Calibre for Readers – Part 2

calibre logoIn Part 1 of this series I discussed using Calibre for library management of your eBooks and a little about the things to consider in deciding if doing this made sense for you. I also outlined how to get an eBook from your Calibre library to an eReader that is connected to your computer. In this installment, we’ll cover a few other functions of the Calibre program you might find useful.

Copying from your eReader to Calibre

You’ve bought a book from Amazon or Barnes & Noble and it’s been downloaded to your Kindle or Nook. But you’d like a copy of it saved in your Calibre library. That’s a piece of cake. Go through the steps of starting Calibre and hooking your eReader up to your computer, outlined in Part 1. Click on the ‘Device’ button to display the books on your eReader. Highlight the book or books you want transferred. (You can highlight more than one, at least in the Windows version of Calibre, using the shift or control keys along with your mouse to highlight ranges or multiple individual files, just like you can do in other Windows programs.) Once the books are highlighted, right click and choose ‘Add to Library’ from the drop down menu.

Note that when you’re displaying the Library directory, the far left column indicates with a check mark those eBooks that Calibre knows are on the currently attached device. When displaying the directory of those on your attached device, this column shows those books in your library. However, there are situations where an eBook can be in both places and Calibre may not recognize this. If you’re adding books from your device to your library or the opposite and pick a book already in the place you’re copying to, Calibre will give you a warning, displaying the book titles and giving you the option to duplicate some, all, or none of the books. I normally click ‘cancel’ when I get this message to avoid ever duplicating a book. (My suspicion is this happens when there is some difference between the two book files, probably within metadata, and so it doesn’t see them as the same, however, when adding a book, duplicate checking only requires a title or title and author to be almost the same. I think it is also possible that Send to Kindle might make minor modifications to metadata which cause this.) If getting the files on your library and device in sync is a concern, picking the file which you believe is the “best,” removing the title from the other place, and copying the best using Calibre should take care of this. Using just Calibre to copy files back and forth to your eReader should also minimize these issues.

Format Conversion

In a post aimed primarily at authors I described the steps to create an eBook from a Word document. At a high level, this involved checking the document into Calibre, running a conversion process, possibly cleaning up the metadata, and finally copying the file to a folder on your disk drive so you can easily pick it up for whatever purpose. This same process can work to convert to different eBook formats (maybe from a mobi format, used on the Kindle, to ePub, which is used by most other eReaders, or the other way around). Calibre supports many different formats including those already mentioned along with PRC and AZW3 (two other formats used by Kindles) and PDF as the most pertinent for most people.

As a reader, you may not think there are many situations where this capability would be useful. I disagree. Here are a couple of things I’ve done that could potentially apply and might spark other ideas.

Already mentioned above is converting between ePub and Kindle compatible formats. If you own a Nook, Kobo, or other non-Kindle eReader and your favorite author has made their latest book available only at Amazon, as long as it is not DRM protected, you can buy it from Amazon and convert to an ePub to read on your preferred eReader. (To do this, you’ll need to install a Kindle app on your computer, smartphone, or tablet computer, send the purchased book to that device, then copy it to your computer to check it in to Calibre.) A few years ago Barry Eisler had a book published by one of the Amazon imprints that wasn’t available as an eBook from other vendors. He encouraged his fans to do exactly this. This comes in handy anytime a book is available in eBook form, but not the correct format for you needs (maybe an author friend sends you an ePub file for your Kindle).

When I travel I’ll make all the reservations for accommodations, plane, etc. online and get a bunch of emails I’ll need to refer to on the road. At one time I’d print them all out and do the paper shuffle whenever I needed to figure out when my flight was leaving or where I was staying that night. Of course I seemed to always want that information when I was in a restaurant and the papers were buried in the trunk of my car or back at the hotel. Now I don’t print any of it out except the boarding pass for the plane. It all gets copy/pasted into a Word document, converted to an eBook, and sent to the Kindle app on my phone using the Send 2 Kindle program which I discussed in a post entitled Stuff Your Kindle. Now all that information is at my fingertips.

The last thing is to make a limited distribution eBook for family or friends. I know, you’re wondering why there would ever be a situation where you’d want to do that. I have one friend who each year solicits Christmas stories from friends, gathers other public domain stories, and puts them all in an eBook to send out to the same group of family and friends. How about having your parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents writing down stories of their childhood to compile into an eBook for your family? Find a box of love letters between your great-grandfather and great-grandmother in the back of Mom’s closet? Transcribe them and make an eBook to share. Any situation where you have a collection of writings and a small group of people who would like a copy, you’ve got a potential eBook. This is much easier and cheaper than making a bunch of photocopies to send using snail mail.

But Wait, There’s More

Calibre has other capabilities that I know are there, but haven’t had a reason to take the time to figure out yet. One is the ability to gather news from multiple sources and combine them into an eBook for you to read at your leisure. Another is the ability to access your eBook library from about any device that connects to the internet (computer at work or a friend’s, smart phone, tablet computer) and to read via a browser on that device or email the eBook file to you, whereever you are. Maybe I’ll cover some of these in a future post or, even better, maybe one of you will figure it out and write a guest post for Indies Unlimited.

Author: Big Al

Big Al (who insists he only has one name, like Cher, Sting, and Madonna) spends his days writing computer programs that are full of typos, homonym errors, and incorrect verb usage. During his evenings, he writes reviews of indie books for BigAl’s Books and Pals and has recently taken over The IndieView, a website founded by indie author Simon Royle as a resource for indie authors, indie reviewers, and those who read either.

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