capsule review

BookCAT Book Database

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder BookCAT Book Database

BookCat offers several ways to enter books--you can type in author, title, and so on by hand, or you can enter the ISBN number and search online for information. The interface to accomplish this is powerful, but non-intuitive, a statement which more-or-less sums up the program. First, you enter a whole bunch of ISBNs (you can do it one-by-one, but it's more efficient to do this in batch). Then, you have the entire batch looked up, and see which ones can be found in BookCat's rather extensive and impressive list of sources (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, the Library of Congresss, and others). Then, given this list, you can choose which ones to actually enter into the database. You can also remove from the list all those not found, and so on. The ISBN lookup, if successful (and the success is based on the online databases, not on BookCat per se) can fill in a lot of data for you, even downloading a cover graphic.

However, BookCat offers you more--a lot more. There are ten custom fields for you to edit, and that's on top of genre, author, author role (editor, co author, ghost writer), appraised value, book condition, awards the book has won, "original" information if the book has been re-titled or was originally published in a new language, and whether or not the book contains clues to a hidden treasure concealed in the first letter of each chapter. OK, I'm kidding about the last, but if there's anything you might want to know about a book in your collection, the odds are very good BookCat has a field for it--or the ability to add your own.

BookCat uses Access as its database engine, and it doesn't hide this fact at all. You, the user, have a surprising amount of... no pun intended... access to the underlying database structure. You can change a number of field properties, and probably really mess things up if you want to. You can also create wholly customized reports, as well as adding fields to standard columns, creating complex filters, and so on. The problem with this is that the Help file is pretty minimal with regards to holding your hand as you try to access these high end features; if you're not a database guru (or even if you are, just not with Acess), it can be pretty overwhelming. Still, having this kind of power is a nice feature, and means it is unlikely you'll ever be stuck waiting on an upgrade to get a particular report style or data field added.

Compared to Collectorz.com BookCollector, BookCat is more powerful, but less intuitive. Both programs offer a 30-day trial and are similarly priced; it is worth checking each out to see which one is for you.

--Ian Harac

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At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder BookCAT Book Database

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