Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Calibre: The eBook Reader’s Best Friend, Part 1 of 2

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.



Editing Metadata

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  and at   At, you’ll need to obtain an access key.   To obtain the access key click on the following links:


  1. Developer Area, Remote Access API
  2. Manage Access Keys
  3. Generate a New Key    (I left the comment and usage fields blank) 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, 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.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


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    […] speaking of the practical: Check out Part I of DearAuthor’s two-part series on using the Caliber tool for e-book Management and file conversi…. Digg us! Slashdot us! Share the […]

  2. Sayuri
    Dec 28, 2008 @ 10:34:15

    Thanks to the pointer for this Jane. It is great for cataloging all my ebooks.

    I especially love the ‘series’ field. I am a librarian by trade and I have to have my books ordered by author then chronologically by series, stand alone titles coming last alphabetized. My anal-retentivness knows no bounds. This fabby program allows me to do this. YAY!

  3. BevQB
    Dec 28, 2008 @ 11:22:29

    Wait! WAIT! Let me see if I am understanding this… this… Calibre miracle program.

    Now, bear with me while this old programmer puts this into old programmer terms:

    Are you saying that Calibre gives me a way to edit an ebook’s hidden index fields? For example, a lot (oh, hell- MOST) of my old EC ebooks do not sort right in MSReader’s library display because, apparently, no one realized how important those hidden indexing fields were back in the wild early days of ebooks. So I have TONS of ebooks that sort by the author’s first name instead of last (assuming anyone bothered to place the author’s name into the index field at all), or if sorting by title (again, assuming anyone bothered to enter anything in the title index field), I have a ridiculous amount of books sorted by the words “The”, “A’, and “An”. (On the upside, a lot of those old ebooks aren’t DRMd.)

    So, am I understanding that Calibre will allow me to get in there and change those fields to what they should have been? Even though they’re LIT ebooks?

    Or are you saying that Calbre adds its own index/ metadata fields onto the ebook files and it is THOSE fields that can be modified? If so, then does that also mean that it will have no effect on how my ebooks display within MSReader’s library?

  4. BethP
    Dec 28, 2008 @ 11:29:25

    I look forward to the second part of your report on Calibre. I bought a Sony eReader as an early Christmas present for myself and then recently followed, from your page, the link to Fictionwise’s 100% micropay special. Unfortunately, the books that I wanted were primarily in Microsoft Reader format and I spent a couple of hours trying various programs to convert the MS .lit files into the Sony format. It’s a three stage process, but I think I’ve got it down now, thanks to ConvertLit GUI and Calibre. And now, thanks to this post, I can do some more editing to the index fields so that the book titles look right in Sony’s eReader program.


  5. Anne Douglas
    Dec 28, 2008 @ 12:10:04

    As a follow on from BevQB – for the love of all that is bibliophilic, no publisher should be putting out files without author/publisher metadata/index/tags in them.

    It is so simple to do, yet over and over again I pick up files with this data missing. I’m not even anal about cataloguing, I can’t imagine how this annoys those who are religious about it.

    I do need to spend many long hours trying to put my collection in some semblance of order though… yeah, I’m so looking forward to that.

  6. CJ
    Dec 28, 2008 @ 13:38:10

    Metadata editing is the reason I switched to Calibre from the Sony Library. Sony doesn’t offer editing, and it was very aggravating trying to figure out which of the many untitled books I was looking for. I was using Calibre for converting files, stumbled across the editing option, and decided to switch. And now? If a book comes up in Calibre with no title or author, I can just click on the “view” icon, see the book cover, and edit accordingly. It’s really beautiful. I might build a small shrine to Kovidgoyal in my library room. I’m particularly fond to the series and the tag options. They automatically create collections on my e-reader, which is fantastic as I always read or re-read series all at once.

    And it has it’s own page (forum?) on, where kovidgoyal frequents and can help you with any problem. He helped me figure out why Calibre wasn’t recognizing my 505, and helped me fix it (it was a conflict with the sony library).

    Seriously, I heart Calibre.

  7. Jane
    Dec 28, 2008 @ 13:45:27

    @BevQB: I don’t know that it actually edits the file itself until you “convert” the book and you can’t convert if it is DRM’ed. But, what it does do is link the file itself to new metadata information so that you can track your purchases, your files, and organize the books.

  8. MaryK
    Dec 28, 2008 @ 15:00:42

    I am loving, loving this program! If you edit the metadata using the button on the toolbar, it opens a metadata popup window for the highlighted book. There are a couple of very useful buttons in that window: a “swap the author and title” button and an “automatically format author sort field” button. It’s amazing how many ebooks have the title and author information backwards. This is an awesome program!

    I do have a question for experienced users. When I try to view some of my mobi EC titles in Calibre, I get an error saying the file is DRMed. But EC files aren’t supposed to have DRM, right?

  9. Jane
    Dec 28, 2008 @ 15:08:43

    @MaryK: EC should not have DRM. Can you convert the files?

  10. MaryK
    Dec 28, 2008 @ 15:16:18

    A word of warning. When you load an ebook into Calibre, the program creates a file in the directory you specified for Calibre’s use. This is not a permanent file – if you delete the file from Calibre (because it loaded funny or something) it’s deleted from the directory. So don’t delete your original files from your original ebook directory like I did or you’ll be digging in your backup files to recover them.

    Also, when you load a whole directory at a time, some of the books get skipped and you have to load those manually – I think it has to do with the backward author/title metadata.

    Of course, this is just stuff to keep in mind. It doesn’t change the fact that this program is awesome.

  11. MaryK
    Dec 28, 2008 @ 15:24:46

    @Jane: Calibre won’t convert it because it thinks it has DRM. It’s only the prc files from EC.

  12. Lucy Christie
    Dec 28, 2008 @ 16:43:17

    I love this program! Have spent way too much time today playing with it, though…

  13. Miki
    Dec 28, 2008 @ 20:23:31

    I love Calibre, and I think people will be very excited when they read your “part 2” bit about converting books, too.

    Something I think is important to say, though – this is a “beta” release of Calibre. That means the program is in the process of being written and tested, and it has the potential to be buggy at times.

    Kovid makes changes to it almost weekly – which is cool when there are bugs, because they generally get fixed fast! – and sometimes the only access to the newest features is through a command-line utility that I don’t think is always explained very clearly.

    The forum in mobileread is great for asking questions and sharing bugs, but sometimes the answers assume you know how to program in Python. Which I most definitely don’t. So if you don’t understand the answer, be sure to ask for clarification.

    I think even non-techie’s can get plenty of good things out of this program – I just think your visitors should be warned that there may be things in the program that they’ll have to wait to enjoy until the bugs are worked out and Kovid can build them into the GUI interface, rather than command-line.

  14. XandraG
    Dec 28, 2008 @ 21:20:40

    This works in Linux. I am in heaven. ’nuff said.

  15. Amy
    Dec 28, 2008 @ 21:48:45

    Thanks for this post. I recently discovered Calibre and I have not managed to fully utilized the program yet. Your post prompted me to go add a few tags. My system is a mess right now, with multiple folders on my laptop in use for downloaded books — ones created by each program I’ve tried, e.g., MS Reader, Mobipocket, Sony eBooks library, etc. I still haven’t figured out how to consolidated my folders yet.

    I have a question about Your reference to that comes in handy as I can’t find the cover image for Taken (by Tori Carrington) in my computer; it is driving me nuts since I’ve found the cover image for every other book I’ve purchased/downloaded. After reading your post, I headed over there and obtained an access key, but I can’t figure out how to use that access key? I used the search box to find the book page before and after I obtained that key and I see exactly the same information. But I can’t find a way to get the cover image; the one they post links to Amazon. I’ve read the Developer API info page and I must admit it sounds a bit like Greek to me; I just can’t figure out why I needed to get the key or how to utilize the key. Feeling a bit dumb here.

  16. Amy
    Dec 28, 2008 @ 21:59:23

    Jane, I just reread your post and figured out that I misread what you posted about where to get the cover image. [Duh!] Figured that part out now.

  17. KB
    Dec 28, 2008 @ 22:56:10

    I’m having the same problem as MaryK, some of my EC books are not opening and giving a DRM error.

  18. KB
    Dec 28, 2008 @ 23:31:15

    And Samhain :(

  19. Lorraine
    Dec 28, 2008 @ 23:43:22


    I was visiting Lora Leigh’s website and thought I’d share with you what one of the ladies over there posted in response to the DA Calibre entry.

    “PS all you authors out there…. there can be some personal info left attached to the files – like real names… Just an FYI”

    Hopefully, for the sake of your privacy, all personal info can be eliminated. Good luck!

  20. Emma Wayne Porter
    Dec 29, 2008 @ 00:10:19

    To get rid of the personal information, there are plugins available for Word 97-2003. Word 2007’s easier: Office Button/Prepare/Inspect.

    Hopefully your publishers pay attention to this sort of thing. If they don’t, authors should start.

  21. MaryK
    Dec 29, 2008 @ 10:53:16

    @Lorraine: Not just can be but is. I had to change the author name on several books because it was just wrong. I wasn’t sure if they were author names or editor names because I saw one several times. Fortunately for the author/editor, I’m not the gossipy type, and my memory is not good. ;)

    Seriously, never mind getting the metadata correct, failing to strip private metadata is a pretty egregious error for professional electronic publishers.

  22. MoJo
    Dec 29, 2008 @ 11:27:10

    Calibre won't convert it because it thinks it has DRM. It's only the prc files from EC.

    @MaryK and KB: PRC is a MobiPocket file extension. Unless I’m really missing some pertinent information somewhere, MobiPocket files are extremely difficult to backward engineer (i.e., convert FROM). I believe that’s why Calibre thinks it’s got DRM on it; it may not, but converting PRC file to something else is a nightmare and requires a lot of time and about 6 programs (I exaggerate, but still!).

    FYI, I never ever buy/download PRC files if I have any other choice just because of this issue.

    If anybody has successfully done this, I’d sure love to hear about it.

  23. BevQB
    Dec 29, 2008 @ 11:52:46

    @Lorraine: Excellent warning. I use ABC Amber’s PDF to LIT converter and, in addition to doing a simply HORRIBLE conversion, it is not unusual to see the original Word owner/ author names appear after the conversion. Just to be on the safe side, authors should go into their Word settings and change the owner name to admin or their pen name or something non-identifying.

    BTW, even though the ABC Amber conversion is awful, I don’t read anything longer than a short story in anything but MSReader because I’ve never found a way to bookmark the last page read in PDF or HTML formats. How do other people keep track of where they left off in an ebook?

    Calibre won't convert it because it thinks it has DRM. It's only the prc files from EC.

    I haven’t tried yet, but I have some old KML file extensions from Extasy Books that MSReader will no longer read. Should be interesting to see if Calibre knows what to do with that weird file type.

  24. MaryK
    Dec 29, 2008 @ 14:02:51

    @MoJo: Yeah, I’d stopped getting prc files because I hate the Mobipocket reader, but I’ve still got some older ones from before I knew better. Calibre won’t even open some of the prc files, though, because it thinks they have DRM. I have to browse out of the program and open the files directly. I’m already spoiled by being able to open most of them directly from Calibre!

  25. Jane
    Dec 29, 2008 @ 14:36:02

    @KB I’m going to look into this and see if I can come up with an answer.

  26. Jane
    Dec 29, 2008 @ 14:37:52

    @BethP Beth, use downconvert instead of expand and then drag the downconverted lit to Calibre. I think that makes it only two steps.

  27. Anna
    Dec 29, 2008 @ 15:16:20

    This is so cool. Just got the Sony 505 Reader for Christmas – yay! Thanks for the heads up on the program. :)

  28. KB
    Dec 29, 2008 @ 17:56:36

    Ok, I just deleted the whole library and started over, since 500 books was too much to figure out a pattern. I loaded 13 books, all from epubs. Only 6 came through with author and publisher info, and those are the only 6 that will open without the DRM error. I guess I’m losing metadata somewhere, somehow? I know absolutely nothing about that. Also, not one of them came through with their covers. :( I was really hoping this would be a good solution to getting rid of mobipocket (which I wouldn’t mind, actually, if it read other formats and allowed tagging). I’ll be interested to see if you find anything, thanks Jane!

  29. Lynne Connolly
    Dec 29, 2008 @ 18:38:59

    It would be fantastic except for a couple of things.
    I’ve been around the epub world for a while, and I have more ebooks than I do paperbacks in fiction, which is a lot. Calibre won’t take them all, it just hangs and breaks.
    And it reads html files as zip files. Big wtf here for that. Is that just Vista, or does it do it for everybody?

  30. Jane
    Dec 29, 2008 @ 18:45:18

    @Lynne Connolly I don’t have alot of epubs, but Calibre does make a copy of every book you import and html files are automatically zipped to save space.

  31. Jane
    Dec 29, 2008 @ 20:25:27

    @KB Apparently Kovid is fixing this in his next upgrade of Calibre.

  32. Grrrly
    Dec 29, 2008 @ 21:16:09

    jane, i think i love you. no, scratch that, i know i love you. i’m reading on my palm nearly exclusively these days, and i’ve got more books than i know what to do with. i’ve been trying to get them organized for what seems like forever, and finally got them all backed up in separate folders according to format a few months ago. i had some vague lofty notion that i’d file new books appropriately as they came in, and keep and update a spreadsheet with authors, series, publishers, titles, brief descriptions, and file locations, but calibre does it all so much easier. isbndb and librarything don’t have every single author and title i own, but they have enough that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel that doesn’t look like an oncoming train. i’m probably going to stick with mobipocket for reading for now, but it will be sooo nice to have all my files in one place and know exactly how to find the one(s) i’m looking for when it’s time to import them into mobi and from there to my palm.

  33. KB
    Dec 29, 2008 @ 21:29:58

    Yay, thanks Jane, I’ll keep an eye out for that update :)

  34. Lynne Connolly
    Dec 29, 2008 @ 21:44:53

    I can see I’m going to have to be patient with it. I wanted it to scan my library and put the books in, then alter them for myself. There is a program that does that, but then you have to put all the entries in for yourself. If there was a cross between My Ebook Library and Calibre that would be wonderful. Or if I could get My Ebook Library to search the sites that Calibre uses…

  35. BethP
    Dec 29, 2008 @ 23:13:11

    Jane – ConvertLit doesn’t like the Microsoft Reader files with DRM. So I have to use the ReaderKeyRecoveryTool as the first step to get the encryption key, then extract, then convert to LRF in Calibre. Now that I’ve finally gotten the steps down, I can do the conversion really quickly. It was just a learning process originally to figure out the steps and in which order to execute them.

  36. Anne Douglas
    Dec 29, 2008 @ 23:25:52

    So I decided to bite the bullet and start from scratch importing all my files to Calibre… 355 files later (although not with complete metadata, but all the authors/titles/publishers changed) I am creeping up on half way done.

    OMG… I’m cataloguing, now I’m having a freaking heart attack about how many $$ I have on my harddrive :)

    I knew there was a reason for not being organised!

    Oh, and I’m having the issues with certain PRC’s too. Not sure why, as they are from LI and Changeling and not DRM’d.

    Will be interesting when I try to do a batch convert of all the pdfs to ePub. Hopefully I don’t crash everything.

  37. MaryK
    Dec 30, 2008 @ 00:33:00

    @Anne Douglas: “OMG… I'm cataloguing, now I'm having a freaking heart attack about how many $$ I have on my harddrive :)”

    Tell me about it! I would’ve said I had 150 ebooks at the absolute most. I have 318!!

    Complete metadata isn’t that important to me right now. It’s so nice to be able to sort and resort and mark the one’s I’ve read . . .

  38. Jane
    Dec 30, 2008 @ 21:51:37

    There is a new version of Calibre available and it converts PRCs (at least the two I tried) just fine.

  39. MrFinch
    Dec 31, 2008 @ 17:43:43

    @BevQB, for reading PDF and HTML files, try using the MobiPocket desktop reader (free at or the free FBReader (not for PDF as I recall though). These two programs remember where you left off, and make for quite a nice reading experience.

  40. jydingo
    Jan 02, 2009 @ 00:17:37

    Wondering if you can clarify why this wouldn’t be useful to Kindle owners. Just curious.

  41. Jane
    Jan 02, 2009 @ 08:22:22

    @jydingo It works for the Kindle user who simply wants to organize their ebooks, but if you buy your ebooks solely on the Kindle, you’d also have to dl the files to your computer (and not just the device) to take advantage of the organizational features.

  42. KB
    Jan 02, 2009 @ 22:19:08

    Interesting, I downloaded the updated software and re-uploaded the same 13 books. This time none of the publisher/author information came through, 7 of the books got the DRM error and 6 of them opened (probably the same six as before, but I’m not sure).

  43. Jane
    Jan 02, 2009 @ 22:21:24

    @KB I assume that you deleted all the old files where you are storing the calibre books?

  44. KB
    Jan 03, 2009 @ 23:15:39

    Yes. I tried it again, this time deleting the books, then uninstalling the whole program and reinstalling it. Added in the same 13 books and am back to 6 that came through with their author and publisher info and opened and 7 that came through with no author or pub data and give the DRM error.

  45. Jane
    Jan 04, 2009 @ 20:45:12

    @KB I would go to and sign up and post your error message on the Calibre section of the message boards. Kovid is amazingly responsive and you might help him debug the program.

  46. KB
    Jan 04, 2009 @ 20:55:08

    Thanks, Jane, I’ll do that.

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  48. Stuart
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 13:37:54

    Thanks for this interesting blog/forum. I came across Calibre by accident a few days ago while trying to find an “iTunes for books”.

    My impression is that Calibre has nice features but is still quite buggy. I haven’t had the metadata problems that others have, and most of my books are scanned and so DRM hasn’t been an issue, but the cover-flow feature that is a great feature on iPod doesn’t work well at all. I have been through the hoops installing and uninstalling, rebuilding libraries etc, but no matter what I do the cover flow is always out of sync with the books, ie the cover shown won’t correlate with the book highlighted or with the name shown above the cover, and in fact there is no word wrap on the name so it is centred and then truncated front and end which makes identifying the book more difficult.

    I have also had problems with the program identifying one of my pdf documents as a microsoft word document, which I thought was weird.

    I have uninstalled Calibre and keep looking for an ebook library program without success, but will check on Calibre from time to time as the bugs are fixed. Cheers.

  49. Ebook Reader
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 22:51:05

    Thanks!! for this Work . Really very nice Work.
    Hi friends very good news is that Ebook Reader now use Calibre Software.It is very easy to use and understand to how can they use Calibre Software.Hi friends i have also a website which provides information about Kindle Ebook etc.It has very important concepts about the Kindle, Ebook Readers etc.

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  53. Spiff
    Jan 08, 2010 @ 11:44:39

    Looks nice but Book Collector from seems a bit more complete.

    Unfortunately this also does not seem very able to do audiobook indexing.

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  59. D Carl
    Jan 12, 2012 @ 18:35:25

    Just opened Calibre after using it for nearly a year to find that there are no books, authors, anything in the database!!!!!! Found the restore option, used it only to find there is nothing in my restored database.

    Has this happened to anyone else??

  60. Jane
    Jan 12, 2012 @ 18:36:36

    @D Carl: Can you find your original metadata.db file? Point your library to that.

  61. cdhakl
    Feb 01, 2012 @ 06:47:44

    I just received an ANDROID flat / pad PC today and have tried to load Calibre onto it. I have Internet access (WiFi & via cable) and all works fine. Cannot load Calibre though onto this pad (via memory stick or SD card). I see the download choices of format are: Windows, Apple, Linux and the “Portable” version. Is there anyway to install Calibre onto a PC pad which runs the Android OS?
    Just discovered this software and would really like to be able to use it on my new ‘I PAD’ “clone”……
    thanks for your time & efforts, Curt H. Queensland, Australia

  62. Jane
    Feb 01, 2012 @ 06:54:26

    @cdhakl No, there is no version of calibre that runs on Android OS.

  63. cdhakl
    Feb 01, 2012 @ 07:01:56

    Thank you Jane, for your almost instantaneous reply to my question. I will just have to continue to use Calibre on my desktop PC and convert / transfer any new downloads from that PC into my new “i Pad ‘clone’ “………… best wishes, Curt H.

  64. RB
    Aug 19, 2013 @ 17:12:59

    I previously used a reader that listed all books by file name so I have all files by author and each author file contains all books by that author, very simple.
    Calibre loads the book and uses metadata which in many cases lsist the program used to convert the book to a PDF file and the person who did it. This requires that all book data be entered one at a time. I have 3000+ books, I don’t have time for this crap so how do I get the program to load the books by file name?

  65. Jane
    Aug 19, 2013 @ 17:16:50

  66. tuxedo
    Nov 24, 2013 @ 13:36:28

    calibre is a piece of junk..does not even see my new samsung 10.1 2014

  67. raees
    Nov 30, 2013 @ 07:38:50

    hey dears,
    i downloaded Caliber its amazing for convert book from one format to other. but now here i struck, i already converted physiology as well as Anatomy but at robbins Pathology it converts only 1 blank page at the end of result , my pathology book is in HTML formate, can some one guide me please how can i get this book fully in pdf . thanks

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