Dec 28 2008
Calibre is a software program that is developed by a devoted reader and brilliant programmer, kovidgoyal. The program is free and open source, available for MAC, Windows PC, and Linux users. This week I’m going to address Calibre as the eBook management tool, a program I think is a must for every ebook reader regardless of what device she uses (except maybe the Kindle). The Part 2 of this article will address Calibre as a format conversion tool
Calibre As an eBook Management Tool
In it’s most simplistic use, Calibre is intended to be an ebook organization tool. You can organize your books by author, title, series, publisher, personal tags, and personal ratings.
It doesn’t matter if you never plan to convert your books into any other format. This program can serve a library tracking system. You can make notes about each read, rate the book, and add identifying tags that can be searched later. It’s beyond easy to use this program for simply managing your ebook reading. Simply drag and drop all your files onto the Calibre window. Calibre will import the files and fill in the information in the “metadata” fields as best as it can. Your files can even be zipped or rar’ed and Calibre will read the files inside.
Metadata is the information that tells programs what the file is. For example, it can tell the ebook software what the title of the book is, who the author is, the publisher and so forth. Metadata is important for the reader because it helps with organization. .
Editing the metadata in Calibre is very easy. You can double click in any of the fields (i.e., the title, author, rating, publisher, tag, series) and navigate using the tab key.
You cannot edit the size or the date. I think that there should be two date fields. One should be the date added and another should be the publication date. Some readers (like me) enjoy sorting by publication dates, particularly for year end lists!
You can obtain information painlessly by signing up for an account (free) at ISBNdb.com and at LibraryThing.com. At ISBNdb.com, you’ll need to obtain an access key. To obtain the access key click on the following links:
- Developer Area, Remote Access API
- Manage Access Keys
- Generate a New Key (I left the comment and usage fields blank)
ISBNdb.com access allows you to obtain summary data (like a blurb), the ISBN No, the publisher, title and author. You simply need to enter the right title or author. Sometimes, you might need to enter the ISBN to get the right record to pull up.
Once you’ve pulled the information in from ISBNdb.com, you then click on the “Fetch Cover Image from Server.” For most print books, you’ll get the right cover based on the ISBN. On ebook files, you might need to add the cover image manually. Once the metadata is entered for each book, you can then use the sorting features.
Sorting the Data
You can click on the field names for instant sorting, either in descending or ascending order. For more advanced sorting, there is the word search function. Even better, though, are the two buttons at the bottom of the program screen: Browse by Covers, Browse by Tags
Browse by Covers mimics the iTunes Coverflow. It’s like a virtual bookshelf. Click on space to the left or right of a cover to advance backward or forward. Click directly on a cover to open another window to reveal the back blurb and other information. (Wouldn’t it be great it online bookstores implemented something like this as an alternate way to browse?)
Browse by Tags allows you to further refine your viewing search by author, series, publisher, format, ratings, and tags. I.e., you can search for every book you’ve tagged historical and hero in pursuit. The better you are at tagging, the more powerful your search results.
Calibre is the closest thing I’ve seen to being the iTunes for eBooks in its organizational abilities. I highly recommend it for everyone who downloads ebooks to their desktop. For the price (Free), I don’t think you’d regret it. And, if you find that you use the program quite a bit, you might find your way to donate a sum to the developer.
Next week: The big Sony Reader giveaway!!!! and then the week after that, we’ll revisit Calibre to see it’s awesome, powerful conversion abilities.