Here’s the second in a series of “work in progress” updates for the Antilibraries “Codex Libri” project I launched via Kickstarter earlier this year. (Note: I’m publishing this as both blog post and backer update.)
TL;DR: majority of book notes complete; organizational experiments underway; overall taking a bit longer than I initially planned but making good progress.
Books Noted and Yet-to-Note
I’ve now taken notes for over 50 books, which are stacked in three piles on the floor of my office at the base of one my bookshelves. I’ve been transcribing my longhand notes on these books, and I currently have a small pile of books yet to put through the note-taking process. These first 50 or so books are all ones I had on my shelves already; however I felt the need to round out the collection a bit better, and to that end I recently ordered another 15 or 20 books. I aim to have notes on all these complete in the next week or two.
I’ll end up with notes on roughly 75 books, from which I’ll plan to edit down to a final selection of around 50. These notes will serve as outlines / source material as I draft the “pre-reviews” of each book. As I work on these drafts I’ll also pull in other reviews and research from online as necessary. For past book blurbs on my website and newsletter, I’ve drawn more heavily on web research (e.g. Amazon reviews), but for these I’m finding it very helpful to start from the real physical book itself. This gives me a lot of information that can be useful in gaining a full sense of a book’s character, and is more efficient too, since I can flip through the entire book pretty quickly.
The main reason I feel the need to round out the collection with a few additional selections (beyond the intrinsic rewards of acquiring more wonderful books!) is diversity. Of the fifty or so books already on my shelves that called to me, only around a quarter are by non-male authors, and a relatively slim proportion are by writers of color. Most of the new books I recently bought now will go towards closing these gaps in diversity at least in part. I also bought several books that cover topics or genres I haven’t explored much; I want to make sure the subject matter covered here is as diverse as reasonably possible as well.
I’ve spent a few hours recently experimenting with ways of organizing my list(s) of books, via some combination of files and folders, Scrivener documents, and online databases. While one or two of the below methods might be sufficient for this project, I’ve played with several as I’m interested in thinking both conceptually about database possibilities, and pragmatically about possible ways to organize future book lists and Antilibraries material.
If this sort of data discursion doesn’t interest you, feel free to skip the following section, in which I present a brief rundown of the methods I’ve used so far for keeping track of my book lists:
- Files / Folders: I have a folder on my computer where I save a local copy of each book’s cover image. So far I’ve kept this roughly in sync with my Amazon “Antilibraries” list as an easy way of keeping track of which books I’ve added already.
- Scrivener: This is where I’m doing the actual writing; compiling notes and drafting the blurb for each book. Scrivener has nice hierarchical organization features but, while it’s great for managing a writing project, it doesn’t work well as a full database solution.
- Amazon / Goodreads: I’ve long tracked my book wish lists via Amazon, and the books I own and have read via Goodreads. These are powerful, ubiquitous services…but they’re also biased black boxes of corporate book-wrangling, and I want something I have more control over.
- WordPress: Not only solid blogging software but a flexible content management system; I’ve used this for publishing past Antilibraries notes but it’s a bit unwieldy for day to day book-data management.
- Libib: A neat library app that lets you create a collection of books and make it browsable online; with the pro version it’s even possible to enable full library features like patron accounts and book checkout. I don’t have an immediate use for this but it’s inspired some thinking about some cool library possibilities.
- Airtable: I’ve only just started playing with this, but it’s an app that seems to combine the best of, on the one hand, the usability and portability of Google Docs, and on the other, the power of real database software. It’s free for basic usage, has an API I can test out, and so far seems like the best solution short of a custom-developed web app. I look forward to seeing what else I can do with this.
In general I feel like I’m making consistent progress, and the process is similar to what I expected, but it is eating up more hours than I subconsciously budgeted. I didn’t sit down prior to project launch and work out an exact timeline, but as I’m working on it I’ve been keeping track of the time I spend on the project each week. So far I’ve spent a little over 40 hours on the project (not including the Kickstarter campaign), a few hours per week on average.
Given what I know now I think I can realistically expect to complete the project sometime later this fall. This will give me time to finish not only the book writings but some other fun essays I want to include (and have just started drafting), the letterpressed bookmarks, and adequate time for revision and proofing.
To those of you whom I owe other stuff like phone chats and books in the mail: we can make that happen sooner! I’ll be emailing you individually to coordinate.
Finally, I’ll soon be sending an email update with a preview of a few books I’ve enjoyed researching recently. To receive these sorts of extra-Kickstarter Antilibraries updates, please sign up here if you haven’t already: https://www.antilibrari.es/
Let me know if you have any further questions in the meantime!