Every so often for the past few years, I’ve been looking for a good solution for computerizing my comic book collection. As I tentatively get back into collecting them, I’ve got a good solid mess of things that were once cataloged, added since, and just loose in unorganized boxes and piles. I wanted to get organized and find a tool for that.
I considered various client applications, including Books, Comic Collector and Delicious Monster. I didn’t really like any of them too much. I tried Comic Collector under Crossover but it didn’t run correctly and I didn’t want to have to fire up a VMWare instance every time I wanted to deal with my collection.
After some looking around, I ran across a few online services. I tried Stash My Comics but didn’t like it too much. I finally settled on ComicBookDB as my new home. I did a little bit of data entry to test it out, and it is surprisingly easy. I really like that you have 2 concurrent sets in the same database, your collection and your wish list. Since in most ways lately, I’m using my inventory as a way to figure out what I’m lacking so I know what to look for, it is nice to be able to set up that wish list explicitly. Even better, if you add an issue to your collection that had been on your wish list, it is automatically removed. There is an even cooler feature of wish lists that I’ll get to later.
Looking at any individual issue you can easily add it to either your collection or your wish list. You also have the ability to do bulk addition to either. I have a printout with a lot of data in this kind of notation: 1,2,6-10, 14,15 etc. Well guess what, you can type that exact string in and the system will parse it out and enter those issues. I’ve been entering in the issues from my old printout via that method, and have gotten almost 4000 issues entered in a few days of not very focused effort. As I’m entering in what I have, if it is a title I want to complete my collection or fill in gaps, I also enter those issues in the wish list at the same time. Currently I have 3668 issues cataloged, and a wish list of another 517.
My experience has been that the database is pretty well populated, but not universally for my collection. About 98% of the issues in my collection were already submitted. For those not in, there are some where the title exists but not my issue and some where the title or even the publisher is not in the database. Users are allowed to add data. I have opted to skip all of those things and come back to them at the end, after I catalog all the rest of my issues. At this point, there are 55 issues in my collection that have no cover scan submitted so I guess I’ll be a good citizen of ComicBookDB and submit those.
I have opted to make both my collection and wish list public, although you have an option to keep them private. For some reason I don’t understand, you can see collections when not logged in but have to be logged in to see wish lists so if you are dying to see my wish list you’ll have to create an account. To be honest, I’d like to encourage anyone with an interest in comics to sign up and use it. That’s because of the network effects of the super cool feature I alluded to above. You can mark issues in your collection as being available for trade and/or sale, known as “the marketplace.” You can then take your wish list and compare it with the marketplace, so you have an easy view of every issue you want that someone is offering. I find that highly cool. The service is several years old, but even so I don’t have a huge overlap between what I want and what others have. The more people that get on the site, the better that gets so encourage your friends! I have a wish list to fill.
Overall, I’m very happy with ComicBookDB in under a week of using it. For my needs of maintaining my collection and manage what I’m looking for, it works great. You can enter many issues easily. It remains to be seen whether the value of the marketplace is mostly theoretical or if I can actually use it to find things I’m looking for. As I get back into the comics world, I think this tool will make it better. All my duplicates will soon be up on the marketplace, all my wishlists filled out, and I’ll be ready for the future. Somewhere in here, I need to read some of these funnybooks, right?
Update: I forgot to mention a feature, that you can export your collection and wish list as CSV. When I’m done, I’m going to export a copy of my wish list, put it in Google Docs and have a copy of my list out in the cloud. If I ever get an Android phone then I’ll be able to access it nearly anywhere.
Update 2: I was so excited to get back to cataloging that I forgot another thing – this Greasemonkey script actually makes the site significantly more usable. It makes the search box default to “Title” search, which is relatively fast. WIthout it, the default is “Entire Site” which is slow and I’m almost always searching on the title anyway. It also adds a few quick links and fills in a few deficiencies. I’d love to see the main site roll in these enhancements and make the Greasemonkey script unnecessary.