I use a Windows Mobile smartphone, and this article is all about getting from one to the other as easily as possible.
We have talked about things associated with goodreads before. Bakari did a great comparison with LibraryThing and Shelfari, Simon discussed some stand-alone book recommendation engines along with library management, and Stefan built a list of the best book review sites. Most recently I gave you a deeper look at how to track your book collection in goodreads.
What Is Goodreads Good For?
Two things, in my opinion. First off, I can use it to find out what people who read the books that I like are also reading, along with checking up on what books my friends are consuming.
Secondly, and more relevant today, I use goodreads to compile and maintain a list of the books that I haven’t read yet, but would like to. Then I can use that as a shopping or borrowing list. I love libraries, but wandering aimlessly for interesting books is something I can seldom find the time for.
The Take Away
This is really what we are here for. How can I take my goodreads information with me? In my case, I need to export a list of books I want to borrow from the library, add that list to my phone, and take it with me.
Couldn’t I just browse to the goodreads site on the phone? Probably. But cellphone reception isn’t great in the library, and the regular goodreads interface does NOT work well on a phone. If you’re an iPhone or Blackberry user you might have more fun with the special goodreads mobile site, but it didn’t help me out much.
So, back to exporting the data. The chances of you wanting to follow the exact same process as me is slim, but there’s enough general information here to modify things to suit your needs.
Export From goodreads
We need to get the information out of goodreads in a format which is more accessible to other tools. That turns out to be easy.
Click the my books link at the top of the page.
At the bottom of the book list is a list of tools, including an import/export option. Click on that.
On the right, an option to export to a csv file.
You’ll be presented with a confirmation dialog. That’s probably a little over the top, as no changes are being made.
Nonetheless, boldly click OK.
Depending on your setup, your operating system, your browser, and quite likely the phase of the moon, you’ll see some sort of question about what you want to do with the file. Save it somewhere you can find it again, and move on.
Finding The Good Stuff
The only real problem with this process is that you now have a file that has a whole lot of books in it that you have already read, or have no desire to read. We need to filter out the gold, and we’re going to use Excel for that, though you could use any other tool that deals intelligently with CSV files.
Open the file in Excel and take a look.
The data is all there in a tabular fashion, but it’s pretty awful to look at. The first thing is to pare it back to the columns we are actually interested in. In my case, that’s:
- Author l-f
- Exclusive Shelf
Depending on the level of sophistication you want, you can use lots of other information, but all I need is an alphabetical list. So, delete the other columns first, resize the ones you have left, and then take another look.
I still have books in the list that I have already read. Sort by the Exclusive Shelf column, and delete those ones.
Now, given that the fiction shelves in most libraries are sorted by author name, let’s match that by resorting the list. That way we can walk through the shelves with a lot less bother.
There’s our newly added book on row 37. You can delete the Exclusive Shelf column if you’ve filtered out the books you’ve read, and then all you need to do is to save the file to a format your phone/PDA can use, and sync the device. I’m pretty sure you know how to do that.
I have some more sophisticated Excel formulas that I use to do things like extract the series information from the title field (not quite sure why it doesn’t have its own column in the export) and to exclude the books that I have tagged as probably-won’t-bother, but you can build those sort of things in to suit your own needs.
So, how was that? Did I leave out anything that might be helpful? Do you have similar processes? Any recommendations? Questions? I’d really like to hear all about it in the comments below.