On this blog every Tuesday and Friday I write about story techniques, structure, and/or publishing. Comments and questions are welcome. I also have a personal blog, Amy Deardon, on which I write about a variety of topics purely as they catch my fancy.

I've written one novel, A Lever Long Enough, that I'm honored to say has won two awards. In my life BC (before children) I was a scientist who did bench research.

My book, The Story Template: Conquer Writer's Block Using the Universal Structure of Story, is now available in both hard-copy and e-book formats. I also coach would-be novelists and screenwriters to develop their story. YOU CAN CONTACT ME at amydeardon at yahoo dot com.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Organizing my Kindle Books

Kindle is an amazing device, but it still has limits in its ability to organize books. I have enough books that I don't want to search down my list every time I'm looking for something to read. So I've been experimenting with different ways to organize, and have found a way that works well for me. I'd love to hear if you have other tricks and ideas on this also! My process of organization is still far from perfect.

For those of you who have a Kindle, you know that you can create Collections (folders) on the device and then put your books into one or more folders. So, say you want to find a writing techniques book, you just have to look in that Kindle Collection and browse through to choose what you want. For my Kindle I had 12 Collections, including a "To Read" and a "Reference" folder. Since the Kindle screen only shows 8 Collections at a time, I had to scroll through even the Home page to see the entire contents rather than being able to take in everything in one glance.

The Kindle is capable of storing, what is it, 1000 books? Something like that. Still, I enjoy the Amazon feature of being able to take a book off my Kindle if I know I'm not going to be reading it in the next few months because I don't like cluttering up my machine. Just like a regular bookshelf: I used to keep my "active" print books on the shelf near my desk, and the rest went in another room or in the basement. Since I've gotten a Kindle I am slowly getting rid of most of my print books, and love the extra bookshelf space. On my Kindle I don't want to read through every single title even in a particular category on my Kindle, because for some of my categories I have more than 60 books. I have more than 100 in "Fiction." Most of my books I have archived, or in other words, taken off my Kindle.

To archive, Amazon stores your books for you in what is called "The Cloud," that big hard drive in the sky. To read any book that isn't already "on" your Kindle, simply go to "Archived Items" and pull up the title. The WiFi or 3G capabilities in the Kindle download the book to your Kindle in a few seconds. You're good to go.

There are (at least) two limitations with storing Kindle books. The first is that, on the Kindle device, you can make only one level of Collection. There are no subdivisions; to put one book into Historical Fiction category and another into Adventure Fiction, you have to make two separate folders -- you cannot put both folders within your Fiction folder. Too many Collections make too many things (books or folders) needing to be searched through. My discomfort with busy screens means that I can't use overly specialized Collections, so must archive books to avoid not being overwhelmed while going through my one-level Collections, which leads to problem #2...

The second problem with organizing Kindle books is that, when archived, they're only in a list by title or author. There is no option to categorize. This is why I carried more books on my Kindle than I was likely to read in the next few weeks -- maybe 100 -- because I didn't want to forget about their good information that I wanted to get to sooner than in five years.

But this became a circular problem: cluttered Kindle, or unmarked archives list? What to do?

A few weeks ago when I was particularly frustrated searching for a book I couldn't find because I couldn't remember the title or author, I decided to figure out a better solution. What I came up with is not perfect, but not too clunky and frankly I can't think of anything better. If you have a better system, I'm all ears.

I decided to use my computer as a second record of my books to be able to categorize archived items. I used the free app from amazon, although I'm sure Calibre or other book programs would also work. Here's what I do:

On the app on my computer I developed categories. I didn't want to download each book onto my computer since I think they're OK in the cloud (and downloaded books clutter the program), but I still have a list of all the books linked to my account. I simply sorted all titles, archived or not, and categorized them on my computer. The next step was liberating -- I went through my Kindle and got rid of all but about six books, plus my reference file (dictionary, Bible, and Archives). The six books are in my "To Read" Collection, compact enough to see the list on one screen with two spare places, and how cool is that to have a single Home page!

As I finish a book I simply archive it. To consult my book list for replacements etc., all I have to do is go to my computer to check out what I've earmarked to read next. It's not perfect, since without my computer I'm flying blind, but this system DOES make me happy with decreasing clutter, and works reasonably well.

OK, so do I have a problem, or do multiple screens of Kindle books bother anyone else?

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