Hand held scanners and a database of reference book titles


Vice Admiral
There is a possibility that I will get involved in setting up a database of some reference books. Possiby up to about 1000 approximately.

Could I use a hand held scanner to scan the title, and author of the book?
This would avoid laborously moving heavy books to a desk, typing in the details, then putting the books back in their correct place on the shelves.

They are mostly art and craft reference books, so some of them will be quite large. A quick look on Amazon reveals hand held scanners at about £40, though some are ten times that amount.

If I used a hand held scanner, how easy is it to then enter the details into a database. Would the scanner just produce a list of titles and authors? It would be useful to include the publisher and ISBN if possible.

As you can see from my question, I have no experience of small scanners, but I do have skills to build and use a fairly simple database. Ie the books details, age group it is suitable for, etc. If someone has borrowed a book for a short while, we could record the date it is due back and set up parameters to flag up overdue books.

Alternatively, how feasible is it to use the bar code printed on the book? Is this bar code system universal or would I need to programme a bar code reader? The advantage of using a bar code would be that some books are on loan, and would be returned and replaced by "new" titles.

I would be very grateful for some easy to understand assistance with this.
I can use a computer, and would get assistance setting up a database if necessary. What I would like to avoid is up to one thousand books, twice.:biggrin: Also while the catalogueing is in progress, it would be too easy to lose track of which book has been catalogued.

I have thought about asking about this in the local Library, but I get the distinct impression that they are very short-staffed and might not be able to help.


Well-Known Member
I have no specific experience of this, but, a quick google search found this:


and this (MAC only :o) ) http://www.delicious-monster.com/

put the search term 'scan book barcodes' into google for some more.

It looks interesting and may be worth investigation.

When you say scanner, do you mean a bar code scanner or an image scanner? Looks like the above or something similar could use a barcode scanner to get the ISBN (a unique book ID number) and collect the details off the web, may also be worth seeing if there is anything that could use a web cam to capture the barcode. The last handheld image scanner I had was an old greyscale jobby, I haven't seen any about lately, but I suppose they still exist. Alternatively, how about using your camera to take the image? Experience from putting books onto ebay shows that using flash is hopeless, it reflects and puts glare in the picture, so you would need to practice and have reasonable light to get a good image.

I also have an app on my android phone that reads barcodes and shows info on it from the web, but the camera in my phone is so poor it rarely works indoors, but maybe another avenue to explore.
As most books have the ISBN numbers recorded inside of the book, it is a simple matter to use one of the online library search engines, then cut a paste the book details from there, just requires you to Ref using the title, or ISBN and subject matter.
Just a idea.


Vice Admiral
Thank you both for your help. I just been told that the only details we will need to hold are the title and the author. The books will be sorted onto the shelves by subject and age group etc. No books will be lent out, they are strictly for reference only.

It loks like the person sorting and displaying the books will be making a written list of the books, and I would just be required to start the database and enter the details. I expect they could scan the list as they complete each page, and then I can type it up at a different location.
If the database starts off very basic, it could be developped further if necessary. I think the first target is to get the books sorted and displayed so people can see what is there. The database is the next step.

People wanting to see which books are in the small resource library would have access to a printed list on their website rather than looking up a search on the computer.

My apologies for taxing your brains unnecessarily on this. Thank you for your help, particularly about taking photographs of the book cover. Could be very useful at times. I did wonder why hand held scanners vary so much in cost, and suspected that a very cheap one would not be suitable for the task.

Back to the old pen and paper, :o) I think the person sorting the books may not be happy using a computer, which is fair enough, and I did not want to move, lift, sort and organise and display hundreds of books. Between us, we will be able to organise this.

Rh100, I have had a quick look at LibraryThing, and might try it at home for my own books, (gots lots and lots) and to see how it works. Might save lots of typing etc. Thank you
If the person is writing the list, you can buy scanning pens, which will read the written word, and commit it to memory, thus you only then have to up load the details into your computor, save you doing lots of typing
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