While we at the Riot take some time off to rest and catch up on our reading, we’re re-running some of our favorite posts from the last several months. Enjoy our highlight reel, and we’ll be back with new stuff on Tuesday, January 3rd.
This post originally ran September 19, 2016.
Zotero is good for detail and organization beyond author and title. It’s not as pretty as Litsy and it’s not as social as Goodreads (although Zotero has some collaborative features) but it’s unbeatable at what it does: creating a personalized, extremely searchable database of books and reviews. Zotero has four features that make it ideal for power readers.
First, it’s incredibly easy to get books into your custom library. You can add them directly from you browser whenever you’re on a page with a book or article (local library websites, Amazon, etc). Just click the little book-shaped icon to the right of your menu bar.
Zotero will automatically import the title information into your Zotero library.It will even drop the book’s description into the “abstract” field.
Although this info is added automatically, if you notice an error you can always over-write what Zotero found. This doesn’t happen too often, but it’s nice that you’re the one who is fully in control of the book’s information.
Fourth, really strong searching! I know that I struggle with keeping titles and authors in my head. One of my great frustrations with Goodreads and Litsy is that they are title/author-driven databases. That’s fine, but sometimes I want to search for something how I remember it. If you put enough time into tagging your entries and posting your reviews using the “notes” field, you can search with just about any keyword. There’s also advanced searching that allows you to look just for books you added to your library on a certain date, only things in a specific series, etc.
It’s easy to get started with Zotero. Just install either the stand-alone application or the Firefox browser extension.
The more time you spend building your library, the more robust Zotero becomes. For a while, it’ll feel like you’re doing a bunch of data entry to get the related-texts feature up and running. I promise, if you stick with it, you’ll have a really useful, really searchable database of your books.
(By the way, I’m not in any way affiliated with Zotero. I just use and genuinely love the product.)