Behind the Curtain: Organizing my eBook Collection

Posted on January 17, 2015 «
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My Physical To-Read Shelf

When the ladies from and I started brainstorming the Show Your Shelves Some Love Challenge, I knew in my heart that my most neglected shelf was everything that lived on my eReader. You see my physical to-read shelf is right across my bed. So every morning when I wake up I see my beloved books. Every night as I fall asleep, I see my beloved books. How I was I ever going to get a handle on the books that I don’t see on a daily basis? I realized the key in all of this was being able to physically see these books and how they impact my physical to-read shelf.

Step 1. Organize my eBooks

I have almost always used Calibre to keep my eBook files in check. It’s free and you can customize the database to fit your needs. I added 2 fields to my version—Book Type and Read?. I used book type to track my book source like ARCs. The read column has three options in the dropdown—Yes, No, Abandoned.

Step 2. Take screenshots
Icons in the lower right corner of Calibre

Somehow I stumbled upon two buttons in the lower right corner of Calibre. One will show the book covers as a grid. The other will show a single cover. I filtered my eBook collection by the books I have not read. Then opted to view my collection by cover. I used Snip (a free tool for Macs) to take screenshots of every single book cover.

But, Terri, I have Windows. The latest version of Windows have a snipping tool built right in.

Buy, why use snipping software? Can’t I just use the print screen button? Certainly, by all means, if that works best for you. I used a tool because I just wanted the cover of the book not my entire screen. I didn’t want to spend hours cropping every screenshot down to just the book cover.

Terri, you do know that Macs have a keyboard shortcut to take a shot of just a portion of the screen. Yes, I do know this, but I can never remember the key combination and Snip allowed me to just click an icon in my menu bar and tell Snip exactly where to save the photos.

Step 3. Send those images to print.

I’m a fan of our local photography business, PhotoPro, as they have always been so helpful to me as an amateur photographer. But you, honestly, could send all your screenshots to Shutterfly, or Walgreens or Walmart. I would just look for some place that offers a good deal on bulk prints. I had over a 100 images that needed to be printed. Or if you have a decent color printer, you could always print them at home.

Step 4. Put the books in an album.
My eBook Photo Books

This probably took the longest. I spent way to much time in Michael’s trying to find albums that would work. I wanted a single album, but all the larger albums only accommodated horizontal photos and all book covers are vertical. I didn’t want to have to rotate the album to page through my collection. So I just went with the $2 brag books. If you time it right, which I didn’t, you might be able to find a sale or coupons to use to get a good deal on your albums.

Some of the screenshots weren’t high quality so alphabetizing them was kind of a pain because I had to go between my Nook and the picture to figure out who the author was. Once I was done getting all the books in the albums, I used Photoshop to personalize the covers with my blog button and title. I just printed these out at home on normal paper and cut them down to size. If you are more artistic, which I am not, you could draw covers or scrapbook covers for the albums.

Optional step. Upload the images to a photo sharing site.

All my photos live on Flickr. By uploading the images to Flickr, I could easily share the album in the January post by using the album embed code. My hope is to manage a Read album on Flickr so when I finish a book, I move it from the to-read album to the read album so I can easily share that album in future posts.

So what’s the damage in time and money?

It probably took me two to three hours to get this all done. It cost me just over $40, but I know there are cheaper ways to get the images printed and better deals to be had on photo albums. I was at the point where I just wanted it done and if I waited any longer, it wasn’t going to happen.

Any rewards so far?

What’s been really fun is to see my 4 albums sitting on my shelf every day. When I finish a book, I pull the picture out, apply a mailing label and write in big red letters READ and the date. I feel such a sense of accomplishment and I think to myself, “Yes, I think I can make it a year without buying another book.

So how about you, how do you organize your electronic bookshelf? What motivates you to read books you don’t see that are not ARCs? Have you gone to this extreme?

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36 responses to “Behind the Curtain: Organizing my eBook Collection

  1. Julie S.

    I’ve never heard of the term brag book, but I really like this plan of yours. Making the virtual books visible and tangible like that should really help in having a handle of all your owned and unread books. But man that time and expense is sure dedication!

    • That’s what the shelf tag labeled them as. Basically the cheapest book on the shelf.
      I’m glad I did the project over the holiday break. I’m sure. It never would have happened otherwise.
      Terri M., the Director
      Twitter: @2ndRunReviews

  2. Amy-Anne Williams

    Alohaa, I’m a new reader and I just wanted to say that your blog looks pretty cool and I’m going to be a returning reader from now on c:

    Aaaalso, let me know if you want to do the whole follow on GFC thing c:


    Little Moon Elephant

  3. I just checked my ebook collection and I have 13 unread ebooks right now and I’m currently reading one. What I might do is use your idea, but just hole punch the paper and tie it together. It will be easier than finding a photo album for me.

    • That would work great! Even a 3-ring binder would work which I just thought of. I know they sell photo pages for binders

      Terri M., the Director
      Second Run Reviews

  4. Reading Wench

    This has made me think about how I organize my ebooks….In the past, with my Nook, I could separate my ebooks into shelves, and that’s all I really did. I didn’t have my physical books with me at the time because of constantly traveling to different countries (which is why I bought the Nook in the first place), so I never forgot about my ebooks. For the past couple years, though, I’ve been mostly settled down, and while the majority of my books are still in storage, I realized that I had been neglecting my Nook. That is, until I started blogging and getting eARCs and then I joined the COYER Challenge. However, I got a Kindle for Christmas, so that means 2 sets of books on 2 different devices, and I don’t think I can create shelves on the Kindle(?). I’ve been using Goodreads, but I still have so many Nook books that I haven’t added yet. I like the idea of using Calibre and an album, though, so thanks for the ideas!

    • Calibre will allow you to convert your books between devices. While I have a Nook Color (1st Generation), most of the books I’ve purchased have been from Amazon. I’ve used Calibre to convert the books, after purchase, to the ePub format. You might consider doing something similar rather than living between two devices.

      Terri M., the Director
      Second Run Reviews

      • Reading Wench

        Thanks for the suggestion! I’d probably do it the other way around, since my Kindle is so sleek and lightweight compared to my 1st gen Nook. However, I’m still torn because I have a fancy “The NeverEnding Story” book cover for my Nook that won’t fit my Kindle. My boyfriend told me not to buy any accessories for my Kindle because I’ve got something coming for my Birthday (which has already passed, but there was a problem with the order), so that might be the ultimate deciding factor. 🙂

        • You do convert the books over in to any format…Nook to Kindle, Kindle to Nook. Most of the popular formats are covered. 🙂 It’s pretty slick.
          I wonder what your BF is getting your for your birthday! I hope it arrives soon.

          Terri M., the Director
          Second Run Reviews

          • Reading Wench

            Thanks! I hope it arrives soon, too! The Boyfriend has been really upset about it not getting here on time, and I’m sure I’ll be posting about whatever it is 🙂

  5. I LOVE this idea! This is seriously such an amazing idea, I absolutely MUST do this myself. That is one thing that bums me out about an ebook- no physical reminder that I have ever read it. I love that feeling of triumphantly placing a book on my “read” shelves, so do that with an ebook would be amazing. Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this idea! Also, I had no idea that Calibre had that many great features! I am off to explore them now!

  6. This is such a great idea. I have no doubt that I have 100s of unread ebooks on my kindle! I’ve been meaning to find a way to organize them but hadn’t thought of one before. Thanks so much for the inspiration!

  7. You sound totally and admirably organised! GO YOU! My ebook collection isn’t too wild for this yet, but I admire you getting it all sorted. XD I’m a huge fan of screenshots. x) I always remember the mac code (apple – shift – 4) just because I use it so so much. Lifesaver. The snipping tool definitely sounds handy though!!

  8. You go girl! I REALLY need to get my eBooks organized (that probably I have with one clicking freebies has made it crazy). I’ve never heard of Calibre so I will have to check it out. I thought about just doing a pin board on Pinterest but that doesn’t really “organize” them for you. I use Goodreads a lot but it’s a mess too.

    • Calibre is free and I’m sure it is a very powerful book database. I wish I knew more about it. 🙂 I just use it to convert books from Kindle format to Nook format and loading ARCs to my Nook.

      Terri M., the Director
      Second Run Reviews

  9. stormi34

    Wow, what a cool idea. I am just taking my ebooks and putting the titles in a spreadsheet with things like page #, publisher, genre, date released, bought or free, etc. Going to take the names and start putting them in a jar like Felicia is for her new Task it Tuesdays and read one book from the jar a week..but I still have a ways to go before that

  10. I use the rating system. Any book with a 1 star rating means I haven’t read it. If I read it, I rate it (I never give a 1-star). The reason I pick 1 star is because the OEBS server won’t serve the 0-star ratings and I use FBReader to download books that I want to read. So, when I need a new book, look up the 1-star and pull it down.

  11. I really need to organize my ebooks. I am just not sure how to back up ebooks that I got on other sites onto calibre. I have it put I guess have a lot I still need to learn about it.

    • It’s a matter of installing the computer based version of the readers on your computer, downloading the books via the reader and then pointing Calibre over to that directory and importing the books in. Actually this sounds like an “Behind the Curtain” post. 🙂

  12. I have had a kindle fire and I use it’s ‘collections’ feature to sort all of my books. I have a collection labeled ‘reviews’ that I put all my TBR books in. I also keep a paper calender with a list and label to top 10 release dates, or dates the reviews are due by. I always have at least 10 books ready to go.

    • I am such a mood reader! I feel this pressure if I have too many books I have to read for tours and the like. So I try to limit those read to about 1 or 2 or month. I wish my Nook Color had a little bit easier organizational structure. It’s getting a bit touchy and slow in its old age (a little like its owner)!

      Terri M., the Director
      Second Run Reviews

  13. This is an awesome idea, Terri! I may modify this and have mine be done digitally instead of actual printing. My concern would be that I would try this and not finish it so maybe doing this digitally will be better for me and I won’t waste time printing something that I don’t finish..