books you’ve loaned to others, books you’re reading right now, and ratings for every book you’ve read. Personally I can’t be bothered. But’s all there if you feel the need.

Bookcase feels much more databasey when you dive into individual records. For each and every book, possible data fields include dimensions, length (in pages), purchase date (the app automatically assumes that the scan date is the purchase date, which is a bit annoying), current value (so you can add up a total value for your collection), even toggle switches for books that are rare, signed by the author, or a personal favorite.

It might struggle with some of your older titles. Especially the ones without barcodes.
It might struggle with some of your older titles. Especially the ones without barcodes.

If there’s one thing that Bookcase could do better, it’s the way it handles titles that aren’t recognised by a scan. It does remember which barcodes it’s seen before — and will alert you if you scan the same thing twice — but books that are too obscure to be in the online database(s?) the app checks aren’t easily dealt with. It would be nice if there was a different bleep when one of these is encountered, and a quick way to pull up a custom data-entry field so its data can be saved. Or perhaps if the app offered to take a photo of the cover of the book, so it could be saved to the library with a tag or label saying “needs amending”?

Generally speaking, Bookcase has a very high quality feel to it. I’m not quite sure who it’s for, though. I’m not sure it has the features that a professional librarian would need, but it seems like overkill for most personal libraries. If you’re a disorganised book lover of any sort, it probably has something for you either way.

Source: App Store

  • thanatos0801

    Interesting. iBookshelf has been available for years and does much the same thing…

  • MacAdvisor

    While most modern books have ISBNs to scan, it only started in 1965, and didn’t come into wide usage until much later. If the unit could also scan Library of Congress Catalog Number as that dates back well over a century and is in virtually every book someone would have at home (unless they collect rare books), that would be really helpful. Some of us predate the ISBN and have books from then.

  • Josh Yates

    Thanks! I purchased this based on your review. I’ve needed something to catalog my library…and let others borrow my books! :)

  • Joana

    I’m really impressed by this app… It’s vastly superior to any app of it’s genre.
    Thank you for the review! :)

  • listallmybooks

    If you’re interested in cataloging your books, you might find the website useful as a way of getting non-barcoded books listed into an Excel sheet from a photograph of your bookcase. I’m not sure exactly how you go about transfering from the spreadsheet into the bookcaseapp – but I imagine it must be possible