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Dear Jane: How do I use the user columns and saved...

This is part two of using Calibre to create a catalog of your paper library. However, the information below can be useful to those who use Calibre for organization of their digital books.

There is a screencast for this which you can find here (full screen) or embedded below. Screencaps and a written version follows.

Once you have the books entered into your library, you can then manipulate the data.   This screencast shows you how to edit your metadata and utilize the column features of Calibre to help you search and sort the books in your catalog.

Editing your metadata is as simple as selecting a book entry and clicking the edit meta information button. You can also double click within the fields and start typing. The entire text is autoselected for you.

A more powerful feature is the “custom column”.   With Calibre 7, users can create their own columns. Go to Preferences and then interface.

Use the green and red buttons to add and delete user create columns.   Here I’ve created “want” “read”, “price”, “reader comments”.    You can define the type of column.   Want and Read are Yes/No while Price is an integer and Reader Comments is long form text.

I marked the books that I want to buy under “want” as yes.   I’ve marked books under “Read” as “blank/Yes/No.”   Blank means “To be read”.   The yes/no type column actually has three choices.   This is important to remember for searching purposes. Also important to remember is the lookup name for the user generated column. The lookup name will be vital for searching.

Now that I have marked my wants, I can create a buy list.

First, I am going to create a custom search.   For all my user created columns, I need to use # in front of the lookup name for the column. For “want“, I would enter in the “search box.”


I am going to save this search by naming it in the “Saved Searches”   (Click and start typing).   I’ve named this my “To Buy List” search.   Click on the green plus sign. You can double check by clicking on the saved searches drop down box.

You can also create a TBR search by


The false means that there is no entry at all (neither yes or no).   Enter “TBR” (or whatever you would want to name this list) in the “saved searches” box and then click the green plus sign to save.

So now you have a searchable and sortable list for your wants and your TBRs.   You can continue to create as many columns and saved searches as you want.

But let’s say you want to take your buy list with you.   You can create a catalog of these entries or your entire library.   Let’s say you want to take your buy list to the store.

Run your “ToBuyList” search.   Select all the books (using command or ctrl +A).    Then, click the gray arrow next to   “Covert E-Books” and select “create a catalog of books in your calibre library.”

You will then be given the option to create four different types of catalogs: CSV, Epub, Mobi, and XML.

You also can choose what information is included in your catalog.   For shopping purposes, you probably only need a little bit of information but it’s up to you how much or how little you want in your catalog away from the computer.

CSV is short for comma separated values and you can create a word table or excel spreadsheet based on CSV.   This might be the easiest for you to take with you.   Epub and Mobi catalogs are little books and have hyperlinks for categories.   It’s pretty cool. You can keep this buy list on your device like a Sony or Kobo Reader or on your Kindle (choose Mobi) or simply print it out and stick it in your purse.

That’s the nuts and bolts of how to create a user defined column, saved searches, and a printable catalog for your purse.

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


  1. Terri
    Jun 20, 2010 @ 11:45:40

    Is there a way to use Calibre to break DRM or whatever the codes are to get my paid for and downloaded B&N reader and Kindle for PC books on my Sony?


    An E-newbie.

  2. Maili
    Jun 20, 2010 @ 12:56:22

    *clings* Thank you so much for this, especially the buylist suggestion. I had no idea Calibre has this feature. I’ll give this a try later. Thank you!

  3. SandyW
    Jun 20, 2010 @ 13:29:17

    @Terri: No, calibre does not remove DRM. It does all sorts of other cool stuff, including converting books to and from different formats. But you have to deal with the DRM separately.

  4. Statch
    Jun 20, 2010 @ 13:32:28

    Between this post and the previous one, I have everything I need to start using Calibre to manage my entire library – books and print – and abandon the separate spreadsheet I’ve been using. Now I just need to find time to get the spreadsheet info over to Calibre and fix all the metadata. Thanks so much for your time and all the valuable information you give us!

    On the custom columns, I’ve been using the ‘tags’ feature of Calibre to manage my TBR list. (I have an ‘Unread’ tag that I remove when I’ve read the book.) I thought I would switch to a custom column for Read/Unread, but I use the Unread tag on both my Touch (Stanza groups) and my Sony Reader (collections) to tell me which books I haven’t read. I think the custom column (Yes/No) wouldn’t work for that?

  5. Jane
    Jun 20, 2010 @ 20:15:08

    @Statch You could use the Yes/No custom column by creating a search for the TBR list and then when you have all your TBR books in your main page, highlight and then export to your Sony Reader. I’m not sure about the Touch, though. I think that the custom columns are recognized by the built in Calibre OPDS catalog.

  6. Terri
    Jun 21, 2010 @ 05:25:02

    Thanks, Sandy. I was afraid of that.

  7. Sandra
    Jun 21, 2010 @ 05:27:34

    Thanks so much for these two articles. I’ve been looking for a way to catalog my print books. I downloaded demo versions of a couple of commercial programs, but wasn’t ready to commit to the purchase price. I hadn’t considered Calibre, as I don’t have a reader, and I thought it was for ebooks only. I’ll definitely check it out.

    Despite my lack of a reader, I have amassed a number of pdf and epub titles that I read on my PC. Any chance of an article on the basics of how Calibre works?

  8. Estara
    Jun 21, 2010 @ 06:52:26

    If I hadn’t in the meantime fallen in love with and their way of cataloguing books, I’d definitely use this. Goodreads also allows exports of book lists. I guess I’ll keep my ebooks run by calibre and all my books slowly but surely listed in goodreads.

    The downside of course that the community discussion and review function of Goodreads depends on the site being in existence, heh.

  9. Mireya
    Jun 21, 2010 @ 08:12:02


    Sandra, watch the videos uploaded in the Calibre website. They are really easy to follow and all you will need is a notebook and a pen to take some notes.

  10. Worldwalker
    Jun 24, 2010 @ 17:12:55

    @Sandra: Calibre has a nice internal viewer, so you don’t need an ebook reading device to enjoy your books on the computer. Feel free to visit us over on MobileRead if you have any calibre questions. The developers hang out there, along with a bunch of us enthusiasts.

    Oh, a quick note: calibre is currently in version 0.7, not version 7. It’s still on its way to version 1.0.

  11. gwen hayes
    Jun 27, 2010 @ 20:01:23

    I have spent the weekend adding my audiobooks to Calibre. It just makes more sense for them to be with my books rather than my music.

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