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Book-Talk Monday: How do you organize and track your books?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Just in case you missed these last summer, I reorganized my real-world books. Click here to watch the video of “before,” and here’s “after”:

So I have my real-world fiction books categorized by genre and, within each genre, alphabetized by author and title. My nonfiction books are separated into categories: writing books; school textbooks I couldn’t part with; a large shelf of U.S. Civil War books (I did minor in that in college, after all); Bibles, Bible studies, devotionals, commentaries, and hymnals (I have three: Broadman, Baptist, and Methodist); books in German (some my dad brought back from Germany, some I got while I was taking German in high school and college); and “miscellaneous” nonfiction.

Yikes, I need to do some re-shelving/organizing!

Organizing an E-Book Reader
I’d been using the Kindle for PC app on my computer for quite some time before I got my Kindle. Well . . . I’d downloaded the program and downloaded some free e-books (classics, mostly). But I did already have some content which downloaded to my Kindle when it arrived. And I realized very quickly that if I ever wanted to find anything on it, I’d have to figure out a way of organizing that works for me. So I started setting up collections. General collections at first: Classics. Romance (included historical and contemporary, general market and CBA). Nonfiction. Other Fiction.

But then, when I got to the point at which I was adding more content to my Kindle than to my paper-and-glue library, I realized I’d have to start getting even more specific with my collections. Splitting out contemporary and historical romance. Splitting those even further into general market and CBA collections. Splitting “other” into more specific categories: mystery, speculative fiction, young adult, general fiction, historical fiction.

There’s a second screen containing another four or five collections.

Just last week, I made another organizational decision and split my general-market historical romance category and put all of the samples I’ve downloaded into their own folder (and with 95 samples, this was a good decision).

But as I was going through and looking at the titles of the books in that historical romance category, one of the (several) gripes I have with using an text-based e-reader came back to me . . . I’m a visually oriented person, and the first thing that draws me to a book is the cover. The second thing is the back-cover blurb. And I get NEITHER of these on my Kindle. (I know, many e-readers are now full color and have this capability. I, however, am a poor author and can’t afford one of those.) I have wireless at home and it’s a 3G model Kindle, so I know I can look up the book description online. But I still can’t see the cover in color and it’s sometimes slow and/or freezes up on me when I do so.

No pretty covers. 😦

I thought about, and actually started, setting up boards on Pinterest with the covers and the back-cover blurb for each book on my Kindle. But . . . not only was that taking FOREVER to look up each book and pin it, once it was on Pinterest, I couldn’t arrange/sort them. So I deleted the few boards I did manage to get through.

For a few weeks, I pondered this. I could set up a spreadsheet, copying over the cover images and cover blurbs. But, again, there was the issue of time.

So I finally figured out what I needed to do. I opened up a new account on Goodreads with a secondary e-mail address and set up bookshelves there correlating to the collections on my Kindle.

Now, when I get ready to start a new book, and scrolling through the Kindle isn’t, well, kindling interest in any of them, I have a tool I can use to look at all of the content on my device, in the way I have it organized on my device, to help me make my choice. Of course, this means remembering to update Goodreads whenever I download something new. But since I almost always do that at the computer anyway, it should be an easy habit to form.

How do you organize and/or keep track of your books/e-books?

  1. Monday, January 30, 2012 12:37 am

    Pretty much the same as you!

    Real books I have read are shelved (mostly) by author, and are all entered on a spreadsheet which includes title, author, genre, position in series and a very brief summary. There is an accompanying notebook for the books currently on loan to others, because that is easier to carry around and update than the spreadsheet… The TBR pile is literally that – an uncatalogued pile on the bedroom floor.

    Kindle books are in folders, but unfortunately my Kobo doesn’t have this functionality, so I also have a Goodreads account (with a to-read pile), and an Amazon wish list (because that is so easy to create from my Kindle). The TBR pile here is so much tidier!

    The cover thing doesn’t bother me so much because I try to judge a book by the content, not the cover (sorry, cover design people).

    Finally, there is a spreadsheet for my review copies – title, author, publication date, and the dates to post the reviews on my blog, Amazon, Goodreads, ChristianBook, and

    So some books are organised in several ‘places’ – review sheet, Kindle, Goodreads…


    • Monday, January 30, 2012 9:58 am

      The nice thing about Goodreads is that I didn’t have to do a separate TBR list—they have three default categories, so when I’d add a book to the list, I could either mark it as “read,” “currently reading,” or “to read.” And, unfortunately, most of the 330+ titles I now have on my Kindle fell into the “to read” category.


  2. Monday, January 30, 2012 12:50 am

    Wow–good ideas. I hadn’t thought about trying to organize my Kindle books–YET. Thanks!


    • Monday, January 30, 2012 9:59 am

      And you being the analytical person you are, too, cuz! 😉 With as much as you travel, if you’re flying, you could probably use some of that travel time to figure out how you want to organize them and get to it!


  3. Sherrinda permalink
    Monday, January 30, 2012 5:54 am

    My kindle looks almost exactly like yours! Seriously, we have organized them just alike! But like you, I hate not having the book cover available. I think you come up with the most brilliant ideas, Kaye, and using Goodreads for your kindle organization is just brilliant!


    • Monday, January 30, 2012 10:01 am

      I think this is what makes me not a true e-book convert—the facts that I do most of my e-book shopping on the computer (which means right now just looking for free books) and that I still want the visual stimulation/reminder provided by that color cover image. I don’t know if it’s an age thing or an e-book thing that I have a harder time remembering the title/author of the book I’m reading or the fact that I don’t have the daily visual reminder of the title/author’s name on the cover and in the running headers on each page.


      • Monday, January 30, 2012 10:02 am

        And because of that, I’m so thankful for the ability to sort my collections by “most recent”—for those times, like last night, when I have to get out of what I’m reading to do something else. Like take photos of the thing!


      • Sherrinda permalink
        Tuesday, January 31, 2012 5:21 am

        I want to see your Goodreads page for your kindle. How can I find it?


  4. Monday, January 30, 2012 6:26 am

    Good idea, Kaye! That’s one of my biggest complaints about the Kindle too. Before I bought it, I didn’t realize how often I scan the back-cover of a book before I pick it up, even when I’m in the middle of reading it.


    • Monday, January 30, 2012 10:09 am

      I’m getting ready to teach a workshop for my local writing group in February on Critical Reading. I did the series here on the blog several years ago, before e-readers were at all popular. So one of the things I’m going to have to do is add the e-book component to the equation. Can we really do an effective job of critical reading on an e-book? I keep going back to the University of Washington study I’ve quoted before:

      “The digital text also disrupted a technique called cognitive mapping, in which readers used physical cues such as the location on the page and the position in the book to go back and find a section of text or even to help retain and recall the information they had read.”

      Like you, Sarah, I often re-read the back cover copy—especially when the story takes a turn I didn’t expect, or if it’s been a long time since I last put it down. I also like to look at the front cover—to see if it includes any little hidden details about the story. And some of that comes from the fact that with The Art of Romance the cover design was done before I finished writing the book, and the design they came up with (Caylor standing at an easel with a paintbrush in her hands) inspired the scene in which Caylor joins in at the senior-adult painting class Dylan is teaching. So I like to be able to tie the visuals of the book in with the story. I think that, more than anything, helps me cement the story and characters in my head.


  5. Monday, January 30, 2012 8:11 am

    My Kindle doesn’t have all that much on it (yet), so I have things organized as Classics, Non-Fiction, Contemporary, Historical, Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Austenesque. My physical books are a wonderful mess, but somehow I can usually find what I’m looking for pretty quickly. As far as keeping track of what I read, I do that through my blog and GoodReads account, and now have boards on Pinterest that link to my blog review.


    • Monday, January 30, 2012 10:11 am

      We need to see if we can figure out how to do the Kindle book loaning. Because I may have some stuff that you’d be interested in.


  6. Audry permalink
    Monday, January 30, 2012 8:27 am

    That’s a lot of organization. I don’t have all that many books – two bookcases full – and they are loosely organized. I have all the classic fiction on one shelf, and all my current fiction on two shelves of another bookcase. My current fiction is mostly series, so those are grouped together in order. My non-fiction is grouped mainly by subject. I don’t have any lists or excel spreadsheets or anything…. but if I want a book, I know exactly where it is and can find it in 2 seconds flat, so my system works for me.

    I use the kindle app on my iPad, so I do get book covers, (though I don’t think it has color back cover blurbs) which I agree is very nice. I think i’d have a harder time remembering which book is which without the visual. I don’t have too many books on there at this point, so they’re just on the screen in any old order. I’ve deleted most of the kindle books I’ve read, since I know I won’t re-read them, and so far I haven’t downloaded a lot of free samples or things to read “someday.” I’ll keep 4 or 5 options on there and search for a few more once I’m down to 1 or 2. If the keepers start piling up, I’ll probably explore the options for organizing them.

    I also use apple’s iBooks app for .epub version e-books, since the kindle app doesn’t support them, so it’s a tad confusing having books in two apps. I’ve been meaning to see if the iBooks app supports kindle books, because if it does I may just ditch the kindle app so I can keep all my e-books in one place.


    • Monday, January 30, 2012 10:15 am

      I saw a quote somewhere online yesterday (could have been Facebook or Pinterest, I don’t remember): “I buy books the way other women buy shoes.”

      This was the case with me before I got my Kindle (and before the publishing houses stopped sending me editing work)—and I finally had to get to the point at which I would not allow myself to buy any new books unless I got rid of books I had at home to make room for them. And since I have a hard time parting with books . . . well, I think you get the picture.

      Not so with my Kindle. The only thing right now stopping me from filling it with even more content (before I downloaded another historical romance sample this morning, I had 335 titles on the K, with at least 1/3 of them being samples) are (a) knowing I don’t have time to read that many books and (b) no money to buy all the books I want to read.


  7. Monday, January 30, 2012 9:15 am

    I love how you organized your Kindle. I really need to get mine set up the same way, but I am dreading all the work involved in putting the books into the folders. I try to do a few at a time, but it is very time consuming when you have to look up the book info on amazon each time. You have given me a few good ideas. I am sick today, so this might be a good time to sit and update my Kindle. Thanks, Kaye!


    • Monday, January 30, 2012 10:17 am

      I’m glad I started this when I had as few books as I did on the K. It made it a lot easier to route new downloads to the appropriate folder.

      Splitting the historical romance category, though, did take quite a bit of time. And after I did it (recategorizing each of those 95 samples), I realized I’d done it backwards. I should have changed the original collection name to HRom Samples and moved the 35 full books I have into a new Historical Romance collection!


  8. Monday, January 30, 2012 11:46 am

    This is hilarious. I am a librarian. A card-carrying, ALA-member librarian, and yet my home stash of books is in hardly any order whatsoever. 🙂 I have a bookcase in my bedroom, where I keep my “signed” books among others. I have a double bookcase in my office where the majority of our books are kept, and they’re in somewhat of an order – paperback novels on the top shelf, nonfiction/writing books on the same shelf, historical books on the same shelf, self-help on the same shelf, yearbooks and personal history stuff together, misc. novels on other shelves. Then there’s the shelf made from a window-casing that holds all my Christian Fiction “new” books, my old collectibles (Donna Parker, Bobbsey Twins, Little House, etc.), and other stuff. Honestly, I can pretty much find things immediately, when needed!

    Since I don’t have a kindle, my little kindle ap on my phone is totally disorganized but only has about 12 books – all of them freebies!

    Someday, when I don’t have to catalog and organize books at work, I’ll work on my “home” library! 😀


  9. Rachel Wilder permalink
    Monday, January 30, 2012 1:42 pm

    I sort by genre on my Nook. And I’m way behind! I’ve downloaded a lot of stuff since the last time I sat down and added books to the right shelf. That’s what they’re called on the Nook, shelves.

    And one thing that I LOVE LOVE LOVE about my first generation Nook is the color touchpad at the bottom, for navigation. I have the option to view my library by cover art. In full color. That alone, IMO, makes the first generation Nook superior to all other e-readers.

    I for one will never buy one of the color ones or the tablets. It’s a computer screen and I already spend too much time staring at a computer screen every day. When I’m using an e-reader I want it to be the same on my eyes as reading a book. If e-ink ever gets it color screen down to a manageable size with decent refresh rates, then I might consider a color one.


  10. Tuesday, January 31, 2012 2:43 am

    My bookcase’s are not in any particular order. I do have all my Love Inspired books in one area and they are in order but the rest are in authors but no particular order except the aussie books are together mostly.

    I am still trying to work our how to organize books on the kindle. I have the same model you do and I have been able to put then in a catagory but they all still show up on the kindle so not sure how to put it in the folders only. I have now taken to archiving books to cut down the number to look through.


  11. Jenni permalink
    Tuesday, February 7, 2012 6:54 pm

    Don’t get me started on collections. =)
    I download way, way too many free books from Amazon (When I got my Kindle in Dec of ’10 I had around 400 from using Kindle for PC). Now I have about 2600. (I know, I know)

    When the free space on the Kindle gets down around 1500 MB, and you have lots of collections (I have my books separated by the month/year downloaded), it slows down.

    So now I have over 700 books archived (just haven’t gotten around to removing more) and have deleted those collections (up to June of 2011). Since I synched them to Kindle for PC first, I’ll use that to decide which book to read.

    FYI, if you use, it’s partly owned by Amazon and you can sync your purchases to your shelf.



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