Video Vednesday: To-read/Amazon Wishlist hack

(on an iPhone/iPad/non-Flash-friendly device? Click here to watch on Vimeo, I think.)

In an effort to wrangle my ever-growing list of books I’d like to read, I’ve played with everything from hard-copy lists in pocket notebooks to Evernote, with a thousand .txt files in between.

My ideal list is:

  1. easiest to use on my computer (since I’m here most of the time)
  2. portable, so I can consult it when I find myself in an indie or used bookstore, grappling with overwhelm
  3. digital (because my handwriting sucks, and because it is easier to copy stuff digitally)
  4. updatable from multiple devices (i.e., is something I can sync between a handheld device and my computer, which is technically portable but which is such a hassle to haul around, I avoid it where I can)
  5. provides a way to sort by genre, author, etc
  6. contains a reminder of how I came to find this book (i.e., reco) and/or other context

The hack I describe in the video uses Amazon’s Wishlist function and their browser add-on, the Universal Wishlist tool. It’s easiest to describe how easy it is by showing it (hence, the video), but basically, you plug the title of the book you like and “Amazon” into your browser’s search field, then click on the inevitable Amazon link that comes up. Instead of adding to your wishlist then and there, you click on the Universal Wishlist add-on, which brings up a little dialogue box that includes a space for comments. In this comments field, you add whatever context and/or reco reminders you like.

This is really a few steps away from my ideal book-saving tool. I’m hoping that someone makes my perfect iPhone app: one that would let me add context or other note, include a cover graphic, sort, sync and work offline. This way, I do have a list of books I can consult in the store, but it’s dependent on network coverage, plus I have no access to my notes. I used text lists for a long time, but I realized at some point that I remember things visually, and text leaves out too much information to be helpful.

As always, comments are appreciated, I’m increasingly interested in refining my quickie-video skills, as evidence points to a not-small chunk of the population who, for some completely baffling-to-me reason, enjoy getting their information via video. (And this is not a fishing expedition for compliments, I know that there’s something nice about getting to know the bloggers you “know” via video and audio as well as text; it’s just that when it comes to learning stuff, I find myself impatient with even the best video screencasts, for the most part.)

Oh, and if my perfect book-collecting iPhone app exists already, PLEASE let me know. I’m tempted to partner with someone to build one, but I’d be a sad sack liar if I added a big project like that to my plate right now.



    1. I’m on it, but I’m also on Shelfari and LibraryThing. I never could decide which community worked best, possibly b/c none had reached critical mass when I signed up.

      I’ve downloaded the iPhone app for GoodReads and will give it a try. One more goddamned bucket, but hey, it’s in the name of science. (And since all the Shelfari people seem to have been screaming for an iPhone app for over a year now, looks like GoodReads is the way to go web-wise, too.)

  1. I have the same criteria for my perfect “to read” list and also haven’t found anything that lets me do all that I want. I, too, use the Universal Wish List, but I use it through my Shareaholic thingy (which, by the way, I learned about from you — thanks.). I have something like 500 books on my Amazon list. I have no clue why I wanted to read many of the books that I initially put on the list, but there they are, just in case.

    1. I’m glad you like the Shareaholic doohickey. I weed out my Amazon list periodically, which helps. Still, it’s a mess.

      Ultimately, I figure I’m reading the books I really want to read, and this should all be looked at as an exercise in letting go. Man, where in my life *don’t* I have clutter issues?

  2. Love that technical term – Amazon Wishlist thingamy jiggy!

    For someone like yourself reading 52 books in less than a year I have no doubt you can get through them all. You go girl

      1. Thank you. That worked perfectly! It’ll take me awhile to add my data (currently hiding in my address book — filed under BOOKS (first name) Fiction (surname) and BOOKS (first name) Non-fiction (surname). Unwieldy, yes, but at least it allowed me to have the list on my iPhone. This new system will be so much better. Thank you again!

      2. One more question (sorry!) Is it possible to NAME the lists? I’d like to create TWO lists — one for fiction and one for non. That’s just the way my slightly OCD brain works. It looks like this should be possible but I can’t quite figure out how to do it. Or am I just being a little crazy here?

      3. You can create multiple lists on, which you can name whatever you like—I have one mysterious one called “holding pen.”

        Unfortunately, I don’t think you can access them from the iPhone app. Think they’d listen if we all started requesting?

  3. So the Amazon Universal Wishlist tool works on any website, right? I would’ve shown that in your vid to distinguish just adding things to your wishlist like regular. (But that’s because I’m less familiar with it so it interests me.)

    I use GoodReads but not to track what I want to read. My system (uh, not so much system-like) is far more subject to whim. I have a little notebook on my desk by my computer with a bunch of titles in it. I sometimes add bookmarks to amazon or wherever to the off-the-edge part of my toolbar (it’s somewhere I’ll see it periodically). And there’s a couple tacked to my bulletin board.

    Mostly, if a book review/mention grabs me, I’ll see if the library network has it and then request it.

    1. So the Amazon Universal Wishlist tool works on any website, right?

      Pretty sure, based on that page they have for it. I’ve only used Chrome since I found the thing, though, so I don’t know.

      I am all for whim, and whimsy, and things whimsical. I definitely have books “jump the line” when they really grab me. Really, this is about me assuaging/managing/indulging my low-level anxieties.

  4. hi colleen – awesome tip, and just wanted to share, for reading stuff that you come across on the internet, completely rocks my world. If you come across anything on the internet you want to read later, you just click on the Instapaper icon that you add to your browser, then anytime you go into your instapaper account online, it lists every webpage you added until you read it and clear it from your list. Great solution for running into all this awesome stuff on the internet that I think Oooh I *should* read that when I have time! Also has an iPhone app so you can read when sitting in the park!

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