Would you consider yourself a cookbook lover? How about a collector? Or even a cookbook addict?
If you answered yes to any, then Eat Your Books is a product you might find useful.
Eat Your Books is a subscription-based cookbook search engine.
The EYB engine has more than 2,000 cookbooks indexed among its total library of more than 86,000 food books. And the numbers are growing, both in terms of new cookbooks added to the site, and the number of books that are indexed. A different way to look at the numbers is to consider that among the indexed books (and a few magazines and recipe-intensive blogs), there are more than 450,000 searchable recipes.
The service is free for up to five cookbooks, or for more cookbooks, pay a small monthly fee of $2.50 or buy an annual subscription for $25.
Register your account and start adding your cookbooks to your virtual bookshelf. You can type in the ISBN number (found above the barcode, usually on the back) of your cookbooks, or search by title and then click add to your bookshelf.
EYB gave IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) members a free membership to the service, so I took it for a spin.
I have 412 cookbooks and I spent an entire Sunday adding books to my account. It was fun, really, as I rediscovered treasured books I hadn’t looked through in ages, which may have slowed down my input speed as I thumbed through some old gems.
There seems to be some duplicates in the database, and occasionally I just clicked on the version that had the most EYB members, meaning others before me had added that particular book to their bookshelf. Part of the issue is publishers issuing new ISBN numbers for subsequent editions, and part may be due to the old 10-digit ISBN system versus the new 13-digit system.
Of my 412 cookbooks, 392 were in the EYB database (below), and among those 392 books, 155 have been indexed.
So my searching capability to find recipes in my own library is based on 155 books, not the 392 books I have that are also on the EYB database.
Still, 155 books to search through isn’t chump change, and as more cookbooks are indexed that number will grow. You can even “request” a cookbook to be indexed, although that doesn’t guarantee it will be. If enough members request an index, EYB will move that book up in priority on the indexing schedule.
To illustrate how the searching works, let’s say that I want to find a recipe for strawberry shortcake. From My Bookshelf, I click on the Recipes tab and type in strawberry shortcake in the search box.
The instant results show that I have 29 cookbooks with a strawberry shortcake recipe (above). I can scroll through the list to see which of my cookbooks have a strawberry shortcake recipe.
The engine does not have the actual recipe. I have to locate the physical cookbook on one of my many bookshelves to see the actual recipe.
I can, however, click on the recipe titles in the list of 29 results to see a short ingredient list, which may help me narrow down which recipe I want to find.
I clicked on the strawberry shortcakes from The Essential New York Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser and a list of main ingredients popped up (above). If someone had reviewed this recipe, I’d be able to click through and read the review, or see a note left by another EYB member.
I can create a printable shopping list by clicking on the add to shopping list tab on the right (see above graphic).
If I had added other recipes to my shopping list, all the ingredients I need for as many recipes I had added to the shopping list would appear.
Since the actual recipes are not included in the database, the amount of each ingredient needed isn’t displayed. You still have to locate your book and copy down the specific amounts, but at least this program will provide you with a list, sorted by category (chilled foods, dry goods, fresh fruit & veg, etc.) and room to fill in the quantities.
You are not limited to searching for recipes in just the cookbooks you own. Back to my previous example of strawberry shortcake, when I search the entire indexed database, 272 recipe results return and I can now decide whether or not I want to purchase another cookbook because frankly, 29 strawberry shortcake recipes are never enough. (Kidding).
EYB is a relatively new service and as more members join and participate, the richer the database will become with more ratings, notes and reviews, as well as the swell of new cookbooks and books indexed added each week.
Besides the cookbook library, EYB is adding indexed magazines and even popular recipe blog sites. Currently, select issues of Cooking Light, Cook’s Illustrated, Bon Appetit and Fine Cooking are indexed in the database.
Conclusion: Since the service is free for up to five cookbooks, it’s worth signing up and inputting five of your cookbooks so you can play around with the service to see if you want to commit to a $2.50 monthly fee, or save $5 off the monthly fee by purchasing the annual fee for $25. Try to select five books that are indexed on the site. It’s easy to determine, as a check mark appears beneath the book image if it is indexed.
I can’t tell you if the $25 annual subscription is worth it for you, but I can tell you that after playing with the engine for a month now, I would happily hand over $25. The service is not only valuable to me as a cook with more cookbooks than a sane person ought to have, but as a food writer, I am constantly researching topics through my library collection. Eat Your Books makes research for my job much easier.
To learn more about Eat Your Books, visit http://eatyourbooks.com