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Books Technology

Ask Slashdot: An 'Ex Libris' For My Books In a Digital Age? 149

New submitter smalgin writes: While I cannot boast an extensive library, it keeps growing every week. I share the books I like the most with my friends and acquaintances. Unfortunately, some of them are sloppy and forget to return my books, so to speak. I would like to put some mark, sticker or a stamp (Ex Libris) on my books to make them recognizable later. However, living in a digital age (blah blah yada yada) I cannot help but wonder how I could improve the ex libris beyond an ink stamp on a title page or a glued-on postcard-sized monstrosity some libraries use. Has anyone tried using RFIDs to identify his books? Please share your experience.
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Ask Slashdot: An 'Ex Libris' For My Books In a Digital Age?

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  • Funny you should mention RFID; this is exactly what my public library uses. My retired uncle was actually hired to install them. If I recall correctly they were inserted in the spine of the book.

    • by bws111 ( 1216812 )

      But those were probably used for tracking the books inside the library, right? They aren't used as the method of identifying the book as the library's property, are they?

      • The tags contain information such as a unique ID. If that ID shows up in the library's database and the rest of the metadata (title, author, ISBN etc.) matches their database entry, they know it's one of their books...

        • by bws111 ( 1216812 )

          Well sure, but that is still only useful inside the library. It does nothing for any person wondering who the book belongs to.

      • "They aren't used as the method of identifying the book as the library's property, are they?"

        Why not? They can even do that with my cat.

        • by bws111 ( 1216812 )

          The RFID tag does not identify your cat as yours, it identifies the cat. A central registry links the cat to you. Since there is, thankfully, no central registry of who owns what copies of what books, RFID tags are useless as a means of identifying who owns a book. Especially when there is a much cheaper and easier solution to that problem.

          • Since there is, thankfully, no central registry of who owns what copies of what books ...

            That's Snowden's leak for next week, you insensitive clod!

    • they were inserted in the spine of the book.

      I've had more success, with inserting them in the spine of the person borrowing the book. Then I tell them the "Escape from New York" story, and that if I don't get the book back . . . they will be missing a few disks in their backs . . .

      • My solution was to go all ebook. No borrowing, and I can carry a whole summer vacation of beach reading in an iPad.

        • Yeah, and then you get the annoyance and eyestrain that comes from reading a backlit screen for too long. And you can't read a backlit screen on the beach in the bright summer daylight either.

          • Re:RFID (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Thursday October 29, 2015 @06:27PM (#50828891)

            I suspect that the whole "backlit screens cause eyestrain" meme comes from some magazine article written circa 1985 by a liberal arts major who, after reading one of the first etexts off a crappy VGA screen, decided to write off the technology for all time to come. One of the reasons I went to ebooks is because I'm vision-impaired and wanted to reduce eyestrain. For me it's much easier to read an illuminated screen in a font that I choose in a size that I control. Now I don't care about looking for the exact place where the light is at the right angle.

            • I dunno. Reading off computer monitors has become less strain than it used to be, but it still isn't something I prefer to do. Maybe it was the lower resolution coupled with neck angle.

              Backlit tablet screens, on the other hand, have never given me eyestrain at all.

              • Which makes all the Luddite whinery out there even less relevant. Most ebooks are read off tablets and special-purpose devices, rather than off computer monitors.

              • I thought reading from a computer screen was pretty darn good before I got my first eInk reader, which was clearly better to read from.

    • If you don't keep track of who you lend things to and are too embarrassed or "polite" to ask for them back then RFID is not going to do any good at all and likely the person who borrowed the book will either not know it is there, not have any way to read it, or just not care. The OP didn't seem to be asking for a good way to track things he has lent out, he seems to want some sort of ID on the item so his supposed friends will return them. RFID is not that.
      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        My initial thought: Get better friends or gift the books. I've a very large collection and people sign them out on a paper and return them when they're done. That is all. No technical hoops to jump through. One of the things I'm hoping is that my collection of books, many are academic in nature, is still curated and loaned to those who are interested after I'm gone.

        I do have a trust set up to maintain the property but I've made no stipulations as to how I want the house and property dealt with and I prefer

        • "Get better friends or gift the books. I've a very large collection and people sign them out on a paper and return them when they're done. "

          Ask for a 20€ deposit, first it will make losses more bearable, second, nobody will want to borrow from you again.

      • How it works for me.

        Buddy: [As I'm leaving] You might want to take a look at these.
        Me: OK. Best to note them down.
        Buddy: Nah, I'll remember.

        Six months pass.

        Me: I was tidying up. Are any of X,Y,Z yours?
        Buddy: X yes, Y never heard of it, Z I thought I left it on a train so I got another - keep it.
        Me: Ummm, OK, thanks.

    • I just put Stephanie Myers dustcovers on my books, then people can't return them to me fast enough. In fact, most people don't even want to borrow them any more.
  • by kybred ( 795293 ) on Thursday October 29, 2015 @04:28PM (#50827997)

    Mark with a QR code along with a line or two of text? You could put whatever you want in the QR code; your phone # or email address.

    If you use a RFID, only someone with a reader could see what it says.

    • The libraries here affix a clear plastic book cover over top of the book and jacket, protecting it. Then they apply stickers with text and bar codes on top of the book cover.

      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        The libraries here affix a clear plastic book cover over top of the book and jacket, protecting it. Then they apply stickers with text and bar codes on top of the book cover.

        Which is a good way to do it if you want to audit your friend's book collection or something - just put on a cover and it makes it distinct so when you go to your friend's place, you can ask them about your book.

        But to be honest - are you lending books of significant value to you? If so, then maybe keeping track of your stuff is what yo

        • It goes both ways too - your friends lend stuff to you.

          What if they don't? What if you don't want to borrow any of their crap, so it ends up being a one-sided relationship?

          In my experience, things like this which people assume should be equitable and balanced, rarely are. Instead a few people end up being the "givers" and everyone else is a moocher.

          • In my experience, things like this which people assume should be equitable and balanced, rarely are. Instead a few people end up being the "givers" and everyone else is a moocher.

            Sounds just like bittorrent. People are people, some are assholes. No matter what tech is used. Or no tech.
            • Exactly, it's like this for everything.

              And it's not just assholism; it's usually a lot easier to take than to give, so not that many people give, and with taking you get something you want quickly, whereas with giving you're hoping it comes around to you later, unless you're one of those really generous sorts that just loves giving.

        • "Which is a good way to do it if you want to audit your friend's book collection or something - just put on a cover and it makes it distinct so when you go to your friend's place, you can ask them about your book."

          Or you can hire the library-cop from Seinfeld.

      • "The libraries here affix a clear plastic book cover over top of the book and jacket, protecting it. Then they apply stickers with text and bar codes on top of the book cover."

        A credit card sized GPS can be gotten cheaply from Aliexpress, that you could put inside that cover too. They use a simcard to send you the location when you ask for it with a special SMS from your phone.
        Additionally, you can listen on what the people around the book are saying.

        There should even be room for thin-film solar panels in t

    • When I was a kid I got one of these [corpconnect.com]. It worked very well to convey information without being overly intrusive. I've still got it somewhere but I don't think it would do my Kindle screen any favors...
      • This would be useless in a book.
        • by KGIII ( 973947 )

          Nah, those are pretty durable and would work with a book at the expense of ruining a page or cover. Well, making it no longer mint condition. I have one, quite similar, and even have gold leaf to go with it. Why? Out of boredom, I decided to become a Notary Public and it was also an added asset to some friends. The added bonus is the I'm also a Justice of the Peace! So far, I've married two of my friends (done the ceremony) and notarized exactly zero documents no matter how many items I've stamped while pla

          • Right. Until you close the book.
            I've used these before. If used lightly, they don't do serious damage to a page, but the imprint is easily removed by booking. Using more pressure only cuts the lettering into the page rather than embossing. So your options are to leave a temporary imprint, or destroy a page.
            I'm not terribly sure I understand what the OP is asking for. That said, I don't think this is it.
            • by KGIII ( 973947 )

              No, it's probably not ideal but it'd work if, say, they don't mind damaging the book. If it were my choice and I only had an embossing tool to do it with (and I'm not at all sure why I'd be in such a position) then I'd do the back cover so that the imprint was readable from the inside or I'd aim for another area of the cover - again, making it inside. Unless the book is pretty heavy then, it'd hold up for a while. They could also use the gold leaf - that holds up pretty well but, honestly, I've never put a

    • I third this, but a QR code for the spine might be pushing your luck: it's a small area for a lot of novels and may be easily damaged/rubbed off. Just inside the front cover maybe, or on the title page.
    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      he just wants an exlibris that has some digital aspect to it.

      which is silly.

      what he needs is a big monster of a card straight on the cover to remind who is the owner of the book and that they should return it.

      rfid or whatever will not do, because it will not help them in any way. the book has barcodes in it already anyways.

      basically, just print out stickers with your face on them and stick them on both back and front covers and that's it.

    • "Mark with a QR code along with a line or two of text? You could put whatever you want in the QR code; your phone # or email address."

      Or a website that sends you automatically an email with the location of the book, even 20 years later, when a curious book-thief's son checks what the QR is about.

    • by kubajz ( 964091 )
      Or you could, you know, just write your phone # and email address on that piece of paper? Or is there some advantage in having to pull out a phone to discover your email? Would your friend even scan the QR code to discover what it contains when he finds the book on his bookshelf a year later? But if you want technology for the sake of technology, feel free to embed an RFID next to a QR code with a link to company selling RFID readers...
  • Err, no. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Thursday October 29, 2015 @04:28PM (#50827999) Journal

    No matter what you try to do (aside from a QR code), odds are perfect that some of your books will be completely unreadable by whoever is holding it (no equipment, wrong software, "why the frig do I have to buy an RFID reader just to borrow a book - WTF is wrong with you!?", etc.)

    Seriously - some problems do not require a tech/digital answer. Get those little "Ex Libris" stickers and call it good.

    • Re:Err, no. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Thursday October 29, 2015 @04:32PM (#50828031) Journal

      I should add one more reason:

      I have a moderate collection of really old books (ranging from 100-220 years old). Many of these books have either a formal Ex Libris stamp or sticker glued in it, or in most cases handwriting which says who the owner was (at least at one point in time).

      Most of these original owners are obviously long dead, but their hand-written names or signatures live on, right there in the book. Sometimes they left addresses in there too. Best part is? 100+ years later, I don't need some archaic device to interpret what it says.

      • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

        100+ years later, I don't need some archaic device to interpret what it says.

        Do you think the technology to read barcodes (an imaging device and software) will be called "archaic" 100 years from now?

        • by bws111 ( 1216812 )

          Hell yes. It is pretty naive to think that QR codes (or something like them) is the epitome of optically storing digital data. Some new format will come along, and within a few years people will stop creating the old format, and not too long after that new software will no longer include support for reading the old formats.

          • My phone has no problems reading barcodes from over 40 years ago.
            No reason to believe it won't work in another 40 years.

          • Huh? Any random free barcode app or scanner can scan 40 year old vintage barcodes effortlessly. Sure, there are numerous formats but they're well documented and easy to implement.
        • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
          Is the technology to read punchcards archaic?
    • by aitikin ( 909209 )

      No matter what you try to do (aside from a QR code), odds are perfect that some of your books will be completely unreadable by whoever is holding it (no equipment, wrong software, "why the frig do I have to buy an RFID reader just to borrow a book - WTF is wrong with you!?", etc.)

      Seriously - some problems do not require a tech/digital answer. Get those little "Ex Libris" stickers and call it good.

      I think you're misunderstanding his question. It seems to me he's just looking to be able to identify what's his and what isn't when a friend borrows it. Everyone having their own RFID reader is completely unnecessary for this purpose, merely having one himself would more than suffice. He runs the reader over the spine, sees it's not his and moves on.

      • by bws111 ( 1216812 )

        Geez, I hope that is not what he wants to do. Nothing says 'friendship' like 'I am coming over with my RFID scanner to audit your book collection'.

        The idea of the stickers is to a) remind the borrower who the book belongs to, and b) give info to someone who may have found a lost book. Neither of these are satisfied with any digital solution.

        • Excellent point! If the sticker were placed on the outer spine (wrapping a bit to the front / back covers) you wouldn't really need to even touch the book to determine if it was yours. Bonus points if you make it yellow or some easily visible color.
      • Sign the inside cover. Problem solved.

        When you lend out books, you have to expect a certain amount of "shrinkage." Or you can be a dick, not lend anything out, and not enrich the lives of those around you. Just remember, what goes around comes around.

        • Or you can be a dick, not lend anything out, and not enrich the lives of those around you. Just remember, what goes around comes around.

          What if those around you have zero interest in the things you have to lend (whether it's music, books, etc.), because their tastes are all completely different?

          • What if those around you have zero interest in the things you have to lend (whether it's music, books, etc.), because their tastes are all completely different?

            Those are the ones who need the enrichment the most! You have to insist! Nay, you have to force them to allow you to enlighten them. It's more important than life or death: it's KARMA.

            • Yeah, I tried that when I was much younger. Now I know a lot better, so I keep my music and opinions to myself, unless I'm in a semi-anonymous forum online with at least some like-minded people.

          • by J053 ( 673094 )

            Or you can be a dick, not lend anything out, and not enrich the lives of those around you. Just remember, what goes around comes around.

            What if those around you have zero interest in the things you have to lend (whether it's music, books, etc.), because their tastes are all completely different?

            Then, you don't have a problem.

            • That's not quite true; when no one wants to hear any music you like or talk about stuff that interests you, it gets rather lonely.

        • When you lend out books, you have to expect a certain amount of "shrinkage." Or you can be a dick, not lend anything out, and not enrich the lives of those around you. Just remember, what goes around comes around.

          Only if I steal a bunch of books. I do have one book that belongs to someone else, but I've lost many more than one and that book is now available pretty reasonably so I'm pretty well behind.

          I'd still loan out anything I've got that's in print, to the right person. But I don't have much call.

    • Yeah, I'm also I'm sort of curious what the submitter thinks a technical solution would do that an ink stamp doesn't? What exactly is he trying to accomplish? I'm assuming it's just to identify his books, right? In that case, you really need a human-readable label of some sort. An RFID doesn't remind the person looking at it who the book belongs to. I suppose you could go to your friend's house and scan his bookshelves, looking for your property, but...?

      You can buy a self-inking custom-made stamp for l

  • I'm not the librarian but I work closely with one and we've looked at RFID. Regular barcode tags are going to be far cheaper and you can get a shitty barcode scanner cheaply ~$30-50 although a good one is ~$300.

    As for a system to actually track them I'm not aware of a FOSS one but I haven't looked either as the district chooses not the building. We did have Surpass as a separate stand alone system for some paperbacks and netbooks for awhile which was decent but these are serious systems for circulation like

  • How does having RFID solve the problem? You should just ask your friends to return the books.
    • As Anatole France said: “Never lend books, for no one ever returns them; the only books I have in my library are books that other folks have lent me.” - http://www.babelio.com/auteur/... [babelio.com]
  • by JustAnotherOldGuy ( 4145623 ) on Thursday October 29, 2015 @04:43PM (#50828143)

    A couple of years ago I commissioned Oracle and SAP to build me a simple book-tracking database app; it should be done by May of 2021 if we don't run into any more compatibility issues and the money keeps flowing.

  • by Minwee ( 522556 ) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Thursday October 29, 2015 @04:57PM (#50828263) Homepage

    Instead of trying to be terribly modern and applying some kind of 'digital' solution to the problem of keeping track of your books, why not go a little more medieval [wordpress.com] and try a proven solution that works?

  • by david_thornley ( 598059 ) on Thursday October 29, 2015 @05:04PM (#50828311)

    All of my technical books that I bring to work get my initials marked on them. I close the book and do it on all the sides with pages. There's a few books I don't think I would ever have gotten back without that.

  • I don't loan books or money with any expectation of seeing them again.

  • You mention using a stamp to identify your books. That sounds adequate to me, but I don't know your situation. Can you tell us in what way(s) this solution is incomplete for your needs?

  • by Sir Holo ( 531007 ) on Thursday October 29, 2015 @05:25PM (#50828475)

    Write your name & email on the page-edges with a Sharpie.

    It is impossible to miss, and too much of a pain for a 'sloppy' lendee to remove.

  • It's as simple as that. If you don't know someone all that well, or someone has proven themselves to be unreliable or flat-out untrustworthy with your books, then don't loan them out to that person again. Nothing you do to your books is going to get around someone who just doesn't care about returning your property, and using some device that costs you a few bucks will just mean you're out that much more money if/when your book isn't returned to you.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Whenever you loan something to someone, take a picture of them holding it with your phone. Then you'll know who to track down if you want it back.

  • by Mike Van Pelt ( 32582 ) on Thursday October 29, 2015 @07:01PM (#50829117)

    Back when I worked at Sperry Univac, I started lending out some of my large collection of SF novels. I just did what libraries of that era did: When I took a book to work, I put a 3x5 index card in the book, with the name of the book on the card. If I lent it to someone, I took the card out and put it in the card box I used for that purpose.

    I'm sure I could have written something in DMS1100 to run on the Univac 1100/80, but seriously... why? The mini card catalog solved the problem.

  • You can get RFID tags for $0.25 ish that include the antenna in a small self-adhesive patch; look at TI's starter kits for instance. But this defeats the purpose of an Ex Libris. The purpose of the marking is not to be a SUPER SEKRIT mark that Hercule Poirot can use to pin a crime on an unwitting murderer. The purpose of the marking is so that anyone can open the book and, without special equipment or knowledge, see that it's yours. But it's more than that. It's a personalization of a book from your persona
  • Some years ago I remember seeing an Ex Libris plate that ran something like, "If you are going to borrow this book and not return it, please just take it because I'd rather lose a book than a book and a friend. Perhaps you should consider that is more important?
  • Ever bought an old book? If so you will see that the paper is significantly yellowed. Unless you are buying special, acid free books, use whatever, crappy book marking you want, because in 20 years, they will fall apart anyway.

    If you are using acid free paper, then I would suggest stamping stuff onto the paper, including a bar code, rather than putting an RFID chip. Among other things, any library worth it's salt should have so many books that an RFID chip would have to be physically removed from the

  • You've got a cell phone with a phone. You're handing these out to people, physically.

    So take a picture of your friend holding the book. Maybe even save it to a specific location like 'books lent out'. Works with singles and stacks. No tricky software, no custom solutions, no worries about QR codes or scanners or online web interfaces.

    Works for more than just books, too. Video games, clothes, power tools, etc.

  • Never works - they just have a book on their shelf with your sticker on it.
  • I have a reference library. That doesn't leave the house. It also changes very little. I have four sets of encyclopedias, one of which is 46 years old (and doesn't get handled with bare hands). The only one I keep more or less up to date is my five shelf-feet of Oxford Blue.
    I have a library of fiction, I don't lend those but what I DO do is give them. If a visitor sees a book they like the look of, my philosophy is simple: take it, read it, pass it on. A few people make a good guess as to the type of fictio

  • "Because we can" is not a very good reason. Stamps and stickers have proven so far to work very well in identifying the owner, and if they don't _want_ to give back your book, no RFID tag will make them.

    If you want to get serious, print out an empty table with four columns: "title", "lent to", "date", "signature", and everyone you give a book to has to be written down. On return they are crossed out. If you want to be fancy you can also go digital but that might be more pain than it's worth.

  • Create a photo album calld "Stuff I Lent".
    When somebody borrows something, take a picture of them with it.
    When they return it, delete the picture.
    Works for anything physical as long as it's big enough to be seen in the photo.
  • Make it simple.

    Have a stack of small name stickers printed and put those on the inside cover.
    Archive and track your titles with Delicious Library [delicious-monster.com] or a similar tool that can scan the book-barcodes with the webcam on your computer and then automatically fetches the books metadata and coverfotos from the intarweb (amazon, etc.).

    You can then use Delicious Library to keep track who's got what.
    The namestickers are enough to let people know who's book they've still got.

  • How about a blacklight/ultra-violet fluorescing label on the spine - that way you can turn the light off in a room full of books, turn on a blacklight and see the book almost immediately??

    Pair it with human readable, QR and RFID labels and you've got a pretty comprehensive label. If you have a stick on label that goes in the front cover with a part that then wraps on to the cover and around the spine you'll be able to see it from the front, back or spine side too. Make it a strong contrasting colour and it

  • Like a MAILTO or something? Bonus if you include the title of the book as the subject. You can play with the idea here: http://www.qrstuff.com/ [qrstuff.com]

    I was able to quickly make one that opened the mail client and fully populated the message. Print them out on some stickers and you're good to go.

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