Thursday, April 14, 2011

Organize Those e-Books

bookshelfsqA while ago, I wrote blog posts on organizing computer files, organizing digital photographs, and organizing website bookmarks. Those posts were so popular that I’ve been asked how to organize e-books and other downloads.

For starters, organizing your e-books and other downloads is somewhat like organizing your computer files: set up broad categories for the types of sites you usually want to return to. For instance, my categories run along the lines of homeschool subjects, encouragement, health, writing and publishing, and business. You need to choose the labels that will best suit your e-book and downloading habits; choose labels that make sense to you.

After the general labels are set up, you may need to add some subfolders/categories. For instance, my homeschool category is way too broad, so I have a subcategory for each subject plus ones for homeschool encouragement and general homeschool information/support/forms. I like to alphabetize my e-books within those categories to make it easier to find what I’m looking for.

As you’re filtering through your e-books and adding them to the folders/categories, make sure that you’re still interested in keeping each one. Sometimes, I will download an e-book just because it’s free and/or it looks interesting, but I later decide that it doesn’t need to be taking up real estate on my hard drive. This is also a good time to check for duplicates. Yes, that is all to easy to do!

I can already hear the questions about running out of space on the hard drive and computers crashing. So, I’ve got several suggestions for these dilemmas. The first solution is to purchase an external hard drive. It’s a good idea to back up all of your computer documents and programs anyway, not just your e-books. We’ve all heard the horror stories about lost essays and crashed dissertations, so why not act preemptively? I purchased my external hard drive for less than $100; I think it was about $75. It’s money well spent for peace of mind! Also, all of the computers in the house can be backed up to the same external hard drive, so you just have to purchase one no matter how many computers you have in your house (we have four laptops, plus my husband’s work computer!). You can set up your same e-book categories on the external drive as you would on a computer hard drive.

Another, less expensive option, is to purchase one or more thumb/portable drives. These are small devices, about the size of a pink school eraser (or smaller) that hold anywhere from 1 to 4 or more gigs of memory. No, I don’t know what that means other than they will hold a fair number of e-books. The more gigs a thumb drive has, the more stuff it will hold. If you have a ton of e-books, you may wish/need to purchase more than one portable drive. I would suggest putting different topics/categories on different drives and labeling them with a sharpie. You can also subdivide the thumb drives into categories. The more specific your categories, the more easily the e-books can be located. The other thing about these small, portable drives is that they can be plugged into any computer so it’s much easier to share the e-books if you’re viewing them on the computer screen.

My new, favorite way to store and view e-books is to put them on my Kindle. No, I’m not being paid to say that, I just really love my Kindle! It’s so much easier to read from than a computer screen; it’s easy to hold; easy to take places (like the doctor’s waiting room); and easy to use. Plus, there are a ton of free books available from many places online. I set up my collections (their word for categories/topics) the same way I did on my computer.

Looking for an e-book? First scan your categories, then your subcategories. If it’s not where you think it should be, check another category. If you remember the exact title, you can also do a search (computer, external drive, or thumb drive). If you get really ambitious, you can make a spreadsheet listing all of your titles and categories. You can then sort them by title, author, category, or whatever other information you put on the spreadsheet. I haven’t gotten that far yet, but I’m usually able to locate what I need since my e-books are sorted into categories.

Another categorization option is a free download called Calibre. It will import e-books from your hard drive so you can label them. It will also put them on your reading device (Kindle, Nook, iPad, etc).

I’ve just addressed e-books in this post, but the principles are applicable for any other downloads you might have.

The most important things to remember are to be as specific as possible when you’re making your labels/categories and to be selective when downloading e-books.

Are you ready? On your mark, get set, go organize your e-books!

Bethany