When I was a kid, I begged my parents to line the walls of my room with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. I loved collecting books, and it was my early teenage dream to catalogue everything on my Motorola Mac clone (Starmax 3000 FTW!) so I could run a privately owned lending library for my peers out of, well, my parents' house. Back then, I was relegated to creating a giant list of books in a text file along with their ISBNs, basic descriptions, and current lending status—certainly no cover photos—that I would send out to friends via e-mail.
What I wouldn't have given back then for software like Delicious Library. An OS X application first released by Delicious Monster nearly a decade ago, Delicious Library has been a useful tool to those who become obsessive about cataloging their books, DVDs, CDs, and even video games. The software has evolved some throughout the years—Delicious Library 2 is quite popular nowadays, despite some of its initial drawbacks—leading to pretty eager anticipation for the release of Delicious Library 3.
That day has now arrived. Nearly five years after the release of DL2, Delicious Library 3 is available to the public via the Mac App Store. Briefly previewed by MacRumors earlier this week, some users have already seen what the new DL3 has to offer. We here at Ars have been using it for several weeks and took the opportunity to chat with creator Wil Shipley about what went into DL3 and what lessons he learned from it.
"The first thing I learned was: don't wait five years between your releases," Shipley said. He noted Delicious Library users have been begging for a new release for years, even though they report being perfectly happy with DL2. "We had to do revisions to keep the app up-to-date for all the OS X releases and just gave away those updates. People ask 'are you guys still around as a company?' and I'm like 'are you kidding me? I'm slaving away and giving you these updates!' But I realized customers need to pay for something every once in a while or they get upset, so I decided to go ahead and work on that."
DL3 has something new for everyone. On the surface, the bookshelf UI has been put into overdrive—the shelf itself now has crown molding and the entire thing has been rendered in 3D using OS X Mountain Lion's SceneKit. There are now three different light sources pointed at the bookshelf to boost the visuals, and perhaps most jarringly (at first), the items on your bookshelf move to face your cursor. It's as if they've come alive and decided to keep an eye on your every move.
"We cranked up all the visuals and then cranked down every visual effect so it was something you didn't notice very much," Shipley said. "This has all the graphics effects and polish of a game from a couple years ago. As far as I know, nobody else has used OpenGL in consumer products like this at all, much less the environment mapping and other stuff like that."
Delicious Library's new look might not be for everybody—it can take some getting used to—but that's hardly the only new feature added to this release. The update that has generated the most interest is DL3's new companion app for iOS that allows users to scan book, CD, or DVD barcodes with their devices instead of using the clunky computer.
Finally: a mobile barcode scannerThe app works over Wi-Fi and users can pair it with a Mac (or Macs, as the case may be) by using their iOS devices to scan a barcode on the DL3 screen. "The barcode is a coupon barcode that has a one-use password embedded in it," Shipley explained. "The iPhone sends that password to the Macs it sees, it has the password and an identifier, and it'll send the password until it matches up with a Mac."
This does mean that the barcode scanner app needs to be on the same network as the Macs it's syncing with, but it doesn't need to be on the same LAN in order to scan your library. Users can take an iPhone out of range, to work, to a friend's house, or anywhere else to scan a stack of books and the app will store the information until it gets back on the network where the library Macs are located. Once it sees the Macs in question, it syncs the stored data back with the original library.
"We realized if we do an iPhone scanner, people don't have to buy an expensive Bluetooth scanner," Shipley told Ars. "People have been clamoring for it for years now—scanning with iOS was the number one most requested user feature. If I'd have been smarter, I'd have released the scanner with version 2.8 or something."
Indeed, the iOS scanner app transforms Delicious Library from a "pretty cool Mac app if you're willing to drag all your books over to your computer or vice versa" to a much more accessible—and fun to use—app for people looking to catalog their collections.
"More relevant than a personality test"The other significant feature update to Delicious Library comes in the form of a new pane that displays stats about your collection—and by extension, you.
"One of the things that's constantly requested is totaling up the dollar amount of your collection," Shipley said. "We just didn't know where to put that, so we thought we'd come up with this cool chart screen where people can see all these different stats about their collection. Favorite genre, authors, how has your collection changed over time. Now when you scan your stuff, now you get all these cool charts on you. It's almost more relevant than a personality test because it's stuff that you like."
And if there's anything I personally like, it's charts and stats about my own regular usage. DL3 even allows you to manually add items that you didn't scan (such as, say, Kindle books or iBooks that you don't have a physical copy of), so you can really get into building out your collection within the program in order to get a full picture of yourself.
Finally, Shipley spent some time fawning over DL3's new recommendations engine, describing it as "sort of the focus of this release." DL2's recommendations were one-dimensional (not unlike most other recommendation engines on sites like Amazon or Netflix) that would provide a handful of items similar to the one you clicked on. But Shipley—who is just as frustrated with simple recommendations as the rest of us—wanted to make DL3's recommendations better.
"This isn't about what I own, it's about getting my personality in the computer," Shipley said. "Now, if you scan your whole DVD collection, it provides a bunch of recommendations based on the aggregate of that information. Then if you rate them all, it'll refine the recommendations."
That's not where it ends, either. Shipley said he hopes to integrate Delicious Library's recommendation system (and new wish list feature) into other sites that provide media recommendations as well. "We are in talks with various sites that are very eager to work with us because we've got the best way to scan in your stuff if you're a website. None of them have a good interface for getting your books and whatnot in your computer," he said.
That's (not) all, folksDelicious Library 3 comes with even more features, like the ability to publish your library to the Web or the ability to merge more than one scanned library together without duplicating items. ("Different people can scan different books and merge all those files together," Shipley said after telling a story about a real-life library that wanted to crowdsource the scanning of its collection.) There are new "smart shelves," which allow you to place a set of rules so you only see certain books or DVDs on certain shelves. There are ways to save your sort criteria so you can re-use the searches easily.
The list of new additions is lengthy—probably enough to make existing Delicious Library users want to shell out for the upgrade and new users curious about what DL3 can do. The new version is a flat $25, $10 less than what DL2 cost, although there are no upgrades to DL3 from previous versions. ("There was no fair way to do them with Mac App Store and our Delicious Store customers both," Shipley said.)
And if Apple wants to make use of DL3's new design or functionality, Shipley is happy to make it available to them despite the fact that he believe Apple stole the design for iBooks from older versions of Delicious Library. "I'm just gonna go to Apple with this one and say 'look guys, I'll just license this to you. I'm happy to let you use this interface on iBooks on iOS or the Mac,'" he told Ars. "It's a beautiful interface and I'd love to get credit this time."