Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Calibre: (Still) the Best App for Your Elibrary Management

   I've been using calibre for years. It's not pretty and shiny like the Kindle app or iBooks, but it does its job damn well. Better than, dare I say it, any of the proprietary ones out there. iBooks is limited to Apple devices, Barnes and Noble no longer supports a PC version of its Nook app, Kobo has been having "software issues" recently, and Amazon, while I don't think any of their services are going anywhere any time soon, seems to heckle publishers, authors, and consumers just for the heck of it.

   Calibre, on the other hand, is open source meaning that even if Mr. Goyal decided he no longer wanted to maintain or support it, someone else could easily step up and do so. It supports pretty much any document you throw at it as well as comics, graphic novels, and audiobooks. Got a mix of .ibook, .azw3, and .epub files spread out over different reader software? No problem, calibre can read them all. What about those old defunct Microsoft .lit files? Calibre can read those too. It can even work with .zip and .rar files! And I've yet to come across an eReader or eReader App that calibre can't load books into.

  Most importantly, calibre has the ability to do something that none of the proprietary software will allow: with the right plugin, calibre will allow you to strip the DRM off of any ebook you own. DRM is its own brand of nightmare that extends far beyond ebooks, but that's a different post. DRM has, however caused tons of nightmares for ebook readers. Amazon, for example, has on multiple occasions removed ebooks from customer accounts and ereaders with absolutely no warning or explanation. Removed them, ebooks that these customers paid for. That's like buying a new couch then having the store come to your home and taking it back for absolutely no reason and without refunding your money!

   DRM has also been an issue in cases where an ebook supplier has been bought out by another one. It's happened when B&N purchased Fictionwise as well as more recently when Kobo purchased out Sony's ebook division. Some customers lost hundreds of books because the new owner chose not to honor book deals made by the former owners. Kobo does claim they are trying to fix whatever they can on their end, but we'll see how that ends...

   Now, I'm not copping to breaking any laws. This part is all in theory, mind you, as it is technically illegal to strip DRM from purchased digital goods. But, frankly, choosing to follow the letter of the law here is stupidity on any consumer's part. Unless, of course, you don't mind hundreds of dollars worth of purchased books being removed at any time without your knowledge, permission, or even the return of said hard earned dollars.

  Apprentice Alf's plugin will help with all formats except Kepub (Kobo's proprietary format). For that one you'll need to visit The Digital Reader

  Enough about DRM. What else can calibre do?
  • Well, it can convert almost any format into any other format. So if that new book you want is for sale on B&N, but you've only got a Kindle, go ahead and buy it, calibre will convert it from .epub to .azw3. 
  • You can add any amount of metadata you want to your books which means that you can sort them by an almost infinite number of options. Say you want to sort your books to show you all the books with a picture of lipstick on the cover, well, if you've tagged those books with "lipstick," guess what? It'll show you those books! (Hint hint to anyone that participates in Sugar and Snark's Cover Characteristic meme). Or, if you've been tagging your books with the date you finished reading them and you'd like to find all of the books you read in September, it'll do that too.
  • You can add link metadata that will create links to the book's page on Goodreads, Amazon, or any other site you might want to link to. 
  • Add the right plugin and you can take that humongous anthology with 256 different stories in it and split them up into separate books. 
  • Or do exactly the opposite. Have a series you'd like to have all together in one big book instead of 5 or 6 smaller ones? Well there's a plugin so that you can merge them too. 
  • Auto update and sync your Goodreads shelves so you don't have to search for each and every book after you read it.

That's definitely just the very basic of what calibre is capable of. If you're a serious ebook fiend like I am, it's really worth looking into and learning to master. My e-library is (at the moment) sitting at 7,575 books (that is likely to increase by the end of the day). Try managing that many books on a Kindle!

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