Jan 18 2009
A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about a free program called Calibre. In the first post, we discussed what a great tool Calibre was for ebook management but the real beauty of Calibre is its iPhone/Sony Reader/Cybook interface. Calibre was first developed to assist Sony Reader users to add content to the device. Because it is open source, ebook readers with technological skills have added and enhanced Calibre to the point that it serves as a beautiful convergence program connecting your ebook library to both an iPhone and a Sony Reader. The key to this is Calibre’s ability to output content in “epub” format.
If you’ve read the Sunday articles here at Dear Author, you know that there are a number of formats for ebooks. There is a push amongst publishers and other ebook aficianodos (word doc) to create an industry standard and that format is ePub. Sony Reader and the Stanza application on the iPhone both read the ePub format. Calibre allows you to take ebooks from all over the web and convert them into epub format. I’ve converted hundreds of books from all different formats and generally, the transition is very smooth.
I’m not going to belabor adding books to Calibre as I blogged about that previously. In this article, I’m going to assume that you know how to add a book into Calibre and edit the metadata. The first step in conversion is making sure you have a non DRM’ed digital book in a format that Calibre can convert. Those formats are as follows: Mobi, Lit, PRC, ePub, ODT, HTML, CBR, CBZ, RTF, TXT, and PDF. PDF converts the worse and LIT converts the best. Set the Output to “EPUB” instead of “LRF”. (Output is found in the upper right hand area).
- What do I do with a Microsoft Word file (also known as a doc file)? I recommended opening the document and saving as “RTF” and then re-importing it into Calibre.
- What do I do with my PDFs? I recommend opening the PDF and saving as either an html or an RTF document first, and then converting the resulting file using Calibre.
In the dropdown box of the Convert Ebook button, is the selection “Set Conversion Defaults.” Here you can modify the look and feel of the book, the margin size, the metadata and cover, and finally, chapter detection for books that do not have a built in Table of Contents.
Having a table of contents is unnecessary for reading the ebook but can provide a nice navigational tool. In order to change the chapter detection, you must follow XPATH tutorial. XPATH is a bit foreign to me, but you only need to use this if it is absolutely necessary for you to have a table of contents and the original ebook did not do a good job in setting those out.
Once you have your configuration set, simply highlight the titles you want converted and press the button (which requires you to review each book individually) or select “bulk convert” in the drop down box. Once the books are converted, you can highlight the books you want to transfer over and then press “Send to Device”. It’s as easy as that.
The little hammer on Calibre’s upper right side is the Configuration button. The fourth icon on the left side is “Content Server”. You can set up a username and password for your collection. Clicking “start server” will launch a script that opens up your Calibre data to be read over the internet. To access your content via the iPhone, download Stanza. Open it and Click on “Online Catalog”.
You’ll be presented with a list of catalogs like Fictionwise and All Romance eBooks. At the bottom right hand side is a small plus sign. When you click on that, you can Add Catalog. Click on Add Stanza Catalog.
Give your catalog a name like Calibre or Personal Collection or whatever makes you happy. Then you’ll need to enter the URL for your Calibre catalog. First, you’ll need to know what your IP address is. You can figure that out by typing in “WhatIsMyIP.Com” in your web browser. (or by clicking the link). In the URL space in Stanza type in your IP address and at then end, add :8080/stanza and then Save. Again, that is http://IPAdress:8080/stanza. If you go back to Calibre, you’ll note that 8080 is the port through which Calibre communicates to the internet. Think of 8080 as the apartment number/room number to your building/house. The IP Address is the main building or house. And, of course, the main building is your computer.
Now you can access your Calibre library via the iPhone and anybook in ePub will be able to be download and read via the Stanza application.
The Always On feature.
If you have a computer that is always connected to the internet, you can set up a way to access the Calibre location no matter where you are, so long as you have cell service. For this, you need No-IP.com. Most people have internet connection via a DSL or Cable or even AOL. Unless you pay for a static IP address, your computer is assigned a “dynamic” IP which can change from time to time. If your IP changes, you need to edit the URL in Stanza or you won’t be able to access the Calibre catalog. A way to get around that is to sign up for a free service like NO-IP.com that can redirect traffic to your dynamic IP. You sign up for the service and then run NO-IP DUC program on your computer. This program updates your dynamic IP address constantly. So long as your computer, the Calibre server, and the NO-IP DUC program is running, you should be able to access your Calibre catalog from your iPhone anywhere and everywhere. Neat huh?
Get Kindle-like Content without the Kindle Price.
One thing that Kindle offers is Newspapers and Magazines but for a cost. You can get the same content nicely formatted for your Sony Reader or even the iPhone using Calibre’s Fetch News feature. I have absolutely no programming skills, but the folks at Mobile Read have been offering up “recipes” to create news content regularly. How does this work? Well, for the technologically challenged, like me, you simply click on “Fetch news” and then “Schedule news download”. There are a number of custom recipes for many of the popular newsites on the internet.
Simply click on the newsite you want to add and schedule the download. There’s even a Google Reader recipe so you can download all the items in your Google Reader each day and load them onto the Sony. Under “Configuration -> Interface” (remember, the little hammer?), you can set the program to delete the “news” from the library after it is sent to the Sony Reader.
I’m experimenting with a Dear Author recipe and once I figure that out, I’ll try to do some for our favorite romance places like Smart Bitches and so forth.
I hope these two articles give you the basics on how to use Calibre to interface with your iPhone reading program and your Sony Reader. It’s not as hard as it might seem at first. The key to this program is to remember that it is an open source free program and that you, as the user, play an important role in reporting bugs at mobileread.com so that each release is better, cleaner and more bug free. If you have any questions, drop a comment and we’ll see if we can help you out.