Thursday, December 12, 2013

Goodreads, and My OneNote Wiki Trick, Part II

[See Part 1, posted Oct. 16, 2012.]

As a bucket load of "Best of 2013" book lists is dumped upon us, the tools I've used to make order from the chaos of infinite possibility have continued to serve me well.  Goodreads, now under the Amazon corporate umbrella, is still my go-to web service for tracking books read, books anticipated, and books flung against the wall in disdain (or, more broadly, set aside).  I still cut-'n'-paste lists of fiction and nonfiction works by my favorite authors from their respective Wikipedia pages into Microsoft OneNote.

What's new is the omnipresence of a smartphone in my pocket (oh, grow up!).  I carry a Motorola Photon 4G (MB855), a nifty, if prior generation Android 2.3 unit on Ting, a low-cost MVNO (mobile service reseller) that completes calls over the Sprint network.  I've loaded the Goodreads Android app onto the phone, which allows me to enter new books and reading updates remotely.

However, for my stubby fingers on a medium-sized smartphone in the dim light of a library or at a yard sale, it's still a nuisance to search the Goodreads app for a complete list of an author's works, such as all books in Martin Cruz Smith's Arkady Renko series, especially if I need their chronological order.  I want to know quickly: have I read this particular title by Tom Robbins or Tom Sharpe before?  Do I have a copy at home?  Also, as I mainly use Wifi (free, on Ting) instead of 3G/4G (which costs) for mobile data, how can I access my book lists when I'm out and about, and not near a Wifi hotspot?

The solution I've fastened on is to make small notations in my OneNote author lists, which I use to annotate the cut-'n'-pasted Wikipedia pages.  I'll type "Finished" or "Started" by a title.  If I've already purchased, say, the third-from-now Inspector Rebus novel by Ian Rankin and stockpiled it on my overburdened bookcases at home, I'll mark that title with an 'x'.

Crucially, Microsoft OneNote on my Windows 7 PC can sync data with the OneNote Android app on my Photon 4G.  It takes a bit of set-up, but then it syncs the data via Microsoft SkyDrive whenever I'm near a Wifi hotspot and click on the corresponding OneNote folder on my phone.  Voilà: instant mobile access to my reading lists, want-to-read lists, and notes -- including which books I already own so I don't buy duplicates at the ten-cent sale.

In truth, it's not much different than carrying around a small, paper-based diary or notebook of your reading lists, except the OneNote solution scales and organizes free-form lists with your changing whims.  It would take a long time to write out all the book titles by all your favorite authors by hand instead of utilizing the ol' cut-'n'-paste routine.  Also, books are just one category for which you might like quick, remote access; you may also be interested in carrying pages of your CDs, DVDs, sports tickets, or wine cellar inventory.  Do you want to carry a paper diary for each one?

In summary: Yes, OneNote continues to be an excellent list-keeping tool.  Yes, it's now in my pocket.  And yes, I'm happy to see you.

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