Welcome! This is a guide to setting up your own reading.csv to be displayed on Plain Reading. If you want the quickest start possible, then download the reading.csv template and fill it in, referring to this guide as needed. Then register for an account here if you haven't already, and upload your reading.csv file or connect to your Dropbox where you have it saved.

Preface: Why am I building this?

Because I love reading and keeping track of my reading, but I don't love the limitations of Goodreads and other social reading sites. In particular:

These considerations led me to start tracking my reading and notes directly in a CSV file. Then a problem arose: how to share my reading list with friends? I'm sure they wouldn't want to wade through my massive CSV file, and anyway I have some items and notes in there that I don't want everyone to see.

That's where Plain Reading helps: it transforms your reading.csv into a page that you can share with friends or the world.

Plain Reading is customizable in what data you want to include in your reading.csv. For more on the reading list format, read on!


Let's take a look at how your reading.csv should be formatted. Here is the beginning of a minimal reading list:

\Author - Title|Dates finished
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
Tom Holt - Goatsong: A Novel of Ancient Athens -- The Walled Orchard, #1|2019/06/18, 2020/5/8

If this minimal kind of reading list is what you want, just be sure to go to the Settings page in Plain Reading and disable the columns that you don't want to use, so that your reading.csv can be properly parsed and turned into a pretty webpage. You could go even more minimalist and disable the Dates Finished column if you just want to keep a list of titles of books you've read.

But by default, all columns are enabled. Here are those same two items, but now with all columns:

\Rating|Format, Author, Title|Sources, ISBN/ASIN|Dates added > Started, Progress|Dates finished|Genres|Length|Public notes|Blurb|Private notes|History
|🔊Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind|Vail Library B00ICN066A|2021/06/11 > 2021/09/20| |history, wisdom|15:17|Ch. 5: "We did not domesticate wheat. It domesticated us." -- End of ch. 8: the ubiquity of patriarchal societies is so far unexplained. It would make more sense for women (being on average more socially adept) to have formed a matriarchal society as among the bonobos. -- Ch. 19: are we happier in modernity? It's doubtful.|History with a sociological bent, with special attention paid to human happiness.
5|50% 📕Tom Holt - Goatsong: A Novel of Ancient Athens -- The Walled Orchard, #1|0312038380|2019/05/28, 2020/05/01, 2021/08/17|2019/06/13, 2020/05/23|historical fiction|247||||2019/5/1 p31, 5/2 p54, 5/6-15 10p, 5/20 p200, 5/21 done

On the Settings page in Plain Reading, you can also hide individual pieces of information, if you want to have them in your reading.csv but not in your pretty webpage. Many other things are customizable in Settings, such as the rating scale (1-5, 1-10, etc.) and the formats and their emojis.


Here are a few more examples. If at any point you wonder, "Why do I have to do it exactly this way, when Plain Reading doesn't even show all this information in My List?" the answer is that this information is being parsed and saved by Plain Reading, and will play a part in upcoming features such as a Statistics page.

This time, let's list items that you've finished.

\Rating|Format, Author, Title|Sources, ISBN/ASIN|Dates added > Started, Progress|Dates finished|Genres|Length|Public notes|Blurb|Private notes|History
\------ DONE
4|📕Robert Louis Stevenson - Insula Thesauraria -- in Mount Hope Classics -- trans. Arcadius Avellanus -- unabridged|1533694567|2020/10/20 🤝🏼 weekly Latin reading with Sean and Dennis|2021/08/31|latin, novel|8:18|Paper on Avellanus by Patrick Owens: https://linguae.weebly.com/arcadius-avellanus.html -- Arcadius Avellanus: Erasmus Redivivus (1947): https://ur.booksc.eu/book/18873920/05190d
2|🔊Total Cat Mojo|gift from neighbor Edith B01NCYY3BV|DNF 50% 2020/03/21, DNF 4:45 2021/08/06|2020/04/01, 2021/08/11|cats, for friends|10:13|I would've felt bad if I hadn't tried.
1|DNF 🎤FiveThirtyEight Politics 🎤The NPR Politics Podcast 🎤Pod Save America| |2021/08/02|2021/08/02|politics, podcast, for starred friends|0:30|Not very deep. Disappointing.
5|Randall Munroe - What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions|🔊Lexpub B00LV2F1ZA 6:36 -- unabridged -- published 2016 ⚡Amazon B00IYUYF4A 320 -- published 2014|2021/08/01, 2021/08/16 v2 🤝🏼 with Sam, 2021/09/01|2021/08/15, 2021/08/28, 2021/09/10|science| |Favorites: Global Windstorm, Relativistic Baseball, Laser Pointer, Hair Dryer, Machine-Gun Jetpack, Neutron Bullet.|It's been a long time since I gave highest marks to a "just for fun" book, but wow, this was fun. So fun that after listening to the audiobook, I immediately proceeded to read the book, for its illustrations. If I'd read this as a kid, I might have been inspired to become a scientist.

Whew! That covers all the odd cases that Plain Reading handles, except for the History column, which I've relegated to the Appendix at the bottom since not everyone is so… careful as to want to track every page of every day.

I'm open to new ideas, so if you want to add an item in your reading.csv in a different way that Plain Reading can't handle currently, then please let me know by adding a feature request at https://github.com/fpsvogel/plainreading/issues

Planned items

Next up: planned items, a.k.a. your "to read" list. One way to track this is to have normal items, but without a date started, and (if you want) with a date added, which is marked by a semicolon after it.

\------ PLANNED
|⚡Tom Holt - A Song for Nero|B00GW4U2TM| | |historical fiction|580
|📕Randall Munroe - How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems|Lexpub B07NCQTJV3|2021/06/27 >| |science|320

But this method has two disadvantages for listing books that you just might read: (a) it takes more time than just jotting down the title, and (b) it takes up a lot of space if you have a long "to read" list.

Here is a quicker and more compact way to jot down planned items:

\------ PLANNED
\HISTORICAL FICTION: ⚡Tom Holt - A Song for Nero, 🔊True Grit @Little Library, @Hoopla, 🔊Two Gentlemen of Lebowski @Lexpub
\SCIENCE: 📕Randall Munroe - How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems @Lexpub, 🔊On the Origin of Species, 🔊Weird Earth @Hoopla

By default, planned items are visible only to friends. To change this and other settings, and to discover even more features not covered here, see the Settings page: https://plainreading.com/settings


The History column is handy if you want to track your reading/watching/listening in detail.

In the future, Plain Reading will have a Statistics page where you can see charts about your reading habits. For Plain Reading to understand your reading histories, they must be written in a particular way. Here are some examples:

\------ DONE
4|🎞️Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Movement|https://worldchannel.org/show/eyes-on-the-prize/ https://jeffco.kanopy.com/video/eyes-prize|2021/07/28, 2021/09/01|2021/08/03|history|14:00||||2021/7/28 1:00, 7/29, 7/30, 7/31 x5, 8/1 x4, 8/2, 8/3 -- 9/1, 9/2
4|🎤Escriba Café|https://www.escribacafe.com/| | |portuguese,history,podcast| | |Most Portuguese podcasts are annoyingly chatty, but this one is the opposite: historical yarns intended to transport you into another time and place.||2021/7/12 0:20 Bella Luna, 13, 7/13 0:45, 7/17 0:30, 7/18-21, 8/1 As sete Maravilhas

Now let's go back to our novel Goatsong, way above in the "In progress" examples, to take another look at its History column:

5|50% 📕Tom Holt - Goatsong: A Novel of Ancient Athens -- The Walled Orchard, #1|0312038380|2019/05/28, 2020/05/01, 2021/08/17|2019/06/13, 2020/05/23|novel,history|247||||2019/5/1 p31, 5/2 p54, 5/6-15 10p, 5/20 p200, 5/21 done