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Using Kindle Collections Plugin for Calibre

Introduction

Organizing your books on the Kindle device is one of the greatest struggles (and one of the greatest flaws) of the Kindle devices.  I admit to not being encouraged by Kindle Fire screenshots that user organization will be improved with the new devices.  This screenshot, for example, shows only the standard sorting features.

About a month ago, Kindle did release updated features on its computer apps which allows you to create collections on your laptop or desktop using the computer app and then importing those collections onto the device.  Read more here. There are limitations to this:

  1. The Computer Apps are buggy and take time to load.  To reduce the bugginess, I have downloaded my entire Kindle library and when I open the Kindle 4 Mac program, I wait until the entire library is loaded before I try to do anything with the Kindle 4 Mac program.
  2. The collections are imported onto the device, but not the books in the collections.  Thus a book in a collection on your PC will not show up in the collection on your Kindle device unless the book is downloaded onto the Kindle device.
  3. Synching capabilities often result in multiple versions of the same collections when you are editing on the device itself.

If you are a Calibre user, and if you aren’t, you should look into it, a programmer named meme at MobileReads created a Kindle Collections plugin which you can download here.    This post walks you through the install of the plugin and the basic usage of the plugin.

The more books you have on your device, the slower your device works particularly when loading the menu and the collections.

Step 1.  Install Plugin

Gather your Kindle, a kindle cord, download Calibre, and the plugin.  Hook up the Kindle to the computer, open Calibre, and install the plugin according to instructions here.  Once you have installed the plugin, you will need to restart Calibre.  You must have your Kindle connected to your computer to operate the plugin.

Step 2.  Customize Plugin

After Calibre is restarted, go to Preferences -> Plugins.  You will need to find the Kindle Collections plugin which is located under “User Interface Action plugins” or type “Kindle Collections” in the search bar.  Highlight the plugin and then click “customize plugin” button.  Suggested customizations include:

  • Creation of automatic tags:  I do not advise using this feature if a) you have a ton of books on your device or b) unless your calibre metadata is very clean. If you download tags from Amazon or another source, it is likely that you are going to have thousands of tags with only one book in them.  Plus, if creating collections based on authors is a nice idea if you only have five or six authors. More than that and again, you’ll have pages and pages of collections with only one book. Collections are to help you organize, not create more pages on the device to scroll through in order to find your books.
  • Preserve existing collections. Check this if you have collections on the Kindle device you don’t want deleted.  These are collections that you have created on the device and not through Calibre.  Uncheck if you want to control all the collections through Calibre.
  • Ignore uppercase/lowercase.  This means if you have tags that are paranormal and Paranormal, Kindle Collections will treat these as one tag instead of two different tags.

Read more about the plugin here customization features here.

Step 3  Creating collections

You can create user categories in Calibre and this can be used as the basis for your Kindle Collections.  Your user categories can be simple such as “Read, TBR, Unread”.  Or perhaps they are genre specific:  ”Paranormal, Contemporary, Romantic Suspense, Historical”.   Again, if you become too granular in your user categories, you may end up with dozens of collections.

The Kindle Collections icon shows up in the bottom of your Calibre screen. I have the goodreads plugin installed and it shows up next to the Kindle Collections:
Kindle Collections icon

Automatic Collections

 

You can create collections based on: Author Sort, Authors, Publishes, Read, Series, Tags, Title, and User Categories.  (See my advice in Step 1 re using these automatic collections).
automatic collections

Manual Collections

You can create manual collections.  Create a collection by typing in the name of the collection and pressing the green plus sign.
manually create a kindle collection

Then select your newly created collection in the dropdown box on the left, scroll your list of titles, sorted alphabetically, and click the green plus sign to add.
manual add to kindle collection

If you have a large library, this can be tremendously time consuming.  Once you hit “Save”, the collections will be sent to your Kindle.

Custom Category *Recommended*

Create a custom category for your Kindle Collections.  Right click in the title/author/date menu bar area. Select “Add Your Own Columns” and then add a column for kindle collections.

Add your own columns Calibre

The bottom button is “Add custom column”.  Click that or use the green plus sign on the right.  Click “Tags” from the Quick Create selection.  Then change the lookup name to “kindlecollections” or whatever you like and the Column Heading to “Kindle” (or again, whatever you like).

Identify column

The column type can be “Comma separated text, like tags / Text, column shown in the tag browser/ Long text, like comments / Yes/No”. Comma separated text, like tags is recommended. Save and restart Calibre.

Your column should show up in the menu area.   You can go through your books and tag which book belongs in which collection:

Kindle Collections Import

Once you are done, go back to the icon and select “Customize collections to create from Calibre”. Look for your customized column (mine is named Kindle), and make sure the drop down box is “create”.  Then go to  ”Create collections on the Kindle from Calibre”.

Import Collections to Calibre from your Kindle  *Recommended*

This is a particularly nice way to create collections for those who have existing collections.  If you have existing collections on your Kindle, you can use the Calibre interface to organize your collections. First, however, create a custom column as you did above.

Go to the plugin icon and select “Import Collections to Calibre from your Kindle”. Select your newly created column from the dropdown menu:

Kindle Collections Import

From there, you simply go through your Calibre library and select which collection you want the book to appear.

Once you are done, go back to the icon and select “Customize collections to create from Calibre”. Look for your customized column (mine is named Kindle), and make sure the drop down box is “create”.  Then go to  ”Create collections on the Kindle from Calibre”.

Step 4: Restart your Kindle

To load the new collections, you’ll need to restart your Kindle.  Eject your Kindle.  Unhook your Kindle from the computer.  To restart, you can either hold down your power key until the device restarts or go to Home -> Menu -> Settings -> Menu -> Restart.

Tips:

  • I prefer to use the User Categories section and create a special category for collections on the device.  It’s far easier to scroll from the library view of Calbre and sort your books in this fashion.
  • This only works for titles that are you in Calibre and on your Kindle. It doesn’t work with titles that exist in the Amazon Cloud and you archive.
  • Kindle Collections will generate an error report and you can use that error report to help you clean up your metadata. It will tell you if there are duplicates or conflict errors in titles, authors, tags, etc.
  • If you eject your Kindle device and then re attach it to the computer via the USB, sometimes Calibre won’t recognize Kindle device.  Simply quit Calibre and restart.
Do you have any kindle collection tips?

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She 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

25 Comments

  1. Becca
    Oct 30, 2011 @ 09:25:04

    I simply create my collections using tags, and am very careful to only have one tag per book. This is a simpler technique than yours, but has drawbacks, but was the only way I could figure out how to do it. I’m printing out this column with all the graphics, and will have to spend some time re-working all my close-to-1000 books.

    ReplyReply

  2. Jane
    Oct 30, 2011 @ 09:27:05

    @Becca: The custom columns are really the same type of things like tags. I think the key to using this is really thinking about what collections would be useful. When I was doing this tutorial up, I was thinking that I would want To Read sub genre categories and then a “Read” and “Fave” and “Didn’t Like” collection.

    ReplyReply

  3. Becca
    Oct 30, 2011 @ 10:37:36

    I’m busy tagging all my Nora Roberts by series, and the stand-alones as “NR-Stand Alone”. I’ve got my Terry Pratchetts as “Discworld: City Watch” or whatever sub-series they’re in.

    I agree, you really need to think about what tags or custom columns would be most useful. It’s like indexing: it takes a lot of time and planning before you even start, in order to get consistent results.

    ReplyReply

  4. Angela
    Oct 30, 2011 @ 14:51:25

    Such a timely post, I just downloaded the Kindle Collections plugin and am going to work on organizing them all today in Calibre. Thank you Jane!

    Now to figure out what tags I’m going to use…

    ReplyReply

  5. MarieC
    Oct 30, 2011 @ 15:14:11

    This is great! Thanks!!

    ReplyReply

  6. erinf1
    Oct 30, 2011 @ 16:40:34

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. *this* is what I’ve been looking for! I really appreciate the time you’ve put into helping us learn our e-readers and it’s a godsent to me, a non-technical person.

    ReplyReply

  7. joanne
    Oct 30, 2011 @ 18:10:15

    Do you ever wonder if the people who work in product development ever really use the devices?

    Amazon knows that readers often buy multiple books from the same authors and lines. Why is the concept of making it easy to have collections on the product they sell so difficult for them to grasp?

    The time it took me to organize some of my collections on my Kindle was time I wasn’t reading — or buying books.

    ReplyReply

  8. Cynthia Justlin
    Nov 02, 2011 @ 13:17:31

    Thanks for the heads up on this plugin! Right now all the books on my Kindle are separated into genre collections, but it would be nice to organize them with a little more detail.

    ReplyReply

  9. Thea Harrison
    Nov 02, 2011 @ 20:04:34

    @Jane FYI, when I clicked on the link for the plugin, this message appeared:

    Invalid Attachment specified. If you followed a valid link, please notify the administrator

    ReplyReply

  10. Jane
    Nov 02, 2011 @ 20:09:13

    @Thea Harrison Thanks. I changed it, but if it doesn’t work, try this link.

    ReplyReply

  11. Thea Harrison
    Nov 02, 2011 @ 20:14:27

    @Jane That worked–thanks!!

    ReplyReply

  12. emilio
    Dec 19, 2011 @ 12:12:24

    thanks for the very clear explanation. Do you have any idea why on my calibre 0.8.31 the icon in the toolbar doesn’t show up? The plugin is installed: i can run preview in the configuration panel.

    Many thanks

    ReplyReply

  13. Jane
    Dec 19, 2011 @ 16:00:52

    @emilio: I’ve not upgraded to 8.31 yet. Sorry!

    ReplyReply

  14. emilio
    Dec 19, 2011 @ 17:11:51

    @Jane:
    Thanks anyway. In the mean time I solved the problem by unistalling calibre AND deleting all configuration files. I had something wrong there.

    ReplyReply

  15. Grissino
    Dec 28, 2011 @ 15:54:52

    Thanks for the tutorial
    :-)

    ReplyReply

  16. keshia
    Jan 11, 2012 @ 09:48:26

    Hi!

    Firstly, thanks so much for your tutorial, it’s pretty clear ;)
    However, I’ve created a custom category, I’ve loaded the new collections to my Kindle and I’ve restarted it but it doesn’t work. I don’t have the new collections on my kindle and I’ve no idea what the problem is because Calibre says to me that all new collections have been imported correctly. Do you have any idea about what the problem is and how I can fix it?

    Thank you so much!

    ReplyReply

  17. Jane
    Jan 11, 2012 @ 10:38:18

    @keshia I don’t, but I recommend going over to Mobile Reads. Someone there will know.

    ReplyReply

  18. shauntih
    Jan 25, 2012 @ 19:51:15

    I just wanted to post a warning. I LOVE using this plugin, but I’ve had TWO kindles that stopped receiving downloads to them, and only after using this plugin. Rather than try to troubleshoot the problem, Amazon replaced the devices (I didn’t realize what was going on until the 2nd kindle had the problem). The plugin may not be the culprit, but I think it is. A Factory reset did not fix the problem. I just wanted to put it out there.

    ReplyReply

  19. Marius Gedminas
    Nov 26, 2012 @ 13:33:49

    It’s worth mentioning that this plugin does not work with the Kindle Touch. Otherwise people will spend hours banging their head against the wall trying to understand why the collections never show up on the Kindle despite the many reboots and Amazon account registrations attempted.

    ReplyReply

  20. zachw
    Feb 11, 2013 @ 02:57:35

    If you have a Mac, you should try Scida. It has an incredibly simple interface when it comes to managing Kindle collections (just drag&drop).

    ReplyReply

  21. Mark
    May 06, 2013 @ 21:43:10

    First off, thank you so much for this guide! it’s been a huge help.
    Secondly, I have three kindle, one kindle 2 and two kindle 3s. Adding collections to either of my k3s works just fine, but they don’t appear on my k2. Do you know what might be causing that problem?

    ReplyReply

  22. Jane
    May 06, 2013 @ 21:44:16

    I don’t believe it works for the earlier kindles.

    ReplyReply

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