Calibre: ebook management software

Once you have an ereader for a while you need some system for managing the book, a library.  When you have physical books that means getting shelves and maybe organizing them according to some system.  When you have ebooks it means some sort of database system.  Some people use an excel file or basic database.  This works ok for a little while, but after you have more than 100 ebooks, excel or self made database just doesn’t cut it.

I use Calibre.  It is a free, open-source ebook management software.  It has a variety of features, but I only use a few of them.  It is available for Windows, Mac and Linux.


Link to Demo

The main way I use Calibre is as a library.  I can sort by book, author, publisher, etc.  I can filter if I know there was a particular word in the title but cannot find it by sort.  There is also a form of coverflow like what the ipod uses for album cover sort.  Calibre imports the file and then organizes it in its own file system.  This will annoy some that want to keep their own control over the file system, but I think it works well.  It notifies you when you have duplicate content (although the names need to be the same).

The main problems I have is lack of effective sync. I can’t hook up my phone or kindle and have it automatically sync content.  It cannot login to Amazon and automatically download new books.  But as far as I can tell, no other software does this either.

The main benefit of the library system is that it ads meta-data to the book file if it does not have it.  It searches ISBN database (and other sources) for the data and will add it (and the cover).  What I do not like about this is that it sometimes imports star ratings for books.  I use star ratings as a way to show whether I have read the book or not, so I clear those if it imports them.

Format conversion

If you have a ebook reader you will have to deal with format conversion at some point in time.  (Here is a comparison of various formats.) Kindle uses a variant of the mobipocket format.  The Nook and Sony readers use a variant of epub (but if DRMed they cannot read one another’s books).  Many ebook readers can natively read PDF or .doc file formats, but often they are not great at it. Calibre will convert formats according to your preferences.  It does a pretty good job at this and will store multiple formats of the same book without showing them as duplicates.

Other features

Calibre has many other features, but I do not really use them.  Here is a list from its website.  The downloading news is probably most interesting.  It will convert news sites or magazines and sync them to your device (like an RSS reader).  I do not use this but many others do and are quite happy with it.  I have tried the ebook syncing (it is only one way and usually puts files in the wrong place for a kindle, so I stopped using it.)

  • Library Management
  • E-book conversion
  • Syncing to e-book reader devices
  • Downloading news from the web and converting it into e-book form
  • Comprehensive e-book viewer
  • Content server for online access to your book collection

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