Book Crawler Review
App Reviewed on: iPod Touch 4g
iPhone Integration Rating:
User Interface Rating:
Re-use / Replay Value Rating:
Those of us with extensive book libraries, or even casual book lovers who like to keep track of their literary adventures, have just been given a brand new reason to love our iOS devices. Book Crawler, by Jaime Stokes, is a full-featured book cataloging program packed with thoughtful features. For starters, Book Crawler offers several powerful ways to get books into the application. Hardy souls can input the books manually, filling in nearly two dozen input fields by hand. The more impatient of us will be happy to hear that we can also search and add through Google Books or opt to make use of the built-in ISBN scanner camera on our iOS device. Book Crawler comes with zbar by default, but suggests that users download pic2shop as an alternative. I tried both and had much better luck with pic2shop. If you accidentally scan the wrong barcode (there can be as many as 5 on a single book), a helpful error message will set you straight. Users planning on adding a large number of books at once should check the Settings screen on the home screen for the “batch input” field, as it provides a smoother data entry workflow. Any book with a ISBN/ASIN number, even Kindle books, can be cataloged.
Once a book is recognized via manual or scanned input, it is added to the collection. Depending on the data source some fields may be empty, including fields the app expects to be filled in by the user, such as the star rating. Book Crawler offers an almost obscene number of ways to tag, filter, sort, categorize, flag and otherwise hack and slash a literary collection. Besides the option of user-defined tags and “smart” (self-populating) categories, users also have two completely undefined custom fields, an undefined off-on switch, a decimal field, date field, and a URL field. This kind of extensibility should make it accommodate any bibliophile’s arcane classification system.
Once we get our books in to Book Crawler, it gives us some handy options for getting them out. For example, it lets bookworms share books with the world via Twitter (using the #bookcrawler hashtag) and Facebook, as well as through boring old email. It integrates with the Goodreads review service and lets users see if that particular book is stocked at the local library, via WorldCat (which mysteriously didn’t pick up on any library closer to me than 70 miles away, so YMMV).
Once there’s about a dozen books in the app, it’s time to start looking for the backup and export options, which Book Crawler has in spades. It’s flexibility in this regard almost makes me overlook the fact that it has no companion desktop application for easy data entry, although any literary cataloging system worth its salt would probably generate (and ingest) a CSV if you asked it to. I was pleased to see that the app natively syncs to Dropbox.
Overall, Book Crawler’s user interface is nearly watertight, making it a delight to use. There’s one particular sequence of screens which tripped me up a few times (I couldn’t find the “Home” button) but other than that I have no complaints. I see a bright future ahead for Book Crawler and hope its developers will consider the addition of companion web-based, or desktop, app for data entry and backup purposes.