Scanner for Zotero Gets Metadata on Your Droid

Pile of books

I tend to think about things in a very mechanical sense. I like making Linux scripts for repeated tasks, my routines are strict and emotionless, and when I usually spend time trying to figure out the most efficient way to do things before being able to move on it (which might be a post unto itself, but I digress).

These are some of the reasons why Zotero is such a useful tool: it allows me to organize lots of my web-based research in a machine grokkable (but also MLA compliant) list that can easily be imported into a paper or saved for future reference on Zotero proper.

This worked tremendously well for born-digital articles (and the existence of Zotero 3.0, with a plug-in for Chrome as well as a standalone version, makes me the happiest person in the tri-state area) but it faltered a little when it came to actual physical texts. This may sound like a first-world problem (and, it is) but I really didn’t like manually entering book information. More than didn’t like it, I was at a really frustrating point in the lifecycle of an idea, namely, the place where you can conceive of a solution, but are not skilled enough to put it into practice. After all, the machines have a well established way or organizing books progammatically already – bar codes. My Android phone has a barcode reader – why can’t I let them talk to each other?

That’s why I was so happy to discover Scanner for Zotero. Made for the Android Market by John M. Schanck, Scanner for Zotero is as dead simple as an application can be, yet it makes inputting physical book information much, much easier. After linking it to your Zotero account (via generating an API key – a largely painless, if slightly inelegant procedure), you just click “Scan New Item” and point the Barcode Reader at the barcode of the thing you wish to catalog. If all the corresponding metadata checks out, click “Upload” and you’ll find the entry waiting for you in Zotero proper.

This is my favorite kind of smartphone utility: there isn’t any room for tips or tricks. It does what it says, with no errors that I’ve come across. Scanner for Zotero isn’t free, but it is well worth the 1.99 that Schank is asking. If you own an Android device and use Zotero with any kind of freqency, you owe it to yourself to pick this up. If you are looking for more extensive Zotero functionality on your Android device, see Mark’s review of Zandy earlier this week.

Photo “Pile of Books” by Flickr user ktheory / Creative Commons licensed

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